The beauty and the ugliness of free books: three thoughts

“They”[1] say that a man can decide if a woman is attractive or not within a second or two.

(Is this true? I welcome comments!) “They”[1] say that men have a whole set of brain wiring that only does this.

Is this true of stories? Can we (women and men!) know whether a book is good from the first few sentences or paragraphs.

I’ve read a lot of free books lately – well, I’ve read the start of a lot of free books on Amazon lately – and I think the answer to this is: nearly always yes, but not quite :-).

Instead, I think we know very quickly if a book is bad, not good. It’s a skill we all have, but we didn’t used to need, because someone else sifted and edited books before we ever saw them. (I’m talking BA, Before Amazon.)

If you haven’t tried this, pick say, ten free Kindle novels and read the first page.  What do you find?  Some are bad, right?  You know almost right away (actually they’re the nice ones, it’s the ones that are bad but sucker you into reading a few pages more that I really don’t like).

Then three thoughts that come to mind, and perhaps for each there is an analogy with attractiveness:

1 Would everyone think what I think, reading that page – does everyone have the same idea of unattractiveness?

2 What exactly is it that I see that I don’t like – what is unattractiveness?

3 Can I make what I write better, knowing what is bad – can I make myself more attractive?

Question two is hard, because, like beauty, I think it’s not so-conscious a judgment.

That only makes three harder.


[1] Something I read on the web recently and can’t quite remember where, nor exactly what it said. But it was pretty close to this. Honest :-).