What is “IT”? ~~~ Part 2

Last Wednesday, I asked this question: “What is “IT”?  What is that one thing found in the opening line, page, or scene, which makes a reader want to curl up with a pet, a cup of cocoa, and the one book that engaged her senses well enough to buy it?”

I posted the question on various sites, ACFW’s main and women’s fiction loops, ChristianWriters (dot) com, LinkedIn’s Fiction Writer’s Guild and Definitive Serious Writers Group, and got a wide variety of comments of what folks believe “IT” is. Among those who understood the question–which is about the intangible that pulls a reader beyond page one–I got seven good answers:

Tied for first were “Voice” and “Emotion.” By “emotion,” the respondents meant either the main character or the character’s plight elicited a strong empathy which drove them deeper into the novel.

“Characters” took second place. Well-rounded, intriguing characters.

Third was “Immediacy,” which I took to mean tension. A sense of immediacy is developed by starting your novel in the right place, “in medias res,” in the heart of the action.

Another tie is between “Curiosity” and “Originality.” The readers liked something that piqued their curiosity, and a plot that seems fresh and new.

Tagging along in last place is “strong writing,” but I don’t think this category was limited exclusively to perfect sentence construction and punctuation. Those who voiced this opinion meant the incorporation of all the above. Still, “good writing,” i.e. sentence structure, grammar, punctuation, falls flat in the face of the other factors necessary to pulling a reader in.

One woman, Nancy Dodd, a Screenwriting professor at Pepperdine University, nailed it as far as I’m concerned. According to her, “IT” is charisma. Charisma is the one common thread linking successful storytellers. I couldn’t agree more, and will add that charisma in print is illustrated in an author’s voice.

Do you have charisma? Do you show it on the page?

Let’s explore it more Wednesday.

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Announcements~~~

Don’t forget! TODAY I’m gonna be on Blog Talk Radio! I’m going to be a guest on Jo-Anne Vandermuelen’s blog-talk radio show, “Authors Articulating.” Tune in at 5:30 CST (3:30 Pacific) to catch my Texas accent as I discuss public speaking, my 2011 release, Give the Lady a Ride, and my hopes for The Cat Lady’s Secret, which is now on the publication trail. I’m nervous about this, so y’all tune in and offer some support okay? Preregister to participate in the call-in: http://bit.ly/26Xy0A

Starting Tuesday, 12/13, and extending to Thursday, 12/15: I’m participating in Karen Blaney’s launch of her fourth title, Nickels. Through the promotional efforts of WoMen’s Literary Cafe, I and nine other authors are offering the Kindle version of our books at the special low price of 99c. (Remember, if you want an autographed Kindle version of Give the Lady a Ride, be sure to click on the “I can Kindlegraph your books!” button in the sidebar.)

 

About Linda W. Yezak

Author/Freelance Editor/Speaker (writing and editing topics).
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6 Responses to What is “IT”? ~~~ Part 2

  1. Great original question and great post. I would argue that all of the “ITs” mentioned could easily be categorized as Voice. Or rather, a good Voice isn’t good unless it includes or influences all of the above.

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    • Linda Yezak says:

      I agree that a good voice can influences all else, particularly characterization and dialogue. But I think having a fresh idea, knowing where to start the book, piquing someone’s interest, and making them empathetic to the character doesn’t stem as much from voice as it does knowing the craft. A person can have a wonderful, intriguing voice, but not excel in the other qualities that attracts readers–the other qualities require skill and learning.

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  2. Brad says:

    I think the key is the premise. The stakes should be very high, not just the lead character but for the reader as well. And the story should start with the inciting incident.

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    • Linda Yezak says:

      Well, the premise and the stakes can certainly capture a reader’s attention!

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      • Brad says:

        On second thought, I guess “immediacy” and “emotion” are similar to “starting at the right place” and “high stakes.”

        “Curiosity” and “originality,” at least for me, tend to come from the blurb on the book cover. They can get me to read past page one.

        Not sure how you can tell if the book’s characters are well-rounded from just page one.

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  3. I agree with your top seven. When I think about the books I treasure and re-read regularly, those seven are definitely there. Each story is unique and grabs me interest for different reasons, but stil maintains all seven characteristics you mentioned. Great post, Linda!

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