First Lines, Establishing Trust, & the Authorial Blue Box (#MondayBlogs)

It’s almost become cliche, the way writing advice books talk about first lines as if they are a fetish item for readers.  Personally, I don’t necessarily remember “first lines” as a reader. Not in the “everything before the first period” sense.  But you do have a very short time to convince me that I will enjoy this journey you’ve mapped out for me.

If I’ve opened the book, I’m already at least vaguely interested. But as a bit of a bookworm, someone who loves a good story and beautiful wordsmithing, I’m even more than interested.  I am primed and ready to WANT to enjoy the book.

Whether in the first sentence or the first four, if you don’t take that spark of book love and make fire… I don’t TRUST you.  That’s the best way I can explain it.  Even if I keep reading, it’s with wariness (even predisposed weariness) because I don’t trust that you can keep me engaged, that the story will speak to me deeply and consistently enough for me to lose myself in your world and the lives of your characters.

I honestly can’t say I always have poor reading experiences after poor first impressions. But I can say that it can become a self-fulfilling prophecy. Instead of being thrown into something that makes me literally forget time and space for a while, a poor first impression leaves me primed to locate, even fixate, on every rough patch or error. I often don’t even notice many of these issues if I’m swept up in the story from the start.

It’s like finding a rodent or insect in your house. Aren’t you searching every shadow after that? Inspecting every discoloration? Jumping when anything not attached to you moves?  Don’t do that to readers.  It’s not a fun way to read a book and often these are the books I never finish or only come back to years later.

When I open your book, I’m holding out my hand to you. Meet my hope with something beautiful or fascinating, a puzzle or a glimpse inside something truly unusual.  Make me say “Yes. Yes!  I will travel with you!”  You’re my guide to this world. I have to trust you.

So be my Doctor Who.  Widen my eyes and grab my hand and when you say “run,” I’ll do it with a smile. Even if your blue box is a plain old motorcycle or a dragon or space skis or bare feet on glittering beaches.

I want to go.  I wouldn’t be knocking on the door of your world, opening your book, if I didn’t want to go.  I just need to know that wherever we’re going, I’m in capable hands.

First impressions establish trust.

What do you think?  What do first impressions do for you?


Photo: Hook Hand by Phostezel at SXC.hu.

Advertisements

Mini-Review Roundup: The Personal MBA, Platform, & Indie/Small Press #BookMarketing (#AmReading)

20130611-111336.jpg

The Personal MBA: Master the Art of Business by Josh Kaufman

I’m a fan of the bootstrap approach to education, even as I also appreciate formal credentials and the work that often goes with them, so I was excited to find this book. It is truly encyclopedic without getting bogged down in (or, at least, without under-explaining) business jargon. It does feel a bit like a hodge-podge and like surface comprehensiveness sometimes trumps useful depth, but it’s a nice addition to a home set of business reference books. If you’re looking for accessible depth on key business topics, I’d again refer you to “Understanding Michael Porter” by Joan Magretta, which I mentioned in my post on competition and the business of writing.

Platform: Get Noticed in a Noisy World by Michael Hyatt

I know why this book is lauded. There’s some great content in here. It does, however, read rather like what much of it is – a collection of blog posts. It could have just been called “50 Things You Need to Know About Platforms,” a single blog post that would index the rest by topic. Now, maybe I’ve just been reading too much in this topic and often related startup advice these days, but most of this info is already discussed in so many places – for free. It makes me wonder if Hyatt is somewhat a victim of his own success with these ideas. Maybe he was the chicken who laid the whole platform egg, I can’t tell. At this point, though, I’d say that if you are only going to pick up one book on this topic or if you are unlikely to wander the internet, reading even just a handful of related blogs, then absolutely get this. If you are already hip deep in these issues, you can probably skip it, but, for the completists out there, since it’s kind of a classic in the field now, it’s worth picking up.

Indie & Small Press Book Marketing by William Hertling

This is actually a small but mighty little book that encapsulates both the key strategies and more detailed tactics of successfully marketing a book. True, it sometimes reads like an ebook-first text (complete with a few links that you obviously can’t open in a paperback version and some spots in need of copy editing), but the information that many other books take 20 pages to provide, this book does in 2 or less. I can’t say yet whether it is “The Book to Buy” on this topic, since I still have a whole stack of related books to go through, but I can say that NONE in my stack are this concise (less than 100 pages) while remaining informative. So, if you want a quick, logically structured, super-handy little marketing book, or even just want a great place to start, then this is an excellent book to pick up! I was excited about this book and it didn’t disappoint!


Current Reads: I’ve picked up some classic and fresh new fantasy books, which I’ll discuss in an upcoming post, as well as both Stephen King’s “On Writing” and Sol Stein’s “Stein on Writing.” (Yes, I do tend to read multiple books at once, switching based on my mood.) Everyone keeps recommending the King book, but the Stein one feels more readable and enjoyable for me right now. Am I missing something? Is this about me being more of an editor at heart and/or not actually being much of a Stephen King fan? (This is actually the third time I’ve tried to get into the King book and I still don’t know if I’ll finish it!)

~A23
@Aequanimitas23

Building Utopia?: Fiction on Perfection (#MondayBlogs)

20130610-122734.jpg

“This world of ours … must avoid becoming a community of dreadful fear and hate, and be, instead, a proud confederation of mutual trust and respect.” – Dwight D Eisenhower

One of the stories in my queue of “maybe-novels” is my exploration of a utopian ideal put forth by a particular philosopher, infused with radical modern sensibilities taken to their logical ends. As someone who largely reads more dystopian texts, however, I always have to ask: “Utopia how and for whom?”

Even without devolving a utopic world into the elite vs dregs situation of many dystopian texts (e.g. Harrison Bergeron, Hunger Games), is it possible to imagine a utopia that seems logical and sustainable, that takes human imperfections and understandable conflict into account? As writers, can we strip humanity down to the bare essentials of assent and dissent, personal independence and societal order, and still have enough to make a story move forward?

Continue reading