Writing Journals

The Power Of The Unexpected... with AJ Betts

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Hi, I’m AJ Betts. I write lots of things, but I’m best known for my novels for young adults.

For as long as I can remember, I’ve been making things up. Even before I could write, I was dressing up in costumes and acting out different scenes. Mind you, the stories were terrible: the characters were stereotypes, the dialogue was stilted, the scenarios were clichéd, and the resolutions were non-existent as I lost interest and went in pursuit of the cat.

I’d like to think my storytelling has improved since then, thanks to lots of reading, lots of writing, and a little bit of growing up. I don’t have any secrets to creating good stories, but I’ve gained a few insights over the years. Here’s one of them.

You don’t need to know everything before you start. In fact, I don’t want to know everything that’s going to happen, because if I did, I probably wouldn’t bother to write it. When I start a scene – with one or more characters in a setting I’m familiar with – I don’t know much at all, except that something unexpected is about to happen which will trigger a series of events which will, eventually, change their lives and/or society.

Unexpected. It’s my favourite word, and it could refer to anything. Because at every moment, something unexpected might occur. It might be big (a bomb; a tsunami; winning the lottery) or medium (falling off your bike; meeting someone famous; failing a test) or small (losing your keys; your friend snubbing you; a door slamming shut). Once you know what the unexpected thing is on page one, your job is to follow what will happen as a result. And something must happen. (Hint: it’s usually another unexpected thing.)

Keep asking questions. Keep wondering. And enjoy creating something that has never existed.


AJ Betts

Thanks AJ! AJ is one of the fabulous contributors to the Scribblers Festival Writing Journals, which is filled with even more helpful tips to get you started on your writing journey.