Today I was told that I had Anne Rice Syndrome. This is a very nice way of telling me that I’m doing something wrong. Anne Rice, the award winning author behind titles such as Interview with a Vampire and The Witching Hour is known for her long descriptive passages, causing readers to skip portions of the book. This is all very well for a well known author who’s work spreads by word of mouth and who doesn’t necessarily need that first paragraph hook. For me, however, changes need to be made to grip the reader immediately, rather than first setting the scene.
I’ve known that the first few pages of Inside Evil go to set the scene rather than jumping into the story. I’m no Tolkien, so I don’t spend 100 pages describing what Bilbo had for dinner, but the first 3/4 pages do set the scene of the craggy landscape where Ridgewood is set. If I were a well known author with lots of five star reviews, then yes, people would probably pick up, buy and read. However, i’m not, so a lack of instant appeal may cause readers to pass me by.
Ebooks, I feel, have a lot to do with this. As does Amazon’s Look Inside feature. Traditionally, if you bought a book, then you’d sit and read and indulge in descriptions. Certainly, I love that sort of written passage. However, with readers zapping through Amazon’s Look Inside feature and making decisions within paragraphs and pages, that instant grab factor has become vital.
So, what does it mean for me? My well meaning critique applauded my writing but suggested a first chapter rework so that readers are grabbed straight away. I’m considering it. I had hoped that the quality of writing would prevail and readers would become drawn into my described world. Perhaps i was wrong. I may attempt a rework, and then compare purchases to see if that first line hook is crucial in the long run. I will update on my findings!