Fiction Writing: 7 Elements of the First Page

First pages are like first dates. No, worse. First pages are more like the ten seconds it takes your blind date to come into sight and walk toward your table. It’s often a make-or-break deal, and in many cases, a delusive representation of what follows in chapters behind.

Or am I jaded? More often than I care to admit, a book’s finely-crafted opening pages evoke lovestruck stars in my eyes, much as one too many nervous cocktails over tentative introductions. But when I dig deeper, get to Chapter Two–or the second date, as it were–the luster of those brilliant opening lines fades to a dull incompatibility. But, we can discuss second dates/chapters in another post!

The dating world and the publishing world share a urgent requirement to hook the bait from that first glance. Below, a guest post from  Linda R. Young’s W.I.P. It blog shows us the seven elements a first page should include. (I’m tempted to share seven first date tips, but then you’d have to “red-mark” me for digression.)

1. A distinctive voice. A unique voice is essential to capture the imaginations of the readers and pull them into the story. Voice will make your novel stand out above the rest.

2. A strong character. Readers will engage with strong and interesting characters.

3. A sense of time and place. This grounds the reader into the story. They should be able to recognise the story’s genre in the first page. These should be markers only. Avoid wads of descriptions.

4. Questions. Don’t answer all the reader’s questions at once. Don’t give them everything they need to know about the characters, the history, the setting. They don’t need paragraphs of backstory. They don’t need–or want–everything explained too soon.

5. Intrigue. More than simply holding the cards to your chest, tease the reader into wanting to know more.

6. The point of change. The story should start at the point of change. This
change should reflect conflict. Note: the conflict doesn’t have to be explosive.

7. No wasted words or throw-away lines. Keep it tight. Every word should have a reason for being. Try to avoid redundancies.

Can you think of other essential elements in the first page?
How many times have you rewritten your first page?

Lynda R. Young writes fantasy and science fiction short stories, and is working on two Young Adult novels. One is an Adventure Fantasy set on the High Seas and the other is a Steampunk Fantasy. She also writes Christian articles and maintain a Christian Devotional Blog: Fearfully and Wonderfully.
Also, please read this article, Something Has to Happen. (Seriously, this is important. Something HAS to happen in the first 250 words of your story.)
Let’s connect on Twitter? @TheRJLacko
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6 Comments

Filed under Best Writer Tips, Fiction Novel Writing, For the love of writing, Guest posts

6 responses to “Fiction Writing: 7 Elements of the First Page

  1. I’ve rewritten my first 15 pages 7 times. I think I’m done with them at this point, but I agree with you about the 2nd date. The subsequent chapter has to live up to the first or the book is too easy to put down.

    • I wish I knew how many times I’ve rewritten my first pages. I’ve washed the number from my memory in attempt to preserve some modicum of sanity. Same goes for several second dates which didn’t live up to the first. 😉 Thanks for sharing your process and thoughts, Marji!

  2. Oh yes. Those first pages. The bane of my existence. I stopped counting the rewrites. There is so much pressure to get it right. You only have the first page to hook an agent and if you make it through that, you have to hook the publisher and if you survive that, you have to snag the all important reader. That first page has to be golden.

    • Thanks for your comment–it IS tough stuff! Why must we place all our eggs in the opening-pages basket? When can the immediate-hook trend end so we can focus on story-building to a well-crafted climax? The stack of books I discard after chapter one or two is growing at an alarming rate.

  3. I actually like writing those first pages. It’s like my very own adventure, and it always starts off with a challenge. I like the points you’ve made here, and the way you’ve expounded on them. All very important stuff!

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