The Results Are In, and….

….boy, are they confounding! But interesting nonetheless.

First off, thanks to all who participated. I’m going to do a Price-Waterhouse disclaimer and rattle off facts and figs: 

I ran the survey here, for one week. I contacted my regular list of bloggites with an email that I was trying out this survey. I also posted on the Sisters in Crime list-serve. That was the focus group. A few stray people came in from various other places.

According to the nifty Dashboard feature, the Survey post got several hundred views. Forty or so people posted a vote or contacted me privately with comments.

So now….drum roll, please….here are the numbers. A selection of comments will follow.

Question:  How much time are you, the reader, willing to give an author to capture your attention?

A .        One Line………1 vote

B.         One Paragraph…….6 votes

B/C.     One Paragraph/One Chapter…..3 votes

C.         One Chapter…..4 votes

C/D.     One/Three Chapters……1 vote

D.        Three Chapters….5 votes

D/E.     Three Chapters/Half the Book……2 votes

E.         Half the Book…..3 votes

F.         The Whole $%#! Thing….1 vote

G.        Other…..8 votes  (4 votes for 3 pages, 3 votes for 50 pages, 1 vote for…it was hard to tell.)

I could attempt to do percentages, but that is much too much math for me. I think these numbers say what many of us already knew, or at least suspected: that every reader is different and what pulls a reader into a story is mysterious and nebulous. However, the way the numbers lean, I’d say we should all count on a spanking good opening, because while some people are patient, just as many have a “Life’s too short” attitude about reading a book that doesn’t grab from the get-go.

Here are some pet peeves noted by participants:

  • bad grammar, especially in an opening line 
  • more than one ! on a page
  • dragging middles
  • italicized first line
  • factual errors/incorrect information
  • story falls apart
  • story doesn’t live up to promising beginning
  • mythology is not developed, or is broken
  • too much gore
  • shoddy research/author faking information
  • KidJep
  • clumsy, poor or boring writing
  • prologues
  • prologues known as introductions or prefaces
  • anything resembling a prologue, introduction or preface
  • slamming the reader too quickly into a complex story
  • out of left field change or drop in the middle of the story
  • second acts with characters doing nothing but talking
  • opening written from POV of a victim who dies at the end of the chapter
  • unlikeable protagonist
  • bad writing
  • too many characters introduced too soon

Here are some comments about what grabs and keeps readers reading:

  • “style is all important”
  • “a voice or setting that grabs me”
  • “great writing”
  • “compelling voice or character”
  • “something surprising or intriguing”
  • “have a little magic”
  • “a challenge”
  • “style”
  • “it’s all style for me”

Conclusions?  I’d say pitch your prologue, polish your style and let your enthusiasm for your story shine.

What do you think?



4 thoughts on “The Results Are In, and….

  1. Ramona… I was interested in your survey and not at all surprised by the findings. Goes to show that most readers are discerning in what kind of story or setting or style a mystery is written. The bottom line seems to be that a good story is a good story is always a good story.



  2. Nothing like taking a week to catch up with your blog – sorry!

    I used to be someone who finished every book I started (some kind of diagnosable disorder, I’m sure) but life is just too short.

    Thanks for the info!


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