Re: A small suggestion for writers- From the reader part of me

#1
I feel there are wayyyyyyy too many fictions here and not enough time for me to read them. Some of them are really great and ALL of them are products of hard work. And yet, I am frustrated about one thing. And I apologize if someone feels personally attacked. This is not directed at someone or some people in particular at all. AND, mind you, neither does this not apply to all, but I see that it does apply to most. 

The fact that most writers start their stories expecting me to be invested in your characters right from the get go. I mean why? Why should I have to read an entire chapter 1 or prologue of 2000 words of pure angst from a character that I literally could not care less about. Introduce that person to me. Tell me who they are, how they act; so that I can judge for myself if I am ready to care about their angst or not. 

Also, 'I' or 'He' woke up and felt pain and started bleeding and their world is in a turmoil and blah blah blah and that shouts crying for attention and desperate without telling me the reason why I should pay you any attention. That is where I stop reading, and I feel bad since I am sure they go on to become a great story. 

I apologize if someone feels personally attacked. I am sure I am no better. But I just made a broad post since I see many writers doing the exact same thing. I just hope this helps them evolve and grow into something even better.
peoeyesparkle peoapproval

Re: A small suggestion for writers- From the reader part of me

#8

FantasyBliss30 Wrote: I feel there are wayyyyyyy too many fictions here and not enough time for me to read them. Some of them are really great and ALL of them are products of hard work. And yet, I am frustrated about one thing. And I apologize if someone feels personally attacked. This is not directed at someone or some people in particular at all. AND, mind you, neither does this not apply to all, but I see that it does apply to most. 

The fact that most writers start their stories expecting me to be invested in your characters right from the get go. I mean why? Why should I have to read an entire chapter 1 or prologue of 2000 words of pure angst from a character that I literally could not care less about. Introduce that person to me. Tell me who they are, how they act; so that I can judge for myself if I am ready to care about their angst or not. 

Also, 'I' or 'He' woke up and felt pain and started bleeding and their world is in a turmoil and blah blah blah and that shouts crying for attention and desperate without telling me the reason why I should pay you any attention. That is where I stop reading, and I feel bad since I am sure they go on to become a great story. 

I apologize if someone feels personally attacked. I am sure I am no better. But I just made a broad post since I see many writers doing the exact same thing. I just hope this helps them evolve and grow into something even better.
peoeyesparkle peoapproval

Do you have advice on how to make the reader care / pay attention then? I feel like "I don't care, tell me why I should care xD" could be levelled at any and every Chapter 1 of every story ever read, I think... I start to care more with time spent getting to know and like the characters, not caring at the beginning seems pretty normal to me. 

It seems pretty logical to say "Well, they don't care about my world or my characters yet, so I'll try and grab their attention with something cool happening." And that is very often the apocalypse, the MC dying, or an sick action scene / magic fight. (But yes, I agree that this can have the countereffect, because it's already so played out.)

Is it better to start with more exposition, and introduce the characters slowly?

Re: A small suggestion for writers- From the reader part of me

#9

arashifufu Wrote:
FantasyBliss30 Wrote: I feel there are wayyyyyyy too many fictions here and not enough time for me to read them. Some of them are really great and ALL of them are products of hard work. And yet, I am frustrated about one thing. And I apologize if someone feels personally attacked. This is not directed at someone or some people in particular at all. AND, mind you, neither does this not apply to all, but I see that it does apply to most. 

The fact that most writers start their stories expecting me to be invested in your characters right from the get go. I mean why? Why should I have to read an entire chapter 1 or prologue of 2000 words of pure angst from a character that I literally could not care less about. Introduce that person to me. Tell me who they are, how they act; so that I can judge for myself if I am ready to care about their angst or not. 

Also, 'I' or 'He' woke up and felt pain and started bleeding and their world is in a turmoil and blah blah blah and that shouts crying for attention and desperate without telling me the reason why I should pay you any attention. That is where I stop reading, and I feel bad since I am sure they go on to become a great story. 

I apologize if someone feels personally attacked. I am sure I am no better. But I just made a broad post since I see many writers doing the exact same thing. I just hope this helps them evolve and grow into something even better.
peoeyesparkle peoapproval

Do you have advice on how to make the reader care / pay attention then? I feel like "I don't care, tell me why I should care xD" could be levelled at any and every Chapter 1 of every story ever read, I think... I start to care more with time spent getting to know and like the characters, not caring at the beginning seems pretty normal to me. 

It seems pretty logical to say "Well, they don't care about my world or my characters yet, so I'll try and grab their attention with something cool happening." And that is very often the apocalypse, the MC dying, or an sick action scene / magic fight. (But yes, I agree that this can have the countereffect, because it's already so played out.)

Is it better to start with more exposition, and introduce the characters slowly?



I think start from a character's starting point in the story. E.g. in Treasure Island, 'Jim Hawkins' is the narrator and clearly tells the readers right at the beginning that he is going to relate to the readers the events around the Treasure Island. And then he starts from the beginning when Billy Bones comes to their Inn.
Or say for instance, GoT prologue starts with the men in the Night Watch coming across The Others in the Prologue (none of whom are MC btw) or Chapter 1 is from Bran's POV, (starts from the morning btw) when he goes to witness his very first beheading.
These are all great starting points. I am not saying that I am right. But, almost all good and successful stories I have read have a good clear non-angsty "beginning".

Re: A small suggestion for writers- From the reader part of me

#11
To add to this criticism and offer a possible solution, I see a lot of stories start with 2-3 paragraphs of set dressing or detailing that, for a new reader, is detached and not relevant. Start the story with the character whose eyes we are to view the world through doing something. It doesn't need to be a great action set piece or anything, just have our point of view complete an action, say something, think something, then go into paining the world. The establishing shot approach does not always translate well for written word, as it is not a visual medium. Readers need to be grounded with a character, an event, a line of dialogue, to be able to orient themselves as the world evolves around them. 
I know I've been speaking as if this is a hard and fast rule, but its not, merely a suggestion given to me and other new writers until we can find our voice and audience. Many creative writing professors and editors I've spoken with advocated for finding the first line of dialogue and or character action in a story, and starting there, deleting everything that came before. 
I would suggest for fellow writers to try this approach and see how it feels/sounds. My own chapter 1 once started with a half page detail of the battlefield and carnage before we got to the fort, where the story actually took place and started. I would like to say that the current start is a lot more interesting, and conveys more information than details of blood stains on a field.

Re: A small suggestion for writers- From the reader part of me

#12

FantasyBliss30 Wrote: Why should I have to read an entire chapter 1 or prologue of 2000 words of pure angst from a character that I literally could not care less about.

Cuz the writers here have been watching too much anime.


Depressing and bleak stories have become more and more popular recently. There's all sorts of reasons why that I won't get into now.
Writers attempt to emulate what they know, so that's what you get. It's just the flavor of the season at the moment. There's more positive stuff coming through, which makes me think the pendulum is swinging back.
It's nothing bad, just not your cup of tea.

Re: A small suggestion for writers- From the reader part of me

#13

gwunders Wrote:
arashifufu Wrote: Do you have advice on how to make the reader care / pay attention then? I feel like "I don't care, tell me why I should care xD" could be levelled at any and every Chapter 1 of every story ever read, I think... I start to care more with time spent getting to know and like the characters, not caring at the beginning seems pretty normal to me. 

It seems pretty logical to say "Well, they don't care about my world or my characters yet, so I'll try and grab their attention with something cool happening." And that is very often the apocalypse, the MC dying, or an sick action scene / magic fight. (But yes, I agree that this can have the countereffect, because it's already so played out.)

Is it better to start with more exposition, and introduce the characters slowly?

Just avoid waxing poetic on every little thing. Build up to their emotional struggle and turmoil, give us events that show their personality and who they are/how they interact with the world BEFORE you shove a big emotion or have them angst ad nauseam at the reader. Basically we need to get to know them before we care about what they need to vent/complain about. Just like a new friend. If a stranger comes up to you and says they had a bad day what's your response?


...uh okay? 

But if you know them, you' done things together, and they're someone you've put time into and are invested in THAT'S when you'll want to hear about it, you know? Not a perfect example but hopefully it gets the idea right.



Thank you so much for explaining it so well and eloquently! 
"If a stranger comes up to you and says they had a bad day what's your response?...uh okay?"

This is exactly what I am talking about.
peoapproval

Re: A small suggestion for writers- From the reader part of me

#14
MarikoRawralton Wrote: Cuz the writers here have been watching too much anime.

I started and stopped watching a few animes recently (I'm branching out for anything new after a year of quarantine lmaooo). I can understand why My Hero Academia is so popular, but I was 8 episodes in and I found I didn't care about anybody. I started Aesthetica of a Rogue Hero and hated the main character within 5 minutes (and the way the writers treated women but w/e). I started Sorcerous Stabber Orphen and it had potential but at episode 3 it was like, "I don't care if I keep watching or not." (Some I started were interesting but would later turn out to be a harem anime and unfortunately that's not my cup of tea.)

What's the secret formula for making the audience care? I'm not sure. Perhaps an interesting premise then in the opening of the book, establishing the MC's problem and what they have to lose. Making them relatable in some way. What makes them like me? What makes their struggle worthwhile?

Re: A small suggestion for writers- From the reader part of me

#15

gwunders Wrote: Just avoid waxing poetic on every little thing. Build up to their emotional struggle and turmoil, give us events that show their personality and who they are/how they interact with the world BEFORE you shove a big emotion or have them angst ad nauseam at the reader. Basically we need to get to know them before we care about what they need to vent/complain about. Just like a new friend. If a stranger comes up to you and says they had a bad day what's your response?


...uh okay? 

But if you know them, you' done things together, and they're someone you've put time into and are invested in THAT'S when you'll want to hear about it, you know? Not a perfect example but hopefully it gets the idea right.


Thank you so much for explaining it so well and eloquently!
"If a stranger comes up to you and says they had a bad day what's your response?...uh okay?"

This is exactly what I am talking about.

peoapproval

Re: A small suggestion for writers- From the reader part of me

#16

Dante_FromSpac5 Wrote: To add to this criticism and offer a possible solution, I see a lot of stories start with 2-3 paragraphs of set dressing or detailing that, for a new reader, is detached and not relevant. Start the story with the character whose eyes we are to view the world through doing something. It doesn't need to be a great action set piece or anything, just have our point of view complete an action, say something, think something, then go into paining the world. The establishing shot approach does not always translate well for written word, as it is not a visual medium. Readers need to be grounded with a character, an event, a line of dialogue, to be able to orient themselves as the world evolves around them. 
I know I've been speaking as if this is a hard and fast rule, but its not, merely a suggestion given to me and other new writers until we can find our voice and audience. Many creative writing professors and editors I've spoken with advocated for finding the first line of dialogue and or character action in a story, and starting there, deleting everything that came before. 
I would suggest for fellow writers to try this approach and see how it feels/sounds. My own chapter 1 once started with a half page detail of the battlefield and carnage before we got to the fort, where the story actually took place and started. I would like to say that the current start is a lot more interesting, and conveys more information than details of blood stains on a field.



Thank you so much for adding colors and layers to the discussion!
"Start the story with the character whose eyes we are to view the world through doing something."- Awesome advice
And I am happy you shared your own experience.
peoapproval

Re: A small suggestion for writers- From the reader part of me

#17

artsymarsy Wrote:
MarikoRawralton Wrote: Cuz the writers here have been watching too much anime.

I started and stopped watching a few animes recently (I'm branching out for anything new after a year of quarantine lmaooo). I can understand why My Hero Academia is so popular, but I was 8 episodes in and I found I didn't care about anybody. I started Aesthetica of a Rogue Hero and hated the main character within 5 minutes (and the way the writers treated women but w/e). I started Sorcerous Stabber Orphen and it had potential but at episode 3 it was like, "I don't care if I keep watching or not." (Some I started were interesting but would later turn out to be a harem anime and unfortunately that's not my cup of tea.)

What's the secret formula for making the audience care? I'm not sure. Perhaps an interesting premise then in the opening of the book, establishing the MC's problem and what they have to lose. Making them relatable in some way. What makes them like me? What makes their struggle worthwhile?



Thank you both for bringing up the anime culture! I completely agree that anime/manga is part of the reason. But again there are trash anime/manga and great anime/manga. I have read and seen both types. One of my favorite animes (it is an anime for me) is Avatar The Last Airbender and boy was it great and if the writer wanted, he could have started the show with all of Avatar's angst, cuz there was a whole lot of it. But not. They started with Katara's POV sort of, where she finds Aang and that is the beginning of the adventure. 

MarikoRawralton Wrote: It's nothing bad, just not your cup of tea.



Definitely. I am 100% sure there is a niche reader base who like to start with all the angst and MC getting stabbed right at the beginning. XD Infact one of my favorite BL shows starts that way with the MC dying (The Untamed on Netflix based on cultivation BL chinese novel Mo Dao Zu Shi). And, I almost gave up the show a couple of times before deciding to stick it out, because the beginning frustrated me so much. And yet, the novel is super popular in cultivation world (I could not continue reading the novel unfortunately).
Sorry for the rant. Just saying there are definite exceptions but I do feel, such works could be even better if they don't follow the popular trap. 

Re: A small suggestion for writers- From the reader part of me

#18

Dante_FromSpac5 Wrote: Start the story with the character whose eyes we are to view the world through doing something. It doesn't need to be a great action set piece or anything, just have our point of view complete an action, say something, think something, then go into paining the world.



Great advice, thank you. peoYes

I'll admit, up until 10 minutes ago, my first chapter started with something that was more of a quirky, fun and seemingly irrelevant start but I honestly felt that it could have been better. But reading what you advised it that way, well now I simply swapped it with the bit that is what you are talking about, and which should've started things off- putting us in the life of the character in focus. It's something so simple, but I think improves it.  

I was convinced I wanted what I originally had at the start. I was tunnelled in a way as I envisaged it in a more visual delivery- which is what it started out as. I suppose in that medium it would have worked better, but not for prose. 

Re: A small suggestion for writers- From the reader part of me

#19

Quote:
I apologize if someone feels personally attacked. I am sure I am no better. But I just made a broad post since I see many writers doing the exact same thing. I just hope this helps them evolve and grow into something even better.



 I kinda do, but at the same time, I can recognize protagonist intro feels like a blindspot for me. But no worries, I'd rather have it pointed out than not.

Re: A small suggestion for writers- From the reader part of me

#20
For me one of the biggest things that made me care about a story was having the protagonist express an opinion really early on.

This to me, adds a colour to the story that sets a tone for the character for the foreseeable future. I've found that this can be a little polarizing on the writing side, being a little antsy about a character that might rub a reader the wrong way early on, or coming on to strongly in pushing a persona. In my own opinion, a character that can disagree with me is far more interesting than an already painted wall I'm kind of expected to care about. Having a complete thought out character is one thing, but trying to include the whole picture in the introduction is asking for a lot (angst upon angst, lore upon lore). I agree with the suddenness of being just thrown into a situation doesn't leave a lot of room to actually have a protagonist have their own ticks. Adding variety and different perspectives and little reactions through word choice is what, as a reader ends up pulling me in. And hints of previous situations do wonders for characters when taken sparingly. If you look at the fictions on best rated, it's along the lines of what they do.

MoL introduces Zorian through his interactions with his sister, which is a rather expressive relationship. 
Beware of Chicken has a similar style in that Jin is introduced through a scene that lets him showcase his opinions on cultivation and adds another contrasting perspective in the sect manager. 
Chrysalis, where Anthony is introduced through a usually jarring conversation with the local Gandalf. These are some of the best examples I could find of characters that drew me in. 

I could go on and mention Born of Caution as well, there are some really interesting devices for introducing characters outside of internal monologues, explaining current actions, or having some startling external event drive readers into turning pages.