In Praise of the Skeptical Reader
I just sent 4 chapters to somebody I've decided is CRITICAL in my writing process... the NON-writing skeptical reader—the woman who loves a REALLY GREAT read that sucks her in who DOESN'T get caught up on all the 'supposed to' stuff my writer friends know, but rather is more a 'general public' voice. She loves some of my genres... done well... but she regularly sets books aside if she hasn't been sucked in by chapter 2. She's NOT a big fan of cozies (they are a bit too light for her) but she was a HUGE cheerleader for A Shot in the Light. She is a giant James Patterson fan and loves Janet Evanovich. She is in many ways 'every reader'.
When my agent read the first 3rd of What Ales Me part of her feedback was 'more tension' and she had a WHOLE bunch of things she recommended I move forward and stuff that was TOO MUCH DETAIL. My neighbor is the PERFECT test for whether I succeeded in making these fixes.
|Palpable tension, eh?|
Got me thinking about HOOKS more broadly. This same friend is a third of a group of us that watches a bit of TV together—we seem to have a show a season... Downton Abbey, Game of Thrones... right now it is Outlander... and this friend took until episode 5 to be sucked in...
So WHAT sucks us IN?
It is an interesting question, since the OTHER two thirds of us were sucked in immediately. But I had some background—I'd heard enough about the series to know things I was looking forward to before the stuff was actually there. Our third is more interested, I think, in the romantic angle, though she will say “I am not” next time I see her—but she is younger and the temptation of Jamie I think may have some traction with her that for us middle age women, while we appreciate young hot men, just isn't enough...
There was a similar dynamic to Downton Abbey—Ms. Slow-to-warm-up Skeptical neighbor needed about 4 episodes.
|An Awkward position for siblings...|
I think this all may speak to the value of shock value, or HIGH dramatic tension. It ALSO should speak to all of us... There are people who will keep reading because they like our genre, they like US, or they like some specific detail we include early. But if we want to appeal more broadly, we need to do something EARLY that sucks in the EVERY reader.
So do YOU have any tricks to sucking in EVERY READER? Ways you frontload the tension or the emotional bond readers have with your story?