Ms. Gigi, copy writer and world traveler, conducted a survey on what makes readers buy a particular book. The 355 respondents gave her some very insightful information regarding book buying habits and reasons. To find out why a reader chooses one book over another, read her article:
I was asked whether an NDE (near-death experience) was similar to astral projection, and I really had to think about my answer.
That’s because there are aspects of each that are very similar. But while an OBE (out of body experience) is part of both a near-death experience and an astral projection, there is a lot more to both of them than just being out of body.
Most people who astral project (or step out of their bodies and into spirit form) are aware of what they are doing. But most people don’t ‘die’ (or nearly die) intentionally. Therefore, when someone has an NDE and ends up on the other side of things (such as after an accident or during a surgical procedure), it’s more of a surprise. Also, when astral projecting you don’t experience the release from the body the same way as you do during an NDE.
I’ve done astral projecting and I’ve had an NDE, and the freedom you feel is similar, but the overall experience is much different. Stepping out of my body and having the freedom to be spirit is very uplifting. However, there isn’t the passing through the tunnel, the encompassing light with its feelings of acceptance, nor the feeling of having come home.
When I visit the astral plane, I’m only making it to the first or second level…the very entry level where dreamers and wanderers (like those who astral project) go. When I nearly died, I was further into the astral plane, on a level you can only reach when there’s no tether to hold you back, or when the tether is extremely tenuous because you’ve stretched it to its limit and it’s as close to breaking as it can be without actually letting go completely.
It’s a level that physical beings shouldn’t be going unless they need to learn a very impactful and insightful lesson or meet up with someone who has been out of their lives for a while. And even then, that person who has been gone is usually giving them some information that they need to take back with them.
Being astral or out of body, you still have a strong connection to your physical form and the physical world. Being nearly dead, that connection is weak and tenuous. It could be released so easily, but we are usually turned back by someone who imparts some information to us or reminds us of some lessons that we have yet to finish. Ahhh, but the urge to stay is strong…and letting go completely, well, obviously we don’t do it, but it would have been so easy to do so.
So, while there are similarities between astral projecting (OBEs) and near-death experiences, they aren’t the same.
This is what happens when Death embraces life. Watch the video for a light-hearted look at what happens when Death encounters the youthful passion and innocence of a child. [click here]
I’m going to use my blog to answer some of the questions that I have been getting during my presentations and talks.
Q: Does everything stay the same when you die? Even if you don’t realize that you’re dead?
I have to say yes, sometimes people don’t realize that they’re dead. To them the world has continued, but for reasons unknown (or unwilling to be recognized by them) others no longer respond to them.
We (those of us working as psychopomps or guides) do not let this remain for long. We work with the soul to get them to accept that their physical lives are over and that it’s time to move on. Here’s an example of such an experience:
The book shop had been her life, and no amount of coaxing from me was going to make her leave it. She had been 42 and the mother of one. Married, her husband was at home with their son while she had been busy working at her book store. It had been her life, more so than anything else. Unfortunately, she had had an aneurysm and died almost instantly. In fact, it was so sudden and unexpected that she hadn’t yet registered that she no longer had a physical presence.
At the moment I arrived, she was upset that there was a body on the floor behind the counter of her shop, and she was dithering at me about wanting to call the police. The body was face down, so I sort of understood why she wasn’t recognizing herself. But even so, the clothing, the hair color and style, and even the shape of the body should have been giving her some idea of who the person was. Yet, she still could not, would not, comprehend that it was her.
Instead, we played this game of her demanding that I call the police while she tried to revive the poor woman. Of course, I did not call the police, and she had no way of reviving the poor woman. And once she began to realize that she could not touch the woman, let alone turn her over for resuscitation, the harsh reality of her situation started to come clear to her.
I was almost feeling sorry for her, until she again refused to come with me. I thought perhaps she was concerned about leaving her family with no notice; however, while she did hope that her husband and son wouldn’t be too upset with her, that wasn’t her problem. No, her crisis was in leaving the book store.
She was afraid that if she left with me, her husband would get rid of her dream. She loved that book store. She had sacrificed a lot to buy it, build it up, and keep it going. In her mind, her family had never appreciated it, nor had they appreciated how hard she had worked to make it so profitable. She had struggled against the big, generic book stores that had come to town, and she had won. She had beat out most of the competitors in her little town, but most of all, she just plain loved that book store.
To her, her son and husband were all about sports, NASCAR, and hunting, while she was all about books and reading. So, no matter what I said about it being time to move on, no matter how I tried to explain that she was no longer physical and that what happened to the store was no longer up to her, she refused to go.
This is how hauntings get reported. This is how people start talking about ghosts. She was so attached to that book store, so insistent on making sure that the book shop remain in the family (even though she knew that neither her husband nor son cared for it or for books in general) that she wouldn’t let go.
She so wanted someone to care about that shop as much as she had, as much as she still did. And as long as that connection was so strong, I knew it was going to be very difficult to get her leave.
I finally convinced her to go into the back room to her office. However, when she stepped into the back room, it was one I had created. I don’t like to trick people, but I really needed her to move away from the physical store. So, now she was haunting a replica of her book store, a copy that existed in the transition level. I created a copy so exact that I even included a replica of the body that she wouldn’t acknowledge as hers.
For her to acknowledge that she was dead so she could move on, she needed to go through the whole scenario of the body being found, identified, examined, and buried. However, by doing it in the astral plane, there was more control over the situation, and more help available to her. Leaving her wandering the physical book shop would have only prolonged her agony, and that of her family.
Once she figured out and accepted (more or less) that she had died, she opted to return to the physical plane almost immediately. She had no patience for working through any of her lessons or issues from that life, nor did she care to do much planning for the next one. She’s one of those souls that is very tied to the physical world and what it has to offer, and so that’s where she wanted to be.
Do you remember the old tagline: You can’t eat just one. Well, that’s the new trend in writing. Short chapters, otherwise known as potato chip chapters, get to the point (of the story), yet leave your reader craving more.
It seems that readers no longer want the long rambling chapters of the past. Nowadays, shorter is better at accommodating the short attention spans engendered by our new technological society.
Writer August Birch explains how to create short and engaging chapters that keep your readers reading, but also cater to their need for brevity. Read his article: Why Chapter Length Matters More than You Think.
And if you crave a little romance with your potato chips, try my paranormal romance, The Past Rekindled.
Do you want to know what’s wrong with your story’s opening line or opening paragraph? Probably nothing.
So many times authors are told that their opening line or their opening paragraph just isn’t killer enough. It doesn’t seize the reader and yank them into the story. But what does that really mean?
For almost a decade, new authors thought that meant dropping the reader right into the middle of some physical struggle or verbal argument with no introduction as to who the characters were, what they were fighting about, or even where and when they were. Instead of pulling the reader into the story, it simply left them wondering why they should care enough to figure it out.
I grabbed his arm before his hand could connect with my already bruised face. His leg reached out and swept my feet out from under me. I landed hard on my hip. With a hiss of pain, I tried to roll out of the way of his swinging boot. The toe of his large work boot clipped my shoulder, and my arm grew numb. Footsteps pattered along the hallway to my left, and my heart wrenched. Mikey was awake.
Who is I? And who is I fighting with? And who is Mikey and why should we care about any of this? Is this a domestic dispute of some kind, or is it two men fighting? There is little in this example for the reader to go on. So, unless the reader loves solving unintended mysteries (who are the combatants and why are they fighting), then your potential readers will simply move on to something less confusing.
However, the next example isn’t much better. The only thing happening is description. If this is an action/adventure story, you’ve probably lost your audience at the first paragraph.
It was hot and sticky. The air felt thick and refused to move. The rattling table fan sitting on the desk next to the open window did little to cool things off. Noise from the city street fell through the window and filled Sam’s fourth floor flat with more life than it had probably ever known.
Sam sat in the desk chair staring at the open check book. The neat precise numbers marched down the columns showing him just exactly how little of his inheritance remained. He rubbed a damp hand through his thinning brown hair. The material of his stained white T-shirt clung to his perspiring back, and he wondered just what he was going to do now.
Writers are now finally realizing that confusing the reader right from the start is nearly as bad as boring them. So, how do you grab your reader’s attention, and how do you write that epic opening line?
Use Your Skills
You grab the reader by using your skill and understanding with words and language to craft the best story you can. By focusing too much of your attention on the opening of the story, you can block the story from growing the way it should. Each story and each writer has their own rhythm . The words flow in a certain way, following an innate path, and when you force the opening into an unnatural rhythm—unnatural to the overall story and unnatural to your writing style—it can sound stilted, stiff, and uninteresting.
A great opening isn’t in the opening sentence as much as it is in the author’s ability to craft a story. For instance, our writing group does a twice-a-month writing prompt. We are all given the same opening sentence, which we then have to use to create a short story, poem, or first chapter of a book (not that we have to write the whole book, but for some writers, the writing prompt stirs something more than a short story in them).
Here are some examples of how one sentence can pull you into a story or push you away from it.
“Stop or I’ll shoot,” a gruff male voice shouted at me between grunts of exertion.
I zipped along the sidewalk trying to put as much distance between me and my pursuer as I could. I couldn’t get caught now. Not before I had a chance to set things straight.
I stayed to the deeper shadows, avoiding the streetlights as best I could. The gloves and mask should make it hard for him to determine my skin and hair color. If I could get away, the only description he’d have would be medium height, dark clothes, wearing a dark hoodie.
Something smashed into the sidewalk near my foot and I heard the report of a gunshot.
Geez, I couldn’t believe he was actually shooting.
I started to zig-zag my way toward the maze of alleyways ahead when there was another gunshot. At nearly the same moment, something sharp sliced across my upper arm. Damn, I hissed. That really hurt. I ducked around the corner into the alley and immediately hooked my good arm over the pipe that I used as a ladder to the second-floor window of the abandoned warehouse.
“Stop or I’m gonna shoot!” the gunman shouted as he waved his weapon toward the hostages.
Our hoped-for take down of the hostage-taker aborted, my partner and I stopped and raised our arms. My partner’s face was drawn as she whispered, “What do we do now?”
I opened my mouth to answer, and burst out laughing. A moment later, my partner, joined in.
“Cut…cut,” the director turned to us. “Really?”
“I’m sorry,” I muttered as we continued laughing. “But you have to admit, it’s a bit cliché.” The writing for this show had been getting so insipid lately; not that the show had ever been more than your basic cop drama. I played the rugged, rumpled, and slightly jaded cop, whose instincts were nearly always right; while up-and-coming actress, Pam Brewer, played my over-eager, naïve, rookie partner. As I said, very typical. Still, the writing had never been this hackneyed.
The director gave us several minutes to pull ourselves together, and we set up to do the scene again.
“Stop or I’ll shoot,” yelled the tall, handsome, dark-haired man as he held his revolver pointed at Jane. The night air was warm, yet Jane—a statuesque blonde with figure that would make Mattel’s Barbie envious—could feel the goosebumps rise all along her arms. She had no idea how she was going to get out of this predicament.
Graceful and elegant in her midnight blue, designer sheath-style dress, she turned so that her four-inch-heeled Louboutan’s were now pointed toward Rick. Oh, it wasn’t the first time she had faced Rick, but it was the first time that she’d faced him when he’d held a gun on her. What was he thinking, anyway?
“I’m gonna start shooting!” The threat echoed down the hallway as Suze fumbled with the door.
She twisted the knob again while yanking at the door. The hinges squealed as the door crashed open. Suze dashed onto the set just as the photographer raised his camera. Pete was probably one of the best commercial photographers around, but he was impatient, demanding, and cold…in a hot kind of way.
If it weren’t for his personality, she might have actually found Pete attractive. He had sapphire eyes and midnight hair, with a face that was more interesting than handsome. As for the body, well…let’s just say, she wouldn’t mind cozying up to that body. A warm shiver raced down her spine, but soon turned cold when his steely gaze pierced her, his impatience plainly visible.
Suze used one hand to stop the swaying of the hoop skirt on the period gown she was wearing and adjusted the low-cut bodice. They were in some museum-quality ballroom with bright filigree everywhere, and parquet floors. Several other models in satin britches or lace and satin gowns were also positioned in small groups and pairings throughout the room. This week Suze was selling Real Nature products, maple syrup and hot dogs. What maple syrup had to do with a fancy, dress ball, she had no idea.
Even the given writing prompt is subjective, as each writer changed it to fit the story he or she was creating. It’s still the same basic premise, but the writers changed the words to suit the circumstances of their stories. And that’s why an opening line or paragraph has more to do with the author’s ability to craft a good story using just the right cadence and words than it is has to do with a single sentence or a single paragraph. After all, not every reader is going to be moved by the opening line to your novel, just as you (as a reader) aren’t moved by every first line or paragraph you read.
So, don’t overthink the opening to your story, but do craft it well enough that it invites the reader into your story.
It seems that humans aren’t the only ones who love to read. Erin Bartnett has noted at least 10 other animals that also love books and are willing to break library rules to get what they want. There are even some who actually ‘work’ for the libraries they visit…and one even has its own visitor card.
Click here to read more about these fascinating ten library visitors.