A Rant Upon Hooking Your Audience

so, recently, i opted in to one of those ‘Read 100’s of SF&F Books For Free!’ things.
yeah, it’s authors giving out some of their books to attract more readers, or in some cases, the first “x” many chapters of their book.
and i loaded several hundred on to my phone, and have been working my way through, checking them out, and deleting the ones i’m not interested in. a LOT of them have been deleted. a Helluvalot.
Here’s the rules for that little competition:
If you don’t grab me, in the first page, you’re outta there!
this doesn’t mean you have to start off with a lot of action, get me caught up in the rush of interesting events. you can give me an interesting character, someone i can in some way empathize with. you can hook me with an intriguing situation, one where i just GOT to know what the fuck’s going on.
but you have to grab me. you have to hook me.

and you have to be at least competent as a writer. that means you don’t mangle the language, the punctuation, the grammar, too horribly. you have to be competent. if your first page has errors (note the plural), you’re outta there.
Face it, there’s a wealth of books out there. with the self-publishing and small press revolutions… i doubt any of us have any conception of just how Mega-Many books there are out there.
if you expect to be read (by anyone but your friends and family), Be Competent.
i’m not asking for brilliance, just don’t step on your dick often enough to pull your readers out of your story. just as a competent cook can make a pleasing meal out of a set of ingredients, an incompetent cook can take the same ingredients, and waste them, making an inedible mess.
Be Competent.

and secondly, if you expect to be read… hook your audience. there are so many books calling for their attention, You Must Grab Their Brains.
you can’t open with a wealth of description about your Own Very Special Place That’s So Dear To You That You’re Sure Readers Will Love It Just As Much As You Do.
not unless you can write some of the most scintillating descriptive passages ever penned.
now, personally, i’m of the “less is more” school of description. unless there is a Very Important Reason for me to know how a place looks, or a character, don’t bore me with it.
some authors may counter with ‘the setting IS a character in the story!’ fine, but take your time introducing it to me. don’t bury me with oodley tons of verbiage about it, right off the bat.
maybe such descriptive overloads violates my ‘show, don’t tell’. you’re Telling me what it looks like, smells like, tastes like, sounds like, feels like… let your other characters show me those aspects, through what they do, how they react.
for me, characters are more important than anything. they must be alive, and while i’m not required to ‘like’ them, i must be able to empathize with something in them.
hell, in my writing i leave most of my characters relatively ‘undescribed’. the reader can decide what they look like. the reader’s imagination is my friend, and i rely on it.

so, in closing…
make sure your first s/p/p is aimed at your potential audience like an arrow, just waiting for their eyes to hit the words, and let loose Your Best, headed straight for their brain.
if you don’t convince them to spend their precious time on the story you want to tell them… You Have Failed.
not all the way, but that’s a potential reader you’ve lost. don’t lose ’em because you bored ’em.

as always, this rant is my humble opinion. i could well be wrong, i often am, and this opinion is worth every penny you’re paying for it.

listening to: the A/C, and a dawg who’s convinced it’s Bed Time
mood: overall, copacetic

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