And... Action

Here I am again, the bane of your existence, oh Indie author extraordinaire.

I know it seems like I’m picking on the very souls who frequent the publishing entity to whom I am enslaved, but it’s not true. I only vilify your horrific habits because I love you and want nice things for you. Oh, and because everything I share with you isn’t fabricated whilst I’m hunched over a converted PC desk in the corner of a spider infested, cat haunted, frigid basement. It’s just me, gnawing on the bones of my very existence and sharing the marrow of my experiences with you.

I get it. You’ve spent at least ninety days developing this complicated shmuck, flawed but lovable, and you’re parading him—we’ll call him Jaxton for effect—through the vast and lofty verbal cornucopia that is your novel. Page after page of pitfall, tension, and ego-crunching experience. Perhaps he suffers from a skin condition that stifles his abilities to socialize so he’s lonely but brilliant due to a lifetime of ego-bruising—enough to squeeze some wine (or whine) out.

You’ve done your homework.

Dialogue, rounded characters, excerpts on your website, and you’ve built your fan base.

Your book should be leaping off your virtual shelves. But it isn’t.

All this work—a lifetime of trial for your protag, and no one cares enough to spend the $12.50 to see what happens next.

Why? Well, because you’re not Dickens and this isn’t the 1800’s.

In a world where your potential readers are bombarded by information and overwhelmed with choices, you and your book have to stand out amidst the chaos. And you, dear writer, only have seconds to set your book hook and land that new fan.

Pay attention: you have to grab your reader within the first page of your novel if you want them to read the second and subsequent.

That means, get to the action and get to it quickly. Jax loosed his white knuckled grip on the steering wheel as he fixed his gaze on the front door of Cheryl’s Chic Boutique. A manicured hand adorned with chunky rings appeared in the window. There it was. Cheryl flipped the “Closed” sign, finally. She’d be alone in the store now. A bead of sweat dripped from his temple, stinging his freshly treated cheek severely enough that his eyes watered. His foot hovered over the gas pedal. All the years of injections, painful chemical treatments, were nothing compared to the pain that constricted his chest every time he thought of Cheryl. He just wanted an end to the pain. Taking a deep breath, he slid the car into drive… BANG.

I know. You’re thinking—okay, but that was my climactic scene! On page 244! Don’t worry. Unless you’ve never watched CSI, or Bones, or pretty much any dramatic anything lately, you should recognize the thing I did just now. Yup. It’s called getting the action on the first page.

Now, you can continue with your story in “how did he get to this place” fashion and your reader will eagerly follow your twists and turns for 243 more pages because you gave him, her, it, something to be curious about. Your climactic moment is still safe because you’ve actually revealed nothing about the outcome—that car has not moved, yet. So you, writer, are free to build to the inevitable—does he kill himself? Does he kill her? Does a pug run across the road, foiling his endeavors again? I must now buy your book because I have to know.

And that is how you hook a reader.

Well, okay, my example was purposely kitschy, but give it a try if your plot is slow to simmer and your readers are comatose before the good stuff happens.

Doesn’t have to be a life and death scene, but it does have to be integral to your character’s story and it does have to pop off that page. That very first page.

Unless you’re Dickens. Then write on….and on….and on…


Tammy Boehm
Associate Editor