One of my all-time favorite writers, Jim Thompson, once said that there are dozens of ways to tell a story but there is only one plot – “Things are not as they seem”.
The qualities that make for a good story usually stem from this one central idea. Think about a movie like American Beauty – the gorgeous façade of this suburban house is hiding all kinds of turmoil and strife within this three-person family. Or even a film like Jaws – this pretty little vacation spot has a man-eating monster lurking just off the beach where kids play. Things are not as they seem.
I try to keep this tenet in mind when I’m prepping for a new book. I usually have an idea of how I want Maddy’s character to progress in the course of the novel and her character development is, of course, affected by the unfolding events of the story. The best way for me to keep Maddy off-balance is to peel back layers – secrets that other characters are hiding, events that turn out in unexpected ways, enemies that turn out to be allies or vice versa. Things are not as they seem.