Catching Your Interest

One of my writers’ email loops is having a discussion about the BAM opening–you know, something really dramatic happens on the first page of a book so you have to keep reading. Do you need that? How many pages will you give a book before deciding it’s for you (or not for you)? What makes you pick up a book by an author you’ve never heard of and decide you want to read that book?
When I’m reading, I don’t need a BAM opening, but I do need to be quickly engaged. It might be by the character’s voice, the setting, or the beauty of the writing. About half the books I’ve written have BAM openings, and I know from reviews that they are very easy to get into. But some stories require a slightly slower start. What are your preferences?


  1. Margo on July 7, 2006 at 3:16 pm

    Diane…my mother always said don’t buy or judge a book by it’s cover, but appx.
    12 years ago that is exactly what I did and it turned out to be my favorite novel of all time…and YOU became my very favorite author…the book, KEEPER OF THE LIGHT…I walked into a bookstore looking for a new author to read and this new hardbound edition was face out on the shelf just luring me to look inside…I loved the cover and had never heard of you but I took it off the shelf and bought it
    without even reading the jacket cover…when I got home to read I was hooked
    after the first sentence and read till the wee hours of the night…I think it was
    fate that I discovered you…I never read the jackets when your new
    books come out because I KNOW they will be exceptional novels…KEEPER OF THE
    LIGHT not only had a gorgeous cover, but your name grabbed my attention too…I don’t necessarily need a BAM at the very beginning but I love the fact your books usually have that feature…what really captures my attention is the
    beauty of words and the sense of place where I lose myself between the pages
    and everything I’m reading comes ‘alive’…you have that extraordinary talent and that is what I look for when I pickup an authors book…

  2. Phyllis Bauer on July 7, 2006 at 3:28 pm

    I can live without the BAM opening, but need something to catch my interest.
    I will sometimes read the first half of a book and then decide this is really boring and skim to the end.
    I keep a log of books I’ve read and books I may want to read and have marked some authors as “Don’t bother.” Even though they may be “popular” they are way too repetious of their own and other author’s books.
    Diane’s books are always unique story lines about believeable people and that is what I love.
    Most recently read memorable book by another author is For All Their Lives by Fern Michaels, about a nurse who goes to Viet Nam. (Well, I have to read something while I wait for the next book by Diane!)
    I’m a compulsive reader — was when I was a kid and still am now that I’ve taken it up again in retirement. I’ve gotten to be a very critical reader and “editor” and Diane is right up there at the top of good writers as well as being a creative author. Some authors just are not good writers — they need a good editor to cut away a lot of unnecessary repetious paragraphs, so these books I skim the first chapter or so. BUT, I read every word of Diane’s books!
    Waiting patiently for the next book by Diane —

  3. Brenda on July 7, 2006 at 4:26 pm

    I do not need a BAM opening although I do teach my students that they NEED A HOOK when writing essays…(Practice what we teach I suppose)…
    There are certain authors that I know I will LOVE…D. C. is one of them…unfortunately it took me years to find her books…one of my members of my online bookclub rec. her and I was hooked forever.
    There are three writers that I BUY the books the day they are released.
    There are about l0 authors that I make sure I get within a few months…
    There are others that I get at the library…
    I think 3 books (or 4) in a series-that’s enough…if not the books repeat…I don’t like that…
    Bad thing-waiting so long on the books from my three favorites…
    If you like D.C. you’ll like B. Delinsky and M. Alice Monroe

  4. Diane Chamberlain on July 7, 2006 at 4:27 pm

    well, you guys are making me blush! thanks for all the compliments. margo, it’s funny about the KEEPER cover. as soon as i’m able to do some scanning, i’ll put up a post about the original KEEPER cover. you never would have picked it up! (i don’t think, anyway–who knows?)

  5. Diane Chamberlain on July 7, 2006 at 4:31 pm

    Brenda–that’s interesting about the series concept–that the books repeat after 3 or 4. hmmm. i’ll keep that in mind.
    i’m honored to be in the company of delinsky and monroe. mary alice (monroe) is a very dear friend and i’ll let her know you enjoy her books.

  6. Vicky on July 8, 2006 at 9:31 am

    I personally don’t like BAM openers (or excessive suspense in a book), and prefer beautiful and engaging writing that draws in a reader just by the nature of its creativity. I think that’s how your books have “gotten” me all these years. 🙂

  7. Kathy M in CT on July 8, 2006 at 12:18 pm

    OK – I admit I’m a strange one. I used to read every book that I started – I swear. I would feel so bad if I didn’t finish it, like the book had a life. I’m getting better because if 1/2 through it if I’m not into it I will put it aside. Sometimes it is at the assistance of my husband. He can always tell when I’m not into the book by how many “breaths” I’m doing. I was recently reading one and I just couldn’t get into it – though a friend of mine LOVED it…well I finally put it in my pile of books to pass on.
    But if it is an author I haven’t read before or not a book that a friend recommended I think I may need a little of a BAM – just to peak my interest.
    Now I agree with Brenda there are just some writers that I don’t even read the jacket covers – I just know that I will love the books. Diane – I’ve introduced your books to so many of my friends and they now consider you one of their favorites as I do. Diane you are the only author to date that I have LOVED every single one of their books. My friends won’t even give me your books as gifts because they know I’ve probably already read it. haha
    Happy summer everyone.

  8. Gloria Bernal - California on July 8, 2006 at 1:01 pm

    That is one of the things you do best, Diane, and I love it – those BAMs right at the beginning. I think this is critical to a lot of readers (at least in my book clubs) and even my husband, you have to grab their attention right away or they give up. I am a bit more patient. I have read an entire book through that I hated just because it was a book club selection for my readers group, but admit to skimming the last half. I never skim through yours, I love every paragraph. However, FYI, most of my book-club-mates will give a book 100 pages before leaving it be. Another thing we fans of yours like is that each book you have written is different from any other. Reflection was my first one, and got me started looking for the rest of your books. I like series too, but agree that 3 or 4 is usually enough. Our readers group has done the Evanovich series that is now at Book 12 however, and we are all reading them. Not because there is any literary genius there, but because they are fun and mindless reading when you need this type of thing. The characters and dialogue is what keep us coming back, not the stories… there is a time and a place for that too.

  9. Gloria Bernal - California on July 8, 2006 at 1:09 pm

    PS – re-reading your discription of “BAM” it may not be starling drama on the first page, (what you do in your books), but you definitely give us something right quick to keep us interested, as a reader I feel this is important.

  10. Diane Chamberlain on July 8, 2006 at 2:14 pm

    It seems like, with everything else in life, different things appeal to different people. Some of you are more patient than others when it comes to getting into a book and some of you want the BAM at the beginning. One thing I like about writing a BAM beginning is that, when I do readings in public, I can use the first chapter and it will usually engage the audience because it’s a grabber. I found with THE SECRET LIFE OF CEECEE WILKES, i didn’t want to read the first chapter to an audience because it doesn’t “grab” until the last page, when you get a hint of what’s going on. Sometimes, though, that’s just the way a story unfolds to me, and fortunately, it doesn’t seem to have put off readers since so many seem to love the book. I DO want to grab you, though, and not let you go til the end. That’s always my goal.

  11. Krysia on July 20, 2006 at 10:02 pm

    When I read a book, I have to be grabbed by the end of the first chapter. If I am not grabbed I usually don’t finish the book. There have been 2 books in the last year that didn’t do it for me, 1 I finished but it took me almost 2 months to work through it. I like to read a book and be able to live the book while I am reading. I know a book is good when I am reading and snap out of my trance and realize 2 hours has gone by or I refuse to sleep until I finish it…..that tends to happen way too many times.

  12. diane on July 21, 2006 at 10:18 am

    I’m with you, Krysia. I need to be hooked by the end of the first chapter. Although, i will plow through a literary read if i know from reviews that it will be worth my while in the end.

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