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How do you catch people by surprise when crafting a political intrigue? Whenever I put some politics in my story, people know exactly what's gonna happen, so I have trouble coming up with some kind of political intrigue that catch people off guard and make them excited. Is there some kind of trick to it?

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    If your readers can predict what you're thinking: change your mind a few times.
    – user54131
    Jan 27, 2022 at 7:35

3 Answers 3

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Outrageous Fortune:

How do you surprise anyone about anything? You throw a wrench into the neatly organized plans of people who think they know what will happen.

  • Death: Someone dies, and it throws the direction of plans in a new direction. It can be murder, accident, illness, or whatever. The Princess of Bavatia is supposed to marry the king's brother to cement an alliance, but she dies en route under mysterious circumstances. Now Bavatia (a questionable ally) joins the Kingdom's enemies.
  • Betrayal: The King's representative to Bavatia took bribes from the Kingdom's enemies to derail the alliance. He poisoned the princess and made it look like the king was at fault. But his own squire betrays him and informs the King's guards, who arrest the representative. He betrays the enemy spymaster to save himself.
  • Deception: But it turns out the princess isn't REALLY dead. The Princess had her servant pretend to be the princess. She had heard horrible things about the King's brother. Now the real princess is pretending to be a servant, and gets to know the King's brother, who falls madly in love with the 'servant girl.' He plans to desert his post as commander of the army and run away so he can inappropriately marry the 'servant girl.'
  • Random Chance: The Princess, however, falls in love with the King, and the king with her. The king's brother kidnaps her and the king pursues. The king saves the princess, who then reveals she is really the princess. The king and the princess marry, saving the alliance. But a civil war breaks our as the King's brother is enraged at the loss of the woman he was betrothed to and then fell in love with. And the King was hoping to marry his enemy's daughter, preventing a war. Now things seem dire. But wait...

And so it goes.

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  • One caution might be not to make it rain wrenches. When literally everything goes wrong all the time, I just want to strangle the author.
    – user54131
    Jan 27, 2022 at 7:34
  • @towr for the question I went wild because they were examples.. but true
    – DWKraus
    Jan 27, 2022 at 11:10
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I am not certain what kind of society you would use in a story of political intrigue. But if it is a historical society, or an imaginary society similar to a historical society, you could try reading about historical intrigues and plots which happened in that society looking for really surprising twists of fate. If you find some you can use them as inspiration for your plots. f

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Part of the trick of this is "limited information" - if you know that:

A) The prince hates the baron

B) The duke is being blackmailed by the baron

Then your readers can come to the conclusion "the prince and the duke are working together against the baron". However, this is because they didn't know about C), D) or E) yet.

A little like a murder mystery plot, you need to keep giving the reader more information - and each piece changes the potential shape of the overall plot. New information can start to be somewhat contradictory and muddy the waters.

Ambiguity is also useful - if you see the prince leaving the duke's room...what does that mean? Have they been plotting? Arguing? Threatening?

The outcome can still be "obvious" once you have all the information, but along the way the reader is kept guessing.

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  • This reminds me of the book "Elements of Surprise". It also mentions this way of feeding information to readers in such a way that you can (sometimes repeatedly) pull the rug out from under their theories.
    – user54131
    Feb 3, 2022 at 18:09

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