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Why Your First Pages Matter & How To Make Them Stronger




FIRST PAGES When agents ask for your first 5 or 10 pages it's because in those pages they will learn everything they need to know about your writing style and your book. It's important to get them right. The truth is that readers also make a decision almost instantly. Some may read a chapter, but many, like myself, read that first page and decide if the book is for them.

It's sad that you have no time but in reality, you can do so much in that first paragraph.

The biggest thing that I notice with writers who don't use the first pages in the right way is TELLING. They spend the first chapter or first two chapters in setup.


But Stephanie, don't we need to know what we are reading about and who she is before anything happens??


Yes, and no.


You do need to know WHO the story is about but not everything that got her to this point in her life.


This is why I generally hate prologues.

If writers used them correctly, they would be great but most of the time the prologue is a set of pages that is 100% an info dump.


Think of it as a movie. In TITANIC we see Jack and Fabrizio playing cards, this could be your prologue. It shows us how they got onto Titanic-which honestly could have been explained in one sentence to Rose or at dinner or anything BUT why it works is that it SHOWS us WHO Jack is. How he lives his life and thus we know who we are going along with.


The same for Rose, when we meet her she is 105 and living with her granddaughter. We know that she has lived a long life and we learn that she has something to do with Titanic.

And finally, the third part of what would be a prologue in a book is them finding Titanic.

Really, none of that was needed but it worked so well because we learn about the diamond so we know it's important, we meet Rose and know there is a story there because of the drawing, and finally, we meet Jack and learn who he is.


The PROMISE of the story is there.


If you have a prologue, it needs to be like that.


Sometimes in films, the prologue is the introduction to the characters but many times the story just starts where it's supposed to.


Take How To Lose A Guy In Ten Days, in the opening, we meet Andie and we know immediately this is a story about a woman who wants to be taken seriously as a journalist but works at a fluffy fashion magazine. That's the promise.


In The Undomestic Goddess, Sophie Kinsella introduces us to Samantha at the spa NOT relaxing so in the first paragraph we learn that this character is under a lot of pressure at work and can't relax, so the promise of the story is that something will happen around that concept. Never does the character say that she is stressed out or busy and there is no back story about her work.

Your opening paragraphs NEED TO SHOW THE PROMISE OF THE STORY and WHO the story is about.


Some books with GREAT opening paragraphs are:

FIRST-PERSON NARRATIVE

THE UNDOMESTIC GODDESS ~ Sophie Kinsella

WE WERE LIARS ~ E. Lockhart

THE OUTSIDERS ~ S.E. Hinton

THE CATCHER IN THE RYE ~ J.D. Salinger

THIRD-PERSON NARRATIVE

THE MAZE RUNNER ~ James Dashner

HARRY POTTER & THE PHILOSOPHER'S STONE ~ J. K. Rowling

SUSHI FOR BEGINNERS ~ Marian Keyes

NANTUCKET WHITE CHRISTMAS ~ Pamela Kelley

I did a video about opening pages a few years ago and you can watch it here


Have a great rest of your week!!

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