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Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Hook, Line, or Stinker?

Authors and readers agree, those first words of a book are of vital importance. Some allow several chapters to convince them, others—no more than a few paragraphs.

Authors feel the weight of this responsibility as they sit down to pen those first lines. At least they should!

The older I get, the pickier I become about which novels I finish. I realized this last month, when I started a book and was struck by the lack of white space—those gaps between paragraphs. More white space = more dialogue. I flipped through the first chapter, then the book, and when I found massive paragraphs dominating the pages, I tossed it in my “donate to library” pile. Apparently, I like dialogue--so much, that a lack of it made me close the book before finishing the first page.

I used to feel compunction over setting aside a book that didn’t hold my attention.  Now, my free time is more scarce and thus, more valuable. When I only have an hour a day to enjoy a book, I want it to be a good one. I want to be swept away to a foreign land or time. I want to be kept there until The End forces me home.

The more I read, the more I define which styles of writing I enjoy and which I don’t.  This process is shorter and shorter every year, which means books have less time to grab my attention.

I’m curious. How much weight do you, dear reader, put into the first pages of a book? Do you feel obligated to finish it once you’ve started?

Below, you’ll find a survey that will remain open for at least the next week. Let’s have some fun! And be sure to visit Clash of the Titles throughout the week to read our author interviews!

Article by April Gardner: A military spouse, April has performed the art of homemaking all over the world. Currently, she lives in Georgia with her children, while her husband serves a tour in the Middle East. In her free time, April enjoys reading, gardening, and DIY. In no particular order, she dreams of owning a horse, visiting all the national parks, and speaking Italian.

She is the best-selling author of Wounded Spirits.
Contact April: aprilgardnerwrites (at) gmail (dot) com
April's blog. Find April on Facebook.

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Jessica R. Patch said...

I happen to like dialogue myself! If that's engaging and fun, I don't mind less description but it's all about balance, right? :) I don't throw out a book if the first few pages start off slow, but if I read the first 10-15 and I want to gouge my eyes out with rusty nails, it goes in the donate pile. ;)

Sheri said...

I'm a first chapter girl. I always try to give a book at least the first chapter. Sometimes I'm generous and will give the first 3 chapters. After that, I'm lost.

Michelle Massaro said...

Hi ladies! *waves* Thanks for chiming in. Ya know, with me it really depends. There's a range of grey between the black and white of a phenomenal story and a stinker. So sometimes I'll give it a paragraph, a page, a chapter, or half the book and it can still lose me at any point along the way. Actually, if you get me through half the book I'll most likely finish it even if it's like chewing nails simply because I just HAVE to finish what I start. (And apparently I don't consider it started if I quit after a few pages! lol)