Friday, October 7, 2011

A High Speed Audience (Readers Want it Right Now!)

I like to think I still enjoy the little things in life, and the slower ways of going about doing things, but I know even I get caught in the high speed trap. The pull of instant gratification and the ability to get what we want faster than before.

We get the Internet quicker. You can go through a drive-thru to get that grande Chai tea latte instead of waiting inside. Pizza comes to your front door and if you want to read a book, get it on your Kindle so you can read that first sentence within ten minutes without even setting foot in a store (hey, you can even stay in your pajamas!).

I fall into these traps and as a reader and writer of romance, I know reading audiences do, too. Not everyone, mind you, but many of us want a book to pull us in right away and want that momentum to keep going.

Yes, we must write the story that's on our hearts but we can also be mindful of what readers are looking for.

Why do readers want to get drawn into a novel right away?

Limited Time

The reality is, everything is going faster these days, and most of us have more commitments. And that leaves us less time for the leisure of reading. Less time means we'd better use that time more wisely. Presenting readers with a book that snatches them up and keeps them there is going to make them feel like reading your story is more worthwhile.

A Break from Reality

Again, life gets crazy sometimes. What better to take a break from that than to escape from reality with a book? And if we're going to invest that time, it means that book better draw us in right away.

What will pull readers in and keep them turning page after page?

An Instant Hook

Catch readers from line one and make them stick. That first chapter is important - make sure you give it lots of attention.

Cut Out Backstory

One of the quickest ways to lose a reader is to drop in too much backstory or drop it in too early. Make sure it's gradual and make sure it's minimal - that every flashback or explanation has a point and keeps the reader's attention.

Plenty of Conflict

Not only do readers want tension at the beginning, they want it all the way through the book. So keep that conflict in there and make sure it's balanced throughout the book.

Shorter or Balanced Scenes

One thing to help keeps readers engaged is either writing shorter scenes or paying special attention to balancing scenes. That means not using an entire scene just for description or solely for dialogue. Balance the ups and downs and long and short sentences, etc. also so that the reader doesn't feel stuck with only one style of writing per scene or chapter.

Do you get caught in the high speed trap, and do you want books you read to draw you in immediately and hold you there? What tricks do you use in your writing to keep readers engaged?


Sarah Forgrave said...

Great post, Cindy! You're so right...Our need for speed is so engrained in us, it's bound to infiltrate our reading habits. Love these tips!

Keli Gwyn said...

The world is changing, and that's affecting the way readers read. Many of us are no longer content to immerse ourselves in babbling brook stories. We want swiftly flowing rivers--complete with whitewater rapids and death defying drops. Writers today have to deliver page-turning prose if we want to catch agents and editors' eyes and please our readers. If I'm truthful, I'm far more likely to pick up a modern story with an action-packed plot than I am my beloved copy of Little Women.

Angie Dicken said...

Sigh...Wish we could slow down, but what you say is so true. Good tips!

Mary Vee Writer said...

I recently asked about this very question on the My Book Therapy Monday chat. Michelle wisely said--"Yes, keep the pace fast--BUT-don't forget to let the reader breathe once in a while."

Joanne Sher said...

Super tips, Cindy!

Cindy R. Wilson said...

Hi Sarah. Yes, it's so hard for us readers to just sit and enjoy a book--but if it's well done, you fall right into it :)

Keli, I agree about gravitating toward something more contemporary and fast paced. And I love your metaphor!

Hey, Angie. I wish we could slow down, too. It wasn't THAT long ago when we were kids :) but even then seems like it was such a slower time.

Mary, that's great advice. Like I wrote in the balancing scenes section, you've got to have those ups and downs or else it's just too much (or too little) for the reader.

Hi Joanne, thanks for stopping by. Hope the tips help :)

Jeanne Takenaka said...

These are great points, Cindy. It's true, life moves fast. As a new writer, I'm trying to learn how to write compelling first sentences for each scene. It's tough, but I'm practicing and studying how others have done it.

Pepper said...

Hit the nail on the head, Cindy!
Yes, we are in a high-speed, fast food society, but even among readers there is a constant.
A good story!
The good story may require a quicker hook, conflict-ridden scenes, and a faster pace, but the truth has to be a good story.
I think what still draws me into the slower paced stories (even Harry Potter books had a longer, slower beginning), is the strength of the characters.

Thanks for the reminder.

Arieth said...

Great post. Thanks.

Cindy R. Wilson said...

Jeanne, I'm really working hard on that, too. It seems like it should be such an easy thing, but it's not. If we can do it right, however, it really makes a difference in our writing.

Cindy R. Wilson said...

Pepper, that's so true. Agents and writers talk about it all the time--it's great to have a platform and great to have an amazing hook, and all those other things, but ultimately your biggest goal and biggest ally is having a great story.

Cindy R. Wilson said...

Hey Aritha, thanks for stopping by today. Have a great weekend.

Anonymous said...

Oh yes, we are all on the fast track, aren't we? I know I am guilty of being a fast-track reader, so I must learn to write fast paced!

Cindy R. Wilson said...

Sherrinda, I am totally guilty of being a fast-track reader, too. Hopefully reading stories like that will help us write stories like that, right? Isn't that how it works? ;)