It used to be that here at Muddled Ramblings I would just develop ideas at my own pace and trust my readers to hang with me for a few sentences to let things get going (there is actually no evidence that they did that, but I like to believe). Lately I’ve become (perhaps detrimentally) aware that most of my audience is only presented the first couple hundred characters of my ramble before they are presented with a go/no-go decision.
I’m a little bit embarrassed to say that it has changed the way I open my episodes here at MR&HBI. I’m fishin’ for the hook.
Last night as I posted episode one of TFNIWLNW to a new social media platform, I was compelled to add a little preface. The thing is, in all these platforms, what shows to the casual feed-grazer* is only a couple of sentences. TFNIWLNW starts with sexual assault. So, aware that said assault is going unhindered for the first 250 characters of the story, I decided to graft on a little intro with two goals: tell readers that the asshole’s gonna die before we learn what the asshole’s doing, and to introduce the audience to the narrator’s voice. I’m pretty sure I had only a partial success, but you’re welcome to tell me I’m wrong.
Then, not knowing the culture on this new Social Media site, I put in a little parental warning that also used a pretty sweet metaphor and accelerated the understanding that our narrator is, in some fundamental ways, not a nice guy. From a literary point of view the extra words serve a good purpose. From a “goddammit tell me a tale” standpoint they come off as masturbation.
Writers have always needed to put a hook at the start of a story, but the hook now has to catch in the first few words. I’m pretty sure I unhooked TFNIWLW:1 in an attempt to fix it. But if I’m going to keep it up over there, i’ll have to be very careful with the first 70 words of each episode. Maybe that’s a good thing. A book where every scene starts with a hook is the kind of thing about which reviewers say “I could not put down.”
* I am a little bit proud of the phrase feed-grazer, so please don’t tell me how many times you’ve heard it before.