When Expectations and Reality Collide (CSFF, Day 3)

In an early scene of The Skin Map, Kit’s expectation of how ley travel should work results in disaster and lands him and several other people in a great deal of trouble. Expectations are funny things, capable of depressing or enhancing a reader’s experience — and sometimes of doing both.

My review of The Skin Map probably made it clear that I had expectations as a reader, some of which were not fulfilled and thus left me slightly dissatisfied. At the same time, it was other (wrong) expectations that made the ending’s plot twists so brilliantly effective.

In the first case, my expectations as a reader were based on my past experience of Lawhead’s work (including his amazing ability to bring historical places to life), on descriptions of the book that were released ahead of it, and of bits and pieces of my own notions from who-knows-where.

In the second case, my wrong expectations were craftily planted by the author, only to be turned upside down at the end by the same skillful hand. What we call “plot twists” are really just the manipulation of readers’ expectations, and as we all know, they are an essential part of memorable storytelling.

Books often lead me to reflect on life, and in this case, The Skin Map has me thinking about expectations outside of fiction. They can, as they do in fiction, depress or enhance our experience of life. They give us the thrill of looking forward, the kick of disappointment, and sometimes the twist of the unexpected, or of the expected turned on its head — of romance sought and then fleeting and then transformed, of self failing and renewed, of Jesus come and then crucified and then coming again.

Some expectations we get from God. Some come from past experience; some from some inexplicable part of our own hearts and minds. The best expectations, I think, are the ones God smiles and winks at and plans to turn upside down. If there’s a lesson I’m learning from all this, it’s to hold loosely to my ideas of where life is going. Because God is sovereign and He is good, in the end, the twists will be better than the plot I thought I foresaw.







3 responses to “When Expectations and Reality Collide (CSFF, Day 3)”

  1. […] I’ll recommend Bruce Hennigan’s discussion of providence, Rachel Starr Thomson’s article about expectations, John Hileman’s comparison of the book to a corn muffin (don’t miss this one), and […]

  2. Rebecca LuElla Miller Avatar

    Excellent article, Rachel. I just finished saying in a comment to another tour participant that I trust Mr. Lawhead, so when I don’t understand things right away, I don’t worry. How much I wish I could consistently extend that same trust to real life, knowing that God is the Master author, that His plot is as good as He is. Thanks for spurring these thoughts.


  3. […] ? ? Sarah Sawyer ? Chawna Schroeder ? Kathleen Smith ? ? Donna Swanson ? ? ? Rachel Starr Thomson ? ? Robert Treskillard ? ? ? Steve Trower ? ? Fred Warren […]

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