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?