Surprise Me! by Douglas Dorow


doug dorow profile photoMy son doesn’t like watching mystery/suspense/thriller movies or TV shows with me because I’m always looking for the clues or props that the story teller is weaving into the story and trying to figure out how they’ll be used later.

OK, maybe it isn’t just that I’m looking for clues that my son doesn’t like, it’s my sharing of them during the show when I see them that really makes him mad.

For example, we were watching one of the newer Sherlock Holmes movies with Robert Downey Jr.

In one scene, Sherlock grabs an underwater breathing device off the desk of a person they’re visiting. Hmm, I wondered, why did he grab that? Later in the movie, Sherlock appears to sacrifice himself by falling off a ledge with his nemisis into water far below. I whispered to my son, “the breathing device”. Those are the moments he doesn’t like. (Sorry, I couldn’t help it. Sometimes I wait until after the movie to see if he caught the clues I did, but sometimes I have to share them when I see them)

What movies do we remember? Those that thrill us, make us think, surprise us. One that did that for me was THE GAME.

The story unfolded in front of us and we could follow along, but each step along the way was a surprise, all the way to the end.

As a long time consumer of thrillers, I still come back for more, but I want to be surprised. I want to be surprised and it has to make sense and fit with the story that’s being told. If the story isn’t interesting I’ll quit reading and pick up another. But, if I find that thrilling story, I’ll read late into the night and want to read another by the author. (You know what I’m talking about)

As a creator of thrilling fiction I keep trying to learn and one lesson I heard recently was, don’t go with the first thing that pops into your head, that’s what the reader9-English - high res will probably be thinking or expecting. They’ll find your story uninteresting and boring. And don’t go with the second or third, instead go with the fourth. The fourth idea you think of will still fit with the story, but it will be unexpected both by you and the reader and that will make your writing more interesting and keep the reader engaged.

If I can surprise myself as I’m writing the story, I can surprise the reader and we’ll both enjoy the thrill. My goal in my writing is to have fun, and to thrill and surprise myself. If I can surprise me, I know I can surprise you.

Keep reading and enjoy the thrill. What thriller writers surprise you?


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Douglas Dorow is a thriller writer from Minneapolis Minnesota, the home of many thriller/suspense writers. Is it something in the water or the long, cold winters?
His first thriller is The Ninth District.

He is working on the second in the series featuring FBI Agent, Jack Miller. He has also started another action/adventure series.

Want to know how a good book can be like cheeseburgers? Stop in this Thursday, January 31 and check out Shannon Mayer‘s “Cheeseburgers and Literary Fiction.” Shannon is the bestselling author of ten books including Dark Isle and Dark Fae.

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About fbrooke

Frederick Lee Brooke is the author of the widely-acclaimed Annie Ogden mystery series, which includes Doing Max Vinyl, Zombie Candy, and Collateral Damage. The first book in Fred's entirely new dystopian series for YA and adult readers alike is Saving Raine (The Drone Wars: Book 1)A consummate jetsetter, he was born and raised in Chicago (where both Doing Max Vinyl and Zombie Candy are set) and has lived in Illinois, Massachusetts, Montana, France, and Germany; he has called Switzerland his home for the past two decades, and travels widely throughout Europe (at latest count, he has visited Italy over 50 times!). Brooke’s love of the written and spoken word is vast—not only has he taught English in various European schools, he also knows French, German, and Italian, and dabbles in Turkish in his spare time. This love of language led him to quit his day job two years ago and focus on his original dream: writing fiction. When not writing books, his three kids (and their homework) keep him busy. He is currently working on a new series of thrillers and, once that’s done, he might take some time to visit one of those Swiss chocolate factories (but only for the free samples). He can often be found chopping vegetables in the kitchen, and makes a mean lasagna.

You can find him online at Sign up for his newsletter and read all about his travels, recipes, and upcoming works!


  1. Let it be known, Doug comes with a spoiler alert 🙂

    • Douglas Dorow says

      Helen, yes – you don’t want to sit next to me in the movie 🙂 I need to learn to keep my aha’s to myself.

  2. andy holloman says

    wow, this dorow guys is really sharp….i’m gonna go buy his book asap…..heard he was a good writer….hi5

    • Douglas Dorow says

      Hey Andy, there’s a surprise in the opening of my book, some people like it, some people don’t, but it surprises eveybody.


  3. THE GAME was a great movie, Doug! And you’re not the only who does that spoiler thing — my husband does also. He can’t just watch a movie — he has to figure it out OUT LOUD so we miss dialogue which irritates the hell out of his wife.

    great article, thanks for sharing.

    *goes to purchase your books*

  4. Loved The Game, and this piece says what we all want in the thriller/suspense/mystery genre. I’m often surprised at the twists my subconscious dreams up!
    Toby Neal