Hooks and Holding on
How do you go about creating such a trance state in your readers?
First, you have to reel them in.
In this age of instant gratification, on-demand entertainment, and lightning web searches you have very little time to catch a reader’s attention. When a reader (or an editor) sees your story, you have perhaps eight seconds to snare them when they read those first sentences.
The average attention span for the notoriously ill-focused goldfish is nine seconds, but according to a new study from Microsoft Corp., people now generally lose concentration after eight seconds, highlighting the effects of an increasingly digitalized lifestyle on the brain.
Researchers in Canada surveyed 2,000 participants and studied the brain activity of 112 others using electroencephalograms (EEGs). Microsoft found that since the year 2000 (or about when the mobile revolution began) the average attention span dropped from 12 seconds to eight seconds. Heavy multi-screeners find it difficult to filter out irrelevant stimuli — they’re more easily distracted by multiple streams of media,” the report read. – “You Now Have a Shorter Attention Span Than a Goldfish,” TIME, May 14, 2015
If you’re lucky, potential readers will give you up until the end of the first paragraph, tops. If you’re really lucky, they might read the first three paragraphs. If your short fiction has not engaged them by then, most readers will probably move on to something they find more interesting.