Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Tutored By the Tale: hooking a reluctant reader - Custom comment codes for MySpace, Hi5, Friendster and more

"I don't usually get into Sci-fi." "I don't usually get into ghost stories."

I found myself saying these two phrases this past week after finishing "The Seer of Shadows" by Avi (ghost story) and starting "The Adoration of Jenna Fox" by Mary Pearson (sci-fi).

However, looooved Seer of Shadows. Couldn't put it down. And I'm totally inspired by The Adoration of Jenna Fox.

I'm not the only one who has made such statements. So I asked myself "Self, what makes someone like a book that is in a genre that doesn't usually hook them?"

I thought of a blog that I posted a little while back about combining rhetoric and literature to draw a reader into the story. You can click here if you're interested in reading my thoughts on that post. If not. The basic premise was this "Start your story on common ground; a place where the author, characters and the reader find themselves in familiar territory."

Both of these books are perfect examples of that thought. So, I disected the begining of these books to see what they had in common. How do these books create a "common ground"

Here's what I came up with:

Setting: Though none of us have been to 19th century New York, and few of us (if any) have woken from a trauma induced coma, they set the scene in a way that a reader can, at the very least, create their own view of what the scene looks like.

1st Pesron Narrative: I think the books point of view should be whatever tells the story best. In these cases, I think the 1st person narrative was a good choice because it helped me to put myself into the protagonists shoes. 1st person gives us a more intimate knowledge into the mind of our character. It helps put "us' in the story, even though it's a place or a circumstance to which we can not relate.

Hints of what is to come: Within the 1st page of the book there are many hints of what is to come. Although Avi's "ghost" doesn't show up til many chapter into the book, there are a lot of hints and descriptions that set the reader up for what is to come.

Jenna Fox hints at problems, situtation, confict, etc. I'm not finished with it yet, so I don't know what all it hints at. But I know hints when I see'em and them there iz hints if I've ever seen'em! :0)

So, these tales have tutored me in this: Don't whiplash your reader into a new world or a strange circumstance. Start at a place where they can understand, set them up with hints and reel'em in nice and steady. Don't give them whiplash. :0)


PJ Hoover said...

I've been chunking around this question a lot in my own mind recently. Much comes down to voice, I think. Does the voice mesh with our own?
Also how adept the writer is at keeping only vital information. The more extraneous info in a genre we do or don't like, the more likely we are to put it aside and never pick it up.
There have been books I've wanted to like but haven't and books I thought would be mediocre that I've loved.

C.R. Evers said...

I think your comment about "voice meshing with our own" is very interesting. I tend not to be able to get into the "voice" of 1st person YA where the protagonist has speaks in a "bouncing-all-over-the-place" non-sensical prattle.

I'm very certain that if The Adoration of Jenna Fox was written in a Voice similar to the "Princess Diaries" style, I wouldn't have been into it as much. Even with a good story line, the way the protagonist rattles on and on makes it easy for me to put down until "later." Jenna is easier for me to follow and relate.

Good points!


beth said...

Excellent ideas! I've been thinking a lot about these issues myself lately...