Is your GRABBER any good?
by Autumn Kohl
Nobody has to read your book. Sorry, that’s a fact of life. Oh, I forgot your mother. She, of course, will read it, tell you it’s wonderful and how brilliant you are. But nobody else has to, let alone pay you for the privilege.
So, what about the other 7.3 billion people on the planet? How do you get them to read it?
The answer is simple: THE GRABBER.
Sounds like a character in a film noir or a Stephen King novel, doesn’t it? It’s not. It’s what you do with words – preferably in the first sentence of each chapter. Absolutely within the first paragraph of each chapter.
If you’ve read this far, THE GRABBER has worked. Let’s look at why you’re still reading. (I confess I’ve cheated. I made the first paragraph into three short paragraphs, because I think the writing has more punch that way.)
Let’s start at the beginning: Sentence one – your worst fear. “Nobody will read my book.” Sentence two punches the idea home. There’s no escape. Three and four: a little humor, sounding reassuring but only reinforcing the idea that the game is up. Five: restates the sad truth.
The second paragraph asks the questions you are probably asking yourself. The third paragraph answers them. It stands alone. Simple. Isolated. Capitalized. I didn’t tell you it’s important. I showed you it’s important. Until you got there, I built up the suspense. But the suspense doesn’t stop there. You are left with an answer that needs explanation. That’s why you will continue to read.
I first became aware of needing a Grabber while talking with a friend. She told me she was reading a book by a novelist who specializes in trashy fiction. (That means lots of sex.) Now, it’s hard to make sex boring, but this writer managed to do just that. My friend said she “didn’t get into the book until about the fortieth page.”
I don’t know about you, but that would try my patience. I’ve hundreds of books to read. They’re on my desk, on the dining table, on the coffee table, on the night table. Many are on the floor, under the bed, in the closet. They are piled up to become tables, themselves. Tables that hold other books. If I don’t get interested in the first minute, I’m not interested.
So how do you capture the reader’s interest? Good question. Thousands of answers. I can only offer a few here.
- Startling facts.
- Seeming paradoxes. One of literature’s great grabbers is the first sentence of Dickens’ The Tale of Two Cities. “It was the best of times; it was the worst of times.” If that doesn’t pique your curiosity, what will?
- Starting in the middle of something – a scene, a conversation. (I love to eavesdrop, don’t you?)
- Varying sentence length and complexity. Forget what you learned in school about writing complete sentences. But don’t write only incomplete sentences.
- Ask questions.
Wish I could tell you more, but time’s up.
Autumn Kohl is the author of Illegal Parking Only Allowed Here—a racy, raucous, and sexy romp through Tuscany.