Tuesday, November 3, 2009


Portrait de Viellard--Ernest Bieler--1863-1948 It was one of my wild mornings last week. Sick child at home and I needed some groceries. It was right after 9:00 in the morning when I arrived at the store, hair completely out of control, no makeup, and wearing an outfit I pulled together in the closet without even turning on the light.

At first I didn’t really notice her, this blonde woman. I was having a conversation with some elderly ladies about the best types of trick or treat candy when I first caught a glimpse of her. She was peering intently at me, but not meeting my eyes.

I was deep inside a freezer, reaching for some frozen pasta when I turned around and saw her again. Again she was studying me closely. Hmm.

The third time was at the cash register. I was really ready to get out of there by this time. I was at the grocery store very early, my child had coughed up a lung all night, I looked like hell, and I had this woman staring at me as though I’ve just escaped from a coven.

I ran a hand through my crazy hair. “Oh!” she said. “You’re not wearing earrings at all. I was looking for someone that might have just one earring in….I found one on the floor. Your hair is so long that I couldn’t tell what you were wearing.”

Well, for heaven’s sake. I wish she’d just told me that back at the trick or treating candy. And here I was feeling all self-conscious and icky. It would have been nice to know what her intention was.

When I’m reading the book, I feel the same way. What is the writer’s intent? For me, as a reader, I’d better be able to tell the direction they’re trying to go in pretty early.

I’ve probably already read the back cover copy and likely a blogger review, too. I know what should be happening, plot-wise, in the book.

But if the author seems to be dillydallying around, they’re going to lose me.

It’s a mystery. It’s been billed as a mystery. It’s been promoted as a mystery. Where is the body? Who is going to be the victim? I’m at chapter six and there’s no body? How much set up is really necessary—I’m ready to start figuring out the puzzle.

Or—it’s a fantasy. It’s meant to be a fantasy and I was told it was a fantasy. Why are we still in a modern day, ordinary, urban setting in chapter four? Where’s my fantastical escape? I want to be transported!

Yes, I’m a demanding reader. :)

Editors like authors to start right in the middle of the action, or for us to have action soon afterwards. If I don’t have a body at the very beginning, I’m going to allude to the fact through some foreshadowing that there is a body to come! If the reader just holds on, then I’m going to completely satisfy their expectations.

How about you? If you don’t put your action or introduce your main plot at the beginning of your book, how do you keep the reader’s interest—Humor? Tension? Foreshadowing?