According to Eric Edson, the author of The Story Solution, a stunning surprise is one of the crucial parts of every story, whether it’s told in a shape of a novel, a movie or a drama.
Stunning surprise should come out of the blue and it should shock the protagonist. Sometimes there can be hints that something might happen, but when it comes, the receiver of the story should only think of:
Oh, I didn’t see this coming.
Stunning surprise must announce a huge change in the protagonist’s life. The world as she knows ends and she enters an entirely new and unknown territory; the world of the ACT II.
Stunning surprise must happen to the protagonist. She can’t witness someone else’s change. It must change the protagonist’s circumstances from bottom to top.
Once the stunning surprise happens, the protagonist starts pursuing her story goal; whether is getting over a divorce, death, winning something or someone,…
If there is more than one protagonist they all must be affected by the stunning surprise.
Stunning surprise is something that happens in life; someone dies, someone gets diagnosed with a lethal disease, someone is left by their significant other, someone catches their significant other cheating, someone gets arrested for no apparent reason, someone misses their period…
Once stunning surprise has happened people affected by it need to do whatever they can to resolve the problem they’ve found themselves in.
They will try and fail, and try again until they either succeed or give up.
Familiarity with life situations makes the stories work and the more real stunning surprise is the more will the audience get engaged with the story.