Tuesday, April 17, 2012

O: The Oh Factor

Another important feature that good novels need is the oh factor.
What is the oh factor?
Well for me, the oh factor is when you get to the end of a book or to a plot twist and go “oh!” It’s the moment when something awesome happens in the novel that knocks your socks off. It’s when pieces fall together and you realize that the trinket mentioned a couple of books ago means something or the little insignificant detail that the character keeps talking about actually is significant. It’s the glimpse of how the pieces fit together. This is usually when I proclaim that the author is a pure genius.
In order to pull off the oh factor, you have to have clever plot twists or plot resolution. That is the first step. The second step is set up. You have to lead the reader to those moments without them realizing they are being lead.
You can accomplish this by mentioning some detail of the ending or plot twist throughout the book. Do so in a way that doesn’t make it stand out or seem significant. There is a fine line to walk here. Too subtle or if you don’t mention it then the surprise feels like something pulled out of a hat. Nobody enjoys a story where the Calvary swoops in out of nowhere to save the day. But on the flip side, if you don’t mention it subtly enough, the reader feels like you are hitting them over the head and the oh factor becomes the I-knew-that-was-going-to-happen-fifty-pages-ago factor. Not as effective.
The best way to see how published authors do this is to read their books twice. On the second time through, you know the ending, so you can pay attention to the little details that lead up to this. J. K. Rowling was brilliant at this. Reread Harry Potter. If you pay attention, guarantee you will find plot clues about the last book (and all the other plot twists along the way) even in book one. It’s so subtle that you miss it if you aren’t watching for it.
Good luck and happy writing!
PS: Today was a crazy day. First, I walked under a tree and a bird pooped on me. Then later, an eighteen-year-old tried asking for my number. He thought I was nineteen. Do I look nineteen? Uh . . . don’t answer that.


  1. Great post! I haven't quite mastered the "oh" factor yet, but I'm working on it!

  2. I love reading your posts - I always seem to learn something, so thank you!

  3. Some good points here. JKR is really clever at doing that. I think you also need characters who the reader cares about to get that Oh factor. What I find frustrating is that some writers produce Oh factors without even knowing they're doing it!

  4. A great post which I enjoyed very much.


  5. Ah-ha! Good idea about a second read. If it's really a good book, the reader will get so caught up in the story that even the most analytical of us will forget to notice the devices!

  6. great advice about leading on the twists

  7. Terrific post, and I completely agree with you. There is nothing better than a book that catches you by surprise, and ties all those loose ends together in a perfect OMG resolution. A perfect example of this is "A Prayer for Owen Meany". (John Irving)

    Thanks for visiting my blog. I do appreciate it, and figured I'd return the favor. I came to do a quick fly-by, but am leaving as your newest follower. (LOVE the pictures of your kitten!)

  8. Well, I'm gonna answer that last question. Do you look 19? I seem to remember one couple in Lake Butler who thought you were in high school! Just sayin'... Love ya, Jess!

  9. I agree that JK Rowlings was an amazing plotter. Her books definitely had the Oh factor. I'm working on getting the Oh factor in my stuff. It's a tough thing to pull off. :)

    Thanks for sharing.

  10. The true treasure in the HP books is in the rereading. So much good stuff there.