First Impressions, Pt. 3 ~
The contents of your first page need to capture the interest of your target reader immediately. We know how important the hook, or first sentence, is as well having a first paragraph that follows through on the the promise of that first line. But what about the first page?
There has been much debate over the years about first pages; whether the end of the first page should be just as dramatic as the first line to entice your reader to turn the page, or if it should simply follow through and expand on the action shown at the beginning of the page.
What do you do in an age that not only offers different sized first pages and formatting around the world, but offers your work electronically so that your first page might only be one paragraph or could potentially be two or three pages squished onto a PC or Laptop screen?
My advice –
Don’t drop the ball.
Yup. That’s it. Don’t allow yourself to perform an info. dump or postulate on the existence of life while unmasking your fundamental theory of existence. Yes, in a first draft these ideas might feel right at the time because they are bubbling around in your head trying to get out. Large sections of exposition, summary, or back story that will potential fall on a standard 8.5″ x 11 ” page will dramatically slow down the pace you so painstakingly crafted at the beginning.
Again, it returns to that promise you whispered into the ear of your reader – the one that sparked their curiosity in the first place. This is why writing coaches and instructors say, “Don’t start your story at too high a point – either emotionally or actively.” The promise this gives readers is that the entire book will be just as emotionally charged and action packed. And that’s a promise that is not only hard to keep but difficult to read.
So what should you be promising at the beginning of your story?
Tension could be as simple as whether or not to walk outside (and that could be very tense if your main character is agoraphobic) or learning that she’s been rotting in jail for a year without respite, when the cell door suddenly opens. You don’t need a sword fight, gun fire or a chase scene and should, in fact, try to stay away from these over-charged moments as openers.
Why? Because good writing revolves around the steady incline of progressively worse (or higher-charged) events/emotions. You’d effectively be cutting yourself off at the knees by starting in the middle of a bombing raid.
It all comes back to pacing.
And editing 🙂
Good luck with yours.
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