What do readers want? Stories on a diet.
September 22, 2017
What people want in a novel these days is what they want in a sports car. How fast can it go from zero to sixty?
We live in an impatient society.
We have impatient readers.
They don’t want to fight their way through 500-page epics.
They want novels that are short.
They want novels that have impact.
They don’t want you to fool around.
They want you quit wasting your words and wasting their time.
In the words of novelist Tom Clancy, they want you “to write the damn book.”
They want stories on a diet.
Margaret Mitchell, for example, would no longer be able to find a publisher willing to take a chance and market Gone With the Wind.
It’s a great work.
It is indeed a classic.
But it took Margaret Mitchell the first hundred words to get everyone to the picnic.
Readers won’t give you that much time to get to the picnic anymore.
In the first ten pages these days you have to:
Open the story at the picnic. Open the novel in the middle of the story.
It is night.
Lights are strung through the trees.
A man walks in with a gun.
A marriage fails.
A woman falls in love with the wrong man.
Or a man falls in love with the wrong woman.
That’s why the marriage is failing.
That may be the reason the man has the gun.
A shot is fired.
A woman screams.
Someone flees in the darkness.
The dead man is a stranger.
He had no business at the picnic.
In his suit, someone finds a business card.
The business card belongs to the man who hosted the picnic.
Everyone looks around.
The host is missing.
Now that you have the preliminaries out of the way, you can jump into the action.
I opened Secrets of the Dead this way:
Even the late October sky wore black to her funeral. Ambrose Lincoln forced himself to look again into the face of his wife. So young. So pale. So soft. So dead. But who was she? The face of his wife was no more familiar than a face in a second-hand magazine.
And I’m in the middle of the story.
When I began Night Side of Dark, I wrote.
Dr. Benjamin Wakefield was not smiling and had no reason to smile as he walked into the warm, friendly confines of an office richly appointed with mahogany furniture. A good man lay on his table at the far end of the hallway, and the man might be dead by nightfall or by next week or a year from now. Only one thing was for certain. Ambrose Lincoln had been born and trained to die.
The story was already up and running. I just jumped into the middle of it.
What people want in a novel these days is what they want in a sports car.
How fast can it go from zero to sixty?
And how long can you keep it picking up speed?
Please click HERE to find Secrets of the Dead on Amazon. It’s on sale.
Please click HERE to find Night Side of Dark on Amazon.