So, let’s have fun today and make this an interactive blogpost! First, I’ll highlight the important information you should think about having on that first page. The items that clue your reader into the story they are about to read.
1. Setting! Is it evident? Does your reader (in this case, Ms. Agent or Ms. Publisher) get a clue as to where this story is set?
2. Genre! Have you included clues within your setting information that allows the reader to understand they are reading the beginning of a Science Fiction novel? Or a medieval romance?
3. Main Characters! Introduce them, please. Or allude to them. Notice I said ‘main’, not the whole company. And make them interesting to your reader right from the get-go.
4. Plot or Theme! There has to be something for the reader to be interested in – and an idea of where the story is going. Now, Bob Mayer in The Novel Writer’s Toolkit suggests you either have plot/theme or main character – you don’t need both. But you do want to hook the reader, so a hint of what’s to come might just get that reader to turn the page (request more).
Easy as pie! And there are the ingredients. So, onto the second part of the post. A little critique session here on The Prairies. In the comment section, if you care to play along, post your first page (in manuscript form, a first page is only 16 lines, around 175 words, but for this exercise you can post a full page, 250 words). I know a lot of us are working on re-writes and revisions; so this might be a great opportunity to throw that first page out there and see how it stands.
Readers – your job is to comment on whether or not the writer has covered her bases. In other words – DID IT HOOK YOU? We’re not looking for a full critique, only whether or not you would turn that page if you were given a book with that first page.
And because I’m struggling with the beginning of Lady Bells, I turn to that again (sorry – getting tired of hearing about it, yet?).
If not for the tiny bells sewn to the end of her girdle ties jangling and tinkling with every determined stride, Willamena Ffenwyck would have taken the group of men gathered in the inner bailey by surprise. Instead, they turned to face her. Then stepped out of her way when it was evident she was not stopping. Not until she stood toe to toe with her brother.
"I thought you told me he was nothing like Lord Lecherous."
"And ‘tis good to see you, my sister." Robert gripped her elbow and led her away from the men. "And a little respect for our dear stepfather, please."
Willamena yanked her arm away, then jabbed her finger into Robert’s mail clad chest. "You gave me your word you would find someone decent."
"You have yet to meet him, but you judge him indecent? What gossip have you been listening to? Or better yet, where were you hidden and what did you overhear?"
She glanced down, but could muster no false shame. She lifted her chin. "He speaks of a serving wench he met last summer. He asks of her whereabouts, not mine. I will not marry a man who negotiates a covenant in one breath, then attempts to kiss a stranger in the next."
She spun on her heel, but failed to take a step as Robert’s hand grasped her shoulder. "Kiss what stranger?"
"Me. He tried to kiss me."
I’d love for you to play along, People of Blogland. Your first 250 words in the comment section – and we’ll comment! And don’t forget to come back and check out other snippets – I know I learn a lot from reading other people’s writing, including how to work that first page.