Readers skipping pages??

I’m sorry I haven’t posted much original stuff thus far. I’ve been so busy working on my new novel and haven’t had time. Today I carved out an hour to do some housekeeping to the blog and post something that I was shocked to learn.

The other day I went to the bank. I tend to talk to anyone who will listen, and strike up conversations with total strangers. Normally, at least up in this part of the state– Upper Valley of New Hampshire– folks are generally very nice.  The clerk at my bank is one of those people who I often have long conversations with about books, writing, and all things murder.

So, I was at the teller window having one of our usual conversations when she tells me her MO when choosing a new book. Instead of reading the back cover like most people tend to do, she reads the first page, the last page, and then starts reading the novel somewhere around page forty-sixty. Totally disregarding the first few chapters!

I was shocked by this!

The genre she enjoys is mystery, crime, thrillers, etc.– all of which are ruined if you read the last page first, in my opinion. I asked her why she does this. Her answer was just as stunning as her initial statement. She says, in order for her to “test” the book out to see if she wants to buy it she needs to read the ending.

I told her I doubted that the ending would even make sense without reading the story through. And I was correct. With a totally serious expression on her face she says it never makes sense. Thus concreting my argument that it shouldn’t be done.

However, while she’s reading, and nearing the end, suddenly that last page (that she read first) pops into her mind and she begins putting the pieces together. Who committed the crime and why. Why this happened or didn’t happen. And so on.

I had always kept her in the back of my mind as a possible test reader, which she said she’d be happy to do. But after that conversation– no way! I can’t trust her to read the entire novel.

Am I the only one who thinks this is ridiculous?  The author worked hard to hook the reader, supply important background information, and in most cases, the trigger occurs within those initial pages. And many times, if she skips sixty pages, the crisis happens as well! I can only hope that she is not the norm. That readers are not skipping through their books randomly and not reading them the way they were meant to be read.

What are your thoughts?

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2 thoughts on “Readers skipping pages??

  1. I agree that the hook is in the first page. However, the reader is put in the middle of the action so if she stops at the second page and then doesn’t pick it back up until the sixtieth, she’s lost that momentum and now must have to catch up, sort of speak. She has plenty of time to read and she reads in depth books. The book we were discussing was Gone Girl by Jillian Flynn. And, she certainly doesn’t skim. I agree with you that if she was skimming it might make sense. But no, she’s not skimming. You can see why I was dumbfounded by her habits.
    I love your idea to ask the TR to open to any chapter and see if it grabs them. Thanks for your comment. I love to hear others reactions to this most unusual process.

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  2. I just pulled six novels off my shelf at random and read the last page: Follett, Baldacci, Grisham, Leonard, Connelly and le Carré. The last page made no sense out of context even though I know those particular works well. The only reason I can see for someone to do this is they don’t really have the time to read the entire book and intend to skim it until the ending they’ve already read becomes obvious? Or, perhaps the books she likes to read have simple stories without the depth, complexity and character development those six apply to their work? Or… perhaps I don’t have enough imagination to see the point?

    However, reading the first page and then reading from somewhere in page forty to sixty is an interesting notion. What I often ask a potential TR to do is open one of my books at random, find the beginning of the enclosing chapter and read that chapter. Since I’m unpublished I simulate that randomness by asking her to read, say chapter seven and I print out that chapter or post it to my website. This is like one might do at B&N with a caffè latte when trying to decide whether to buy a book from the new arrivals’ shelf. My first question is always: would you buy this book after reading that chapter? We then go on to review the work in detail. A simple buying decision doesn’t mean the writing doesn’t need work – all unpublished fiction needs work – but it does provide a gut-level reaction that the writing grabs the reader. The first chapter, often even the first page has the story’s hook, or should, but reading a chapter at random is another good test, that the story doesn’t drag after chapter one.

    I still might ask this person to become a TR if I thought she was intelligent, articulate and familiar with the book’s genre.

    Thomas

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