How to Engage Readers

I’m reading Elizabeth Strout’s Anything is Possible, which is, in a nutshell, about regular people in a small Illinois town coping with dysfunctional childhoods, dysfunctional parents, dysfunctional marriages…stuff pretty much everyone goes through to some extent.

Strout hooked me in the first paragraph. How does she do that? I reread the first page to see if I could unlock her secret. The words, the phrases, are so simple. They don’t say much, but they say enough to want me to keep reading.

In my work writing reported features, it’s important to have a strong lede. State your point in the first sentence or two and make it powerful. Spend the rest of the article explaining your point and wrap it up in the end.

In fiction, you don’t want to give it all away in the first two sentences, but you have to have an engaging opening that makes your voice clear. Right?

What tips do you have to draw the reader in like Strout? What’s the difference between a book that sucks you in immediately and others that take time? (Or, in the case of The Ministry of Utmost Happiness, never hit the mark…for me.)

Curious to know your thoughts.

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