Recently, I’ve started reading several books that I have swiftly put aside. Why? Because they had off-putting openings.
What did I mean by off-putting openings? I’d say the kind of start that left me—as a reader—confused, or bored, or annoyed. The kind of start that made me say something like, “if this is the best this author can do, then I have better ways of spending my precious reading time.”
Off-putting openings #1 : a crowd of named minor characters
When should an author give a character a name?
That’s not easy to answer. It may seem obvious that all characters have names—of course they do—but does the reader want to know the name, or need to know the name?
Lies seem to be flavour of the month, don’t they? [Can’t think what made me light on that, can you?] I can’t match Dame Isadora on lies, but I found myself thinking about lies in fiction and what they say about the characters. And, sometimes, the readers, too.
Earlier this week, our own Liz Fielding published a blog about her series covers over 30 years of her writing career. It was fascinating. And it made me think about brands and series.
What makes Series Covers?
Harlequin Mills & Boon have been producing different series for decades. Readers may be fans of one or more of these series. Perhaps they love Medicals (left), or Historicals (right).
Readers expect to be able to identify their particular series covers the moment they look at the shelves in the bookshop. It used to be easy because of the colour coding: for example, Medicals were the jade green shown above; Historicals were Dairy Milk Purple. Modern and Romance (of which more below) also had the swoosh against blue (for Modern) and orange (for Romance).
And within their favourite series, readers want to be able to pick out the authors whose books they love. Preferably without having to peer at tiny or barely legible print. The two cover images above don’t get very high marks on that front. It would have been easy to remedy, though.
To give the paying customers what they want. Simples, no? Isn’t that what branding is about? Well… Continue reading →
Have you ever met someone on the phone — a business colleague, perhaps — and created a mental image of them from voice and conversation alone? If you later met them face to face, how did the reality measure up to your mental picture?
I vividly remember doing just that with a woman who subsequently became a close colleague when I was working in London. From her voice on the phone, from her senior position in the organisation and from what she said to me, I pictured a middle-aged, rather motherly figure with mid-brown hair in a beautifully-coiffed jaw-length bob. It was a pretty strong mental picture, though I have no idea where it came from. Continue reading →
Ever since I blogged about what a reader may take against in 1st person narrative, I’ve found the idea of reader chemistry nagging away at me. Why are some words so loaded for one person, and totally neutral for another?
But I never meant to blog about it so quickly.
But then, as some of you will know, I was struck down by a monster virus. I couldn’t stop shivering. Or coughing.
I went from bed to fireside and back again, accompanied by regularly refreshed hot water bottles and The Companion Cat.
I had absolutely no physical energy. All I wanted to do was read. But I was quite likely to fall asleep in the middle of a page.
And I’d become very, VERY picky about the books I was willing to pick up. And not at all in the usual way. WHY? Continue reading →