Yeah, I'm not really feeling the title this time. Maybe because this is one of the few questions that stumped me. I thought I'd find a pattern.
In a sense, I did, but it wasn't what I expected.
What keeps a reader engrossed in your book or makes an editor/agent ask for more?
I put up a post on RD, asking for favorite openings and why they worked, but the responses split almost equally into four. Interesting character description, a situation that makes you want to know what happens next, a strong hook, and voice.
Voice was one I found particularly interesting because much as I admire Guy Gavriel Kay, I can't get into him "because" of his voice, and even Hambly--one of my favorite authors, is a hard-read unless I'm in the mood.
Halfway through the responses I realized I had asked the wrong question. The right question was--
When you found a new-to-you author you loved, why did that opening work for you?
I went and looked at all the writers I'd found--not people I've read all my life, but people I found browsing through Barnes and Noble or the library.
I like the library because I can "try" people without an investment, so I'm more willing to take a chance. Books I pay for have to be good. If I'm going to shell out eight dollars, I want a keeper.
Recently, I bought a A Taste of Shadows. It drew me in--for the first three pages, and let me go. The same way with Waiting for the Apocalypse. Good plot, decent hook--sagging middle and awright ending. Not something I'd read again.
Illona Andrews captured me for about two books. And in some ways, maybe this post is also about what turns me off. It's not that she's not a fantastic writer, but--while I like urban fantasy, I don't like gross stuff that sticks in my mind. I'm a writer. My imagination is vivid enough.
Probably why I don't watch or read horror, and can't stand dark romantic suspense. In The Professional Leon says, "No women, no children," and I agree with him.
The world sucks enough.
I agree with the character opening. Then again--I agree with the "what happens next" opening. I don't like the hook, because I've read too many stories that hook me and fizzle.
Not a perfect answer--and not generally useful. But openings vary depending on what you're trying to do. We all try to hook people, because that's what we've been taught to do.
Best first line. Best first page. What's your hook?
I think editors do look at the first line, but they also look at general impressions. Is there white space? Does the writer need a grammar refresher? Is it cliched or back story?
Is there a storm moving in? (guilty)
Is the hero/heroine traveling? (guilty)
Is the hero/heroine thinking about the situation? (ouch, yes--guilty)
Maybe the best opening is the character doing something that makes you wonder what happens next opening? I like it because it puts a strong focus on the people in your story and draws the reader in.
And that--I think is the key, not how you do it, because that's a matter of style, but involvement. Getting your reader involved. Making them think. making them wonder "what next?"
Start at the point of change? Maybe.
If you make your character interesting enough, if you engage your reader's brain/sympathy/curiosity, there's a greater chance the reader will turn the page.
Why is this character here? What's he doing? Why is he doing it? Question, question, question--tired=stream of conscious, lol.
I did a series of openings using the same situation and people, but in all four ways. I'll post them tomorrow. Tired=maybe a nap?