Friday, June 20, 2014

Are you Drawing in or Distancing Readers from your Story?

Son reads Mike Mullin's Sunrise. The whole series received a Thumbs Up.

My Son's Novel Rating System

Not a Chance
Something about the title and/or cover turn him off immediately. 

He read the book flap and maybe the first page. The premise is not for him. 

After reading the flap and first page, the story has the potential of being good. He reads on. But after 2 chapters it's not working for him. He stops reading.

The cover, flap and first page looks good. He reads the entire novel, but it may take a week. Not a top priority.

Thumbs Up
The cover, flap and first page instantly pull him in. He does not want to stop reading for anything accept ice cream. And only if the ice cream is his favorite flavor - Vanilla with Butterfinger pieces.

All 3 novels in Mike Mullin's Ashfall series received a Thumbs Up. 
When my avid reader rates a novel highly, I pay attention. I want to know what Draws a reader in. 
The answer - ACTION.
Here's the author's glimpse into the Ashfall series.
"The Yellowstone supervolcano nearly wiped out the human race. Now, almost a year after the eruption, the survivors seem determined to finish the job. 
In Sunrise, the epic finale has the heart of Ashfall, the action of Ashen Winter, and a depth all its own, examining questions of responsibility and bravery, civilization and society, illuminated by the story of an unshakable love that transcends a post-apocalyptic world and even life itself."

Distancing Readers
At a recent writer's conference, I attend a Middle Grade first pages session. Although my first page was read in an upbeat tone, the tension was clear. Through my words a group of writers that laughed a moment ago to the last first page was silenced by mine. The comment from an editor, "That was tense." The agent said,  "I didn't get into this story until here." She pointed to the third paragraph. 

I found the lack of feedback paralyzing. Then I read a post on KIDLIT, Fantasy & Sci-Fi – Feed Your Head. The blogger interviewed Agent Lara Perkins at Andrea Brown Literary Agency. 

What are some common mistakes writers make in their first five pages?
Agent Lara Perkins: I think one common mistake is beginning with action but no context or character development, so the plot is moving forward, but the reader doesn’t have a reason to be invested in the outcome. Another common mistake is beginning in a moment of great loss for your main character, but without enough context for the reader to feel the power of that loss and share the main character’s grief. As a result, we’re at a distance from the main character immediately.  Another common mistake is a first chapter that stays entirely in the narrator’s head–with no dialogue, no action, etc. Except in rare cases, that gets claustrophobic very quickly.

I started my story in the wrong place. So instead of drawing the reader in, I distanced the reader from the main character. With this direction, I continue to rewrite my middle grade novel.
As I strive to earn a Thumbs Up!