In my quest to discover what makes bestselling writers consistently bestselling, one of the most universal skills I came across was their ability to grab the ordinary person with an opening scene that included the use of some ordinary impulse that everyone has expierenced. It didn't seem to matter what, as long as it was a common reaction that we all have. This proved true no matter what type of writing it was attached to. Here are a couple that pop immediately to mind:
- It is five pm. A woman discovers that the package from the freezer she set out earlier in the day is not the chicken she expected, but the entire month's worth of lunchmeat she bought on sale and divided up only two days before. ("Crap!" response)
- At night in an airplane. Three special ops soldiers decide to smoke only minutes before they must jump out of the plane. After lighting his cigarette, the man with the match shares it with one of the others but not with the third. Because three on the same match is unlucky. ("No crap!" response)
- It is dusk, at a lonely gas station out in the middle of the desert. While a man is waiting for his gas tank to fill, he notices a lone car headed in his direction, driving erratically. ("Holy crap!" response)
These three incidents really didn't have all that much to do with the rest of the story. However, they were riviting in their few moments. Each caused me to say, "I must read a little more of this," even though -- in all three cases -- that particular catagory of literature was not my preferred reading fare. Somewhere along the line, each of these books either went past my "willing suspension of disbelief" or detoured into places I don't particularly enjoy travel
ing. But I still read the books.
Why? I really don't know. I could only conclude that these authors are masters at choosing the perfect hooks for their intended audiencces. Once hooked, we readers seem to willingly allow them to introduce us to all manner of information that is outside of our expierience, whether strange, wacky, or even bizzarre. Sometimes (at the end) I have asked myself why I wasted so much time reading such things. Then they come out with another book, and I say to myself, "Surely, they couldn't do it, again." And -- believe it, or not -- I actually go through the process all over.
You would think -- as a writer -- I could figure this out if I put my mind to it. But, alas! Even copying their oh-so-obvious-formula doesn't work for me. I can only conclude that to make so much tripe so palatable to so many people only proves one thing... they are professionals extraordinaire, and my hat is off to them. Which leads me to do some moral soul-searching. Would I do the same things if I were in their shoes?
What -- are you kidding? The only thing stopping me is I don't know how to get a pair.