Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Under pressure

Sometimes I feel like this as an author. So many other authors are out there, all vying for readers. Oh, I know there's room for plenty of authors to attain simultaneous success, but sometimes I feel like a raindrop in the ocean. All I can do is write the best story possible, and hope readers will love it as much as I do, and spread the word to other readers.

With sites such as Amazon and Smashwords offering downloads of samples of stories to read before they buy, the pressure's greater than ever to hook those readers in the first few pages. I'm very excited about the stories I'm working on now, but also nervous. I've revised the opening pages of my current WIP several times already, and I haven't even finished the first draft.

Here are a few tips I've picked up from writing books:

Start at the right spot. Determine what the inciting incident is, the event that sets everything in motion for your character. Start there. Not ten pages of building up to it. Kick your story off where your hero/ine's world turns upside down.

No backstory. Leave it for later in the book, and even then, keep it brief. Allude to it, make it part of the natural conversation, but never an info dump (my crit partners love that term!)

Give your reader a feel for the tone of the book. Whatever happens in the first pages should set the scene, so to speak, for the entire book. It should act as the jumping-off point, and the readers should get the sense of what the story will be about. It's a promise of what's to come, and you should hold true to that promise. 

Make your character someone readers care about. Even a kickass heroine has a soft spot. Show it. Illustrate whatever her particular strength is, and don't be afraid to let readers know she also has flaws and weaknesses.

Or if your character's more complex, one that readers might not like right away, give him a saving grace. Insert a Save the Cat moment in your story. Readers will eat it up.  Here's a post from last year about Save the Cat, providing more detail.

Most important, write the story you'd want to read. If it doesn't grab you, how will it grab your readers?

What tips do you have for hooking readers in the first few pages?


Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

The Save the Cat moment! That's a great book.

Cate Masters said...

I need to pick up a copy! First I need to finish the others I have. :)

Angela Brown said...

These are some extremely helpful tips. Thanks, Cate.

Cate Masters said...

Happy writing, Angela!

Anonymous said...

You have to form that affinity between the characters and the readers. They have to love the main characters or love to hate them.

Cate Masters said...

Exactly, Stephen! And there's a method to it, so I'm learning all the tips I can.