Saturday, 8 June 2013

I'm a trusting sort of soul

Tell me something. Anything you want. No matter how fanciful. I'm sure to believe it. I'm a trusting sort of soul. I take people at face worth. I wouldn't exactly say I'm completely gullible. If you tell me the sky is green and the grass is purple, there's a very small chance that I might be a little suspicious. But, generally speaking, I like to try and place a little faith in people.

Of course, this is my typically long-winded and overly-verbose way to introduce the actual topic of my post this week. Faith in readers. And no, that doesn't mean I plan to talk about the religious beliefs of readers. It's something else entirely (and hopefully a bit less contentious).

It's another one of those things that people often tell you. You have to start your book with a big bang. You have to attract readers from the very beginning with excitement and adventure and lots of stuff happening. Don't give them time to pause and think and reflect. Just bash them over the head right away, so they don't have any chance to escape.

Okay, I can kind of see the point of this. Beginnings are vitally important, and you need to make the most of them to attract readers to your story, especially with all the competition out there. It's just that the whole "bash your readers over the head with action" thing to me is a bit of a downer.

I've always taken a bit of time to concentrate on my story beginnings. I try to start with something that will attract attention. But I also don't want to be too in your face. I like to leave a little room for a sense of intrigue. A bit of "hmm, what could possibly be happening here?"

Of course, there are some readers I won't bring along for the ride. That's okay. Better to find out at the beginning that my stories are not for them. But I like to think there will be enough readers to wonder what it is all about, and decide to keep going. In short, I like to have faith in my readers to take the time and the mental effort to engage, without me having to knock them out and drag them back to my cave.

If you're the type of reader who likes wham bam thank you ma'am, then enjoy. If you're interested in taking a little more time for something different, maybe I have something for you. 


  1. I went to watch Star Trek Into Darkness a wee while back. My wife was in the States at the time and when I talked to her on the phone that evening I told her that it was the kind of film that didn’t give you a moment to think which was just as well because if you had had a moment to think then you would’ve started asking the first in a whole raft of awkward questions beginning with: What the hell was the Enterprise doing under water in the first place? It’s a perfectly valid question and there is no better answer than: Who cares because she looked great when they took off? I don’t read to be entertained. I watch TV and films for that; they do it so much better. I read books to enjoy myself—who they hell reads a book they don’t expect to enjoy on one level unless it’s a prescribed text and they’ve got no way out of it?—and one of the things I enjoy is the thinking, the fact that I can stop at any moment and flick back two or three pages and reread—and therefore re-evaluate—something I read ten minutes earlier. I get to read at my own pace. That’s not the case with a film.

    I’ve just read a residential school novel. It’s one I’ve agreed to review and actually handles the trope well without coming across as clichéd. The thing about it is that it felt like it had a cast of thousands. To be honest it’s probably got a cast of maybe twenty but twenty’s a lot when you’re keeping everything in your head. I want time to get used to one character before having to encounter another. After about 200 pages I’d just about got everyone fixed in my mind; I’d rejected the minor characters and learned who the players were.

    These days we’re always being told that readers have no patience and that it’s all the Internet’s fault and although there’s some truth to that it’s tarring every reader with the same brush. And that’s unfair. The Internet is not a book any more than a film is a book. Yes, shorter sentences/paragraphs./posts do work better when you’re reading on a computer monitor but a book is not a computer monitor (unless it’s an ebook) and even then because it looks like a book we think of it as a book and different rules apply when reading books so we’re more forgiving.

    To be totally honest I think you’re more ‘wham bam thank you ma'am’ than you give yourself credit for. I didn’t feel like I had to wait around any length of time to get into the action in any of the three books of yours I’ve read. Me? Well I’m a different kettle of fish. I don’t have any action for anyone to ease themselves into and that’s the way I like it.

    1. Hi Jim,

      Good to see you back and thanks for the comments. I've actually had critics say I go to fast and I go to slow so maybe that means I've hit a sweet spot.