I had just gotten some feed back from a friend who is an avid reader. And one of the things that was interesting were the questions she'd written on post it notes, placed along the pages of my book. She had immediately asked questions about what certain things looked like, questions about the culture of my fantasy world, time line, etc. All of this within the first few pages.
There's a couple ways I can take this. A writer should always ignite questions within a reader's mind. That's a good thing. Create interest. Reward them by giving the answers or enough to at least spark debates like the movie Inception.
A writing example would be the Davinci Code. Robert Langdon always comes across plot elements that forces us, and him, to ask questions. Why was he called to aid in a murder investigation? He's symbologist and the victim has a symbol carved into his chest. Did he do it? We only met him when he got the call to help, so we're not sure. But we find he didn't because of the victim's granddaughter. She confirms the French sergeant is trying to pin the crime on Langdon . Who's the nameless teacher? We find out at the climax.
On and on with the questions but we eventually find out the answers.
So am I saying I'm just as great a writer as Dan Brown?
As I've lent my book out to people, they first see the book as not published and, therefore, not done by a professional. They're judging the book not by it's cover but by it's credibility. As a result, they're not patient enough to let their questions answer themselves, as I've made sure to do.
If she had placed the post it notes late in the book, then there would have been storytelling issues I would need to fix. You can have certain questions linger on, like leaving the butler did it till the climax. Questions that either build the world or help move the plot along should be answered as we move along.
When we look at The Road by Cormac McCarthy, a post apocalyptic novel, we can't help but ask questions of time, setting, and what brought this disaster? But they're not answered. I assume because McCarthy only wants the reader to focus on the father and the son, letting us be the judge of what brought the "flash". But would my friend question him? Probably not. McCarthy is, after all, a Pulitzer Prize winning novelist.
So perception is key, and I did ask her to just read it and tell me if she enjoyed it. She said she did, but the post it notes stopped abruptly. Either her questions got answered or she didn't finish the book. Knowing her, she didn't finish. And I'm all right with that. I can't make everybody happy. I can only make me happy.
And no. I can't compare myself to Brown. How can one perfect cherry blossom be better than another?