Do you have a favorite movie involving an unexpected plot twist? Maybe it’s just a scene. Something that made you explode with laughter, made you jump, thrilled you — made you think, I never saw that coming.
It broke your schema.
A schema, in psychological terms, is a structured cluster of pre-conceived ideas. From the depths of Wikipedia:
Schemata are an effective tool for understanding the world. Through the use of schemata, most everyday situations do not require effortful processing — automatic processing is all that is required. People can quickly organize new perceptions into schemata and act effectively without effort. For example, most people have a stairway schema and can apply it to climb staircases they’ve never seen before.
Great storytellers are fantastic at breaking your schemata. They lure you in, making you feel nice and comfortable. You’ve seen this before.
…and then something amazing happens. A twist. A surprise. A shock.
I hope your marketing, your resume, and your next book has a few of these sprinkled in. Otherwise, spend your time doing something else. Because, quite literally, we’ve already seen it before.