First Chances


When I was in college and learning how to write creatively, I was told many times that there's a very limited amount of space in which to capture a reader's attention. (The "hook" of a story needs to give the reader a reason to care about the characters, world, or situation long enough to get them invested.)

I've also been told many times that the limitations on this space have become increasingly tighter as the expectations of the modern audience change. Perhaps it started with "the first chapter." Then it was "the first few pages." Then "the first page." And finally, "the first paragraph." Or even in some extreme cases, "the first line." For some readers, if the summary is lousy, they won't even open the book. Talk about harsh.


Now, I'm sure this will surprise precisely no one, but I like to think of myself as relatively forgiving. I may have proven myself wrong, however, in my approach to Maze Runner, which I attempted to read this summer with limited success.

I didn't even get through the first chapter before I got so irritated with it that I put it away and haven't opened it since.

It wasn't the content that annoyed me.

It wasn't the characters.

It wasn't the style.

I was annoyed by the fact that the author was clearly trying to establish a feeling of insecurity, confusion, and fear, and I could do it better.

Even typing this now, I feel like a terrible person. I mean, really. I put down a book and refused to read through even the first chapter because I have some sort of literary superiority complex? Ouch. Self-reflection is painful sometimes.

Now, this isn't to say I think I was wrong - I believe the introduction to that book would benefit from a different approach to the author's intended effect.

What I DO mean to say is that I don't think I gave the book a fair trial in stopping before the first chapter had even ended. It may behoove me to check the book out from the library a second time and try to read it again, pledging to finish at least the first two chapters (maybe in the audiobook, for the sake of ease) before giving up on it again.

Note: This is because I read in order to enhance my creative abilities, rather than simply for pleasure - I don't recommend that casual readers take this approach unless they personally feel it is the correct one for their personal goals in reading.

In sum: I learned this summer that I'm unforgiving and easily annoyed by things that make no sense when explained.

Also that I'm a stuck-up creative snob.

I will try to fix this. Wish me luck.

#Reading #Books

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