Tuesday, October 14, 2008

The Big Tease

I spend much of my summers screening entries for the Writer's Digest self-published books competition, and the absolutely number-one writing mistake among the entries goes something like this:

Jenny awoke to a hail of bullets. She quickly rolled out and ducked down next to her bed as fragments of sheetrock rained off the wall. Jenny had only seconds to consider how she had gotten herself into this situation.

It all began in the EZ-Care Senior Center, where Jenny was raised by her great grandfather, Paul Abhrahamson Johanssen, who they called "Spruce"....

Seven pages of background information later...

Now, back to those bullets!

Are you freakin' kiddin' me?! Many authors have this need for their readers to understand every plot detail at all times - thus to write first chapters filled with background exposition. But that's not what first chapters are for - what they're for is getting your reader involved, and you don't do that by pulling this incredible tease-job.

So please, get Jenny out from under that hail of bullets. You've got an entire novel to fill in the details.

Photo by MJV. Artwork by Nina Koepcke.


Taiwan Jew Fairy said...

I couldn't agree more!

Michael J. Vaughn said...

Ha! It sounds like you've been the victim of just such a tease.