It’s been awhile since I’ve found a craft book that has energized my writing.
That’s not to say I’m an expert (ha, ha!) and have nothing new to learn (ha, ha, HA!). Very far from it. It’s just that many of the craft books I’ve picked up lately seem to say the same thing, only in a different way.
Until I picked up Wired for Story: The Writer’s Guide to Using Brain Science to Hook Readers from the Very First Sentence, by Lisa Cron. I highly recommend this one, writers.
I love how throughout the book, the author busts a lot of myths.
One such myth she busts?
Writing a successful story is a matter of learning to “write well”.
“What hooks us and keeps us reading,” Cron says, “is the dopamine-fueled desire to know what happens next. Without that, nothing else matters.”
She uses The Da Vinci Code as an example. Dan Brown has received a lot of flack about his flat prose and his two-dimensional characters and their unrealistic dialogue. Yet The Da Vinci Code was one of the best-selling novels of all time.
Because, from the very first page, readers are dying to know what will happen next.
And all I could think, as I read Lisa’s words, was Twilight.
How much criticism has Stephanie Meyer endured over her writing?
Just read a few of her more scathing reviews and you’ll see what I mean.
Yet amidst all the complaints, Twilight is a fiction phenom. It’s read and loved by millions.
Why is that?
Because Stephanie Meyer tells a story that makes millions of readers NEED to know what will happen next. From the very first page. From the very first line.
All because of a little thing Lisa Cron calls The Measuring Stick.
Feast your eyes on the brilliant first line of Twilight:
I’d never given much thought to how I would die–though I’d had reason enough in the last few months–but even if I had, I would not have imagined it like this.
Right away, the reader is….
1. Intrigued. Because how is this character going to die?
2. Motivated to find out the answer.
3. Given something so many of us writers fail to give our readers–context.
For the rest of the novel, this line is stuck in our heads. We use it to measure the significance and meaning of everything that comes next, before this moment when Bella faces death.
Without that first sentence, we don’t know what we’re building toward. We don’t know what’s at stake.
If you have a copy of Twilight at home, read the Preface. Now imagine the Preface isn’t there. Imagine the story starts with Chapter One. We wouldn’t be nearly as invested or forgiving.
Stephanie Meyer gives her readers a context, a yardstick, a small glimpse into the bigger picture (call it whatever you’d like) and we can’t help but wonder….
Will this plot point or this character or this particular thought catapult Bella toward her inevitable demise? How is she going to die and who is she going to die for and please, will somebody save her?
It’s this driving need to know that keeps us turning pages.
It’s this driving need to know that makes a book unputdownable.
By giving the first page–preferably the first line–of your novel a measuring stick, you increase your odds of planting that need inside your reader.
Let’s Talk: Did you like Twilight? Do you think you would have turned pages as quickly without the Preface? Does your novel have a measuring stick?
I’m guest posting about faith and the writing journey on Alexis’s blog, God is Love, today!