Kootenai River in NW Montana, near Canadian Border

Kootenai River in NW Montana, near Canadian Border
photo by Gene Tunick of Eureka, Montana

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Tip O'Day #208 - Make Your Readers Want to Stay

Guest blogger Mike Nettleton presents “Short Attention Span Theatre.”

After 25 plus years of writing and editing for other writers and 6 published novels, I’ve come to one major conclusion: you need to grab your reader’s attention at the beginning of your story. Too many writers spend the first chapter setting the scene and introducing us to the protagonist. Then, usually somewhere late in the second or third chapter, they provide the event that is the true beginning of the story.

The perfect example of somebody who knows how to hit the ground running with a story is Lee Child and his Jack Reacher books. Within the first three paragraphs, Child has you on the edge of your seat wondering what will happen next. This concept is especially important in genre books, but even for a literary novel, you should get your characters moving and reacting to events.

Since I mostly write mystery and detective fiction, the murder is a favorite place to start. Here’s how I began Shotgun Start:

She huddled against the wall, hearing a playback of her father’s voice in her head. “Do not point a weapon at something you do not intend to kill.”
“Loud and clear, Daddy dearest,” she murmured, running her fingers along the chill barrels of the shotgun lying across her lap. “One dead man, coming up.” Nausea tugged at her stomach even as she smiled at her own sick sense of humor.

My guess is most readers will stick around to find out who dies and why. Remember, the best way for our readers to get to know a character is through actions and reactions.

Check out Mike’s website at www.deadlyduomysteries.com or read a sample chapter of Shotgun Start at http://www.amazon.com/Shotgun-Start-Neal-Mystery-ebook/dp/B005QCXY0K

1 comment:

  1. Even in Non-fiction,you need to keep them hooked.

    I am disabled and many of my friends and readers were begging me to write about how I got started writing. It is a story, it just happens to be true.

    I had this disease not too many have heard of. I wrote a book explaining what I went through, what my family went through, and added symptoms, treatments, and medications I tried. Then I wrote about other diseases, and medical terms in layman's terms. It starts as a story and stays informational until the end.

    I have had quite a number of new authors asking me for advice, so wrote a few books for writers. 'How To' books are very informative, but you have to hook the reader just the same.