Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Tease me, Please me ... The Art of Excerpts.

They're enticing, tempting, mouth-watering...they make you long for another taste, no, crave more deliciousness. So you try another one, and it's even better, and suddenly you've gotta have more, you can't live until you devour another, then another... and finally, nothing will satisfy ... you have to consume the whole thing. No, I'm not talking about chocolates, drugs, or men. I'm talking about excerpts.

I love excerpts. They're like foreplay. They tease and arouse. They tantalize and pleasure you. And just like during foreplay, at some point you commit to the act. You go from "hmm, this feels good," to "hot damn, I'm going for it!"

So what makes a good excerpt? Short or long? When the characters first meet, or later on in their relationship? Dialogue or action, character development or hot sex? Speaking of sex ... For us erotic romance writers, how much should we show in an excerpt? Should it be a tease, or should we show actual, um, completion of the act?

Writers, how do you approach excerpts? Readers, what do you like to see in an excerpt? What takes you from "this sounds kinda cool" to "I gotta get this, now!"?

Personally, I don't like lengthy excerpts. I'm usually scanning them so if they're too long I tune out. But I need more than a few paragraphs to get a feel for the writer's voice. I admit I'm drawn to the "adult" excerpts. (I'm not ashamed!) And I like to see how the characters interact, so I like to read dialogue in excerpts. But that's just my opinion. Anyone else?


Gem Sivad said...

I'm with you, I tend to scan long excerpts,but a well-written scene that shows me the dynamics of the story (especially a hot scene between the two major characters) will catch me, no matter what genre.


Maria Durst said...

I like long excerpts so that you get a real sense of the writer. Little blurbs just don't do it for me. I need to find out if I was intrigued by just the cover or if the story will really keep me entrhalled.

Anonymous said...

I like it short with a lot of impact. Pun intended, I'm interested in the story question and the voice. That's what the tease is all about.

Juniper Bell said...

Thanks for your thoughts, Gem and Maria! Maria, I'm glad you gave me that other perspective. Gem and I both like them shorter, but I can see that a longer excerpt will give more of a feel for the writer's voice and style. Maybe I'll start posting longer excerpts. ;)

mamasand2 said...

Juniper, I aagree with you about the too long excerpts. What does it for me is a good blurb with an excerpt that highlights some action of heat.

I am intrigued by your excerpt for "Bell" on your SP authors page, and waiting impatiently for the excerpt.

Congrats on it's upcoming release next month.


Sweet Vernal Zephyr said...

Teasingly Hot and Short with a cliff hanger.

Vote on my short story Santie Clawz 'til Nov 30th!

Tamera Lynn said...

I think a key to exerpts is to leave off at a point of conflict, of course! That leaves a reader thinking, "hey, don't stop now!" And as for length - whatever it takes to make me like the characters, but shorter tends to be better for me and my schedule.

lisekimhorton said...

An excerpt's length depends totally on the excerpt - what I want is to get enough to know a bit about the characters and to become engaged in their world and the action. Your example of foreplay is exactly right - you want enough to get all hot and bothered and feel the urge to commit - but not so much that you get satisfied from the excerpt. I want an excerpt to keep me hungry.

Anonymous said...

I want conflict, action, sex, dialogue in a nice little package, short and sweet. Leave me hanging. Make me want more.

V. J. Devereaux said...

I want a taste, enough of a sample to get a feel for the characters, to set up the situation, to bring up the tension. Nothing against anyone here, but for me most excerpts should be part of the first chapter - introducing you to the characters, the situation.

Juniper Bell said...

Great input, everyone! I also got this post on FaceBook from Emily Cotler:

Juniper, I tried to post a comment to your blog, but it wouldn't let me. So I will post here. At Waxcreative we have spent a lot of time determining what goes into selecting the online excerpt. Too long or too short? This is entirely subjective and the mere fact that your commenters are divided means it shouldn't be a deciding factor -- some like it long, some like it short and you need to appeal to as many as possible. So for that it should be what you and your web designer (if she is good and you actually determine strategy with her) determine. But from where you take the excerpt and what kind of tension or plot or characterization or punch... this should all be taken into account. Chapter One shouldn't be an auto-default. Thanks for bringing up the discussion.