Let’s just face it. First pages in our culture are a bit terrifying because we have to entice the reader (or the agent or potential editor) to read beyond the first page and not delete the file, send a rejection letter, or refuse to buy a book.
That’s a lot of pressure for something that’s so subjective.
The first page sets the tone, right?
Here is an example of my same WIP with two completely different first pages and tones.
That up there was the first one.
Here’s the next one.
The two are ridiculously different, right? Same story. Same characters. Totally different approach.
QUICK Tips About First Pages
- People will tell you never to have a prologue. You can choose not to listen to them. But when you submit your book when querying an agent (if trying traditional publishing), you might want to think it over.
- Show the reader where your characters are. It doesn’t need to be a lot of grounding and setting, but just don’t have them floating around in the ether.
- Show the reader who your character is. This is your speed-dating moment. Make the impression you want to make so you can get the reader to turn the page and go on the second date.
- Make it tense. Even though it doesn’t see super tense in either of these excerpts, one is about the conflict about spitting into a vial. The other is about a fear of the ocean and being fatherless and the difference between the narrator and her best friend. Not James Patterson stakes, but still stakes.
- Make it clear. Unless you’re James Joyce, don’t mire your reader in a world or world building or ultra complex sentences structures with hidden subject-verb combinations right off the bat. You don’t want to be clunky.
Go find a book you love and a book you started but didn’t quite read past a few pages. Shh… Don’t pretend. We all have books we don’t finish. It’s okay! It just means that book isn’t for you or maybe it means that the first pages weren’t sparkling.
Now check for those five things. Is it clear and tense? Is there a prologue? Did you read the prologue? Do you know about the main character’s personality and do you know where they/she/he are?
Now look at your own story’s first page. How’s it looking? If you weren’t the writer, would you know what’s going on? Would you be compelled to read more?
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