….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
- clumsy, poor or boring writing
- 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”
- “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?