People like my book, starting halfway through

2018-10-22 20:58:56

This is kind of an alternate take on my other recent question, as well as the inverse problem to this question.

I've been told by more than one beta reader that there's a specific chapter where they went from "meh" on my book to really feeling invested. But that chapter is just past the halfway point. What I think people are responding to in that chapter --a deepening friendship between the main characters --has been built up through the first half of the book, so it isn't necessarily something I can solve by moving events around.

What might cause this specific pattern of reader response, and what are ways to address it? In a world where I could guarantee people would read my book, I would be OK with a slow build leading to a satisfying reader experience in the second half. Given, however, that you send the first few pages in your query, and that the modern audience demands instant gratification, it's clear that my book needs to engage people right from the very star

  • There may be action, but perhaps what you are missing is conflict. (Conflict is the MC personally having to make choices and solve problems, not just reacting to or living through "action".) Your character might be unlikable to other characters, but for me it would be impossible to get people interested in an MC that they don't like at all.

    You only need one early incident (in the first 15% of the story) of your MC actually performing an altruistic act to help somebody, even a stranger, to get the sympathy of the reader. You need to show they are at heart a good person, even if they are irritable or think the worst of many other people, when it comes down to it they have some sense of justice or charity or humanity.

    A working definition of "evil" in fiction is somebody willing to hurt innocent people for their own selfish gain, pleasure, or power (or out of selfishness is willing to allow them to be hurt). You need to show the reader your MC is NOT evil, but is actively good.


    2018-10-22 21:33:19
  • Often books take a while to get into when they have a slow start, when not much is happening for the first part of the novel. However, you say that's not the case with you - you have plenty of action.

    I would therefore surmise that the problem is exactly the one you point out in your other question: readers are not particularly invested in your MC. If readers don't care about your MC, it doesn't matter that there's action - the readers have no stake in it. Imagine reading that some two celebrities you've never heard of had a breakup - it doesn't matter how dramatic the breakup was, if you have no idea who those celebrities are, you couldn't care less. That's the position you're putting your readers into.

    What to do? Make the MC more compelling, give us a reason to care. How? First and foremost, I think, make his internal monologue interesting. Make him someone we'd want to listen to. Maybe he has a unique view on things, maybe he's witty, maybe he's particularly observant, maybe so

    2018-10-22 22:28:18
  • Is it possible that the first half of the book led them to the expectation that, because the character was perceived as unlikeable, he was going to "get his", and then when that expectation changed, it caused them to react negatively? That might explain the timing of it; when he starts to become more sympathetic the readers were upset by that.

    Maybe you just need to take a stronger hold of their expectations. How are you creating sympathy for the character? He needs some redeeming characteristics, and you need to make sure the readers understand that that are supposed to sympathize with him.

    Here's a good way to give readers sympathy for an unsympathetic character; make everyone around him worse.

    2018-10-22 22:59:05