Been thinking about wordpress and how the tag specific pages work to draw the reader in…
See that almost sentence above? ^ It is about the length of the excerpt that the tag specific pages give for each post. Pretty short, huh? That’s what you get to try and entice the random reader in. Made me wonder how better to use those 100 or so characters in the beginning of each post more efficiently. So I made a list…
1) For non-fiction, especially opinion pieces, that first sentence really ought to be your thesis, so a good but short opening sentence is what you are going for anyway, but…
2) In fiction or poetry, that’s not always so much the case. In fiction and poetry, while the opening line ought to be interesting, it hardly ever tells you much about what the piece is trying to say. It certainly doesn’t tell you things like genre, mood, intended audience (for example: young adult vs. mature), length, if it is a derivative work (and where it draws its inspiration from if it is) or any other such teaser/summary information that might tell the casual reader that- “Hey! This story right here- it’s what you’re looking for.” When you look at books in the library/bookstore or even an online bookseller, you get all that information from the blurb and publishing information. So, what I(we) need for free online fiction is…
3) A standard format for the first 100 characters of fiction posts- which needs to:
a) Be concise so as to fit into the incredibly short excerpt format used here on wordpress.com and other places (feed readers) on the web.
b) Contain the most important information that a reader wants to know before s/he commits the time to clicking through and reading online fiction.
c) Exclude the title and author’s name, since that information is usually included in the subject line of pages/blogs/journals/whatever you prefer to call your format.
d) Be standardized enough to be useful to the reader, but flexible enough to allow various authors to use it as s/he wishes without feeling constrained by it (for example, many authors would not want to let it spoil a twist ending, but others might feel the need to include a warning about content that might be edgy). Therefore, I propose a
Standardized Blurb Format for Freely Shared Online Fiction SBFFFSOF for short ;P
The above template is 50 characters long, which leaves 50 characters for information- not much, but enough for much or most of it. Non-useful portions could be left out to save characters (for example, many pieces would need no warning, or non-derivative works wouldn’t necessarily need to list a muse, etc.)
4) To elaborate on how the template would be used:
Genre, Mood, Word Count and Summary are self explanatory, but the other lines need some explanation:
Rating- many places ask for adult content tags on blogs, but they are really looking for tagging of explicit material, not a more specific rating that tells the reader who the intended reader is. There is, however, already set up an online fiction rating system at www.fictionratings.com. This system is like freeware- anyone is allowed to use it (unlike the MPAA ratings which are copyrighted). An author could also create her/his own system or just list ages or the like.
Muse- derivative works really should list what works they are referencing/working off of/borrowing from- both to allow the reader to know if they are interested in reading the work and to be honest about how much of the piece is from the author’s head and how much came from somewhere else. Reading other works might be informed by the idea that a story was inspired by a song or a picture or a quote, etc (the possibilities are endless).
Warning: This could be used to indicate why a certain piece is rated for a mature audience (i.e.: violence/sex/curse words) or to indicate more specific information like that a derivative work spoils the events of the referenced work or kills a beloved character, etc).
I welcome any feedback on this idea from anyone be they a writer, a reader, a random surfer clicking by, because it is not at all perfect. I intend to start using this format for my future fiction and poetry posts (in time I’ll probably revise my old posts, too). I hope to see others trying it out, as well.