Lately I’ve been picking up books that I seem to put down almost immediately. They might be great books. I might even end up giving them 4 or 5 stars in my tracker if I read them all the way through. But, I’ll never know.
What’s the new thing that’s been stopping me? Characters forcing their backstory (I know. You’re shocked. It’s not like the title gave it away or anything.)
In the last month I’ve picked up books where the main character is telling us “I didn’t have a choice. I had to do XYZ.” I, the reader, have been like “You had to quit your job? Why? You gave us no reason? You had to move back to that small town? Why? If your parents are dead and your inheritance doesn’t matter to you and there’s no binding reason, then you didn’t have to. You decided to.”
Maybe it’s the economy, but the idea of anyone giving up a good job they like in a town the enjoy living in and an apartment with good rent is… ABSOLUTELY LUDICROUS. And I don’t mean the rapper.
I 100000000.7% can not accept that as a reason to move a character to the middle of no where so hijinks can ensue.
It’s cheap writing. I hope if I do it, I’ll catch myself.
But the problem is this: If I don’t believe your first 3 pages, you’ve lost me. Why would I spend the rest of the book trying to believe her (and in her) if I don’t believe her actions or why she made them.
Set up is vital. Don’t let anything in your sample pages give your reader a reason to not hit the buy button.
Yes, we all do impulsive things occasionally. But there is a big difference between an impulsive move (which you still have to justify) and a move that you’re blaming on situations that don’t truly exist in your story.
Remember, the set up is in the sample. It has to be as close to perfect as possible, not just to be good writing but to sell.
If I’m reading your sample, I’m yours to lose at that point. Don’t make me not hit buy.