(Craft) That Critical First Page

Beginning is half done. So goes an old proverb that we can apply to fiction writing.

The beginning of your story sets the tone for the rest of your story. Indeed, the first page is probably your most important page. If your beginning is not strong, you may not get the chance to showcase the rest of your story because an editor or agent will not keep reading it.

So how can you ensure that your story starts right?  Here are a few tips. 

1) Start your story with your protagonist. Ask yourself: “Whose story is this?” Readers identify with the first character mentioned in your story, so introduce your main character in the first paragraph.

2) Make your protagonist sympathetic. By this I mean create an emotional bond between your reader and your protagonist. I call this bond emotional equity.  Your reader must care about your protagonist. Your protagonist’s story must be worthy of your reader’s time.

3) Show your protagonist in the NOW (in medias res). What is your protagonist involved in as the story opens? What conflict is she facing? It is far better to show your protagonist in the midst of a struggle than to start your story with her reflecting on the past.

4) Establish the setting and time period.  Readers want to know from the start where and when the story takes place. They need to be oriented to give them a sense of direction for your story.

5) Avoid giving back story on the first page. Back story slows down your story. Your goal on the first page is to create story momentum right away. Your first page is like the launching pad of your story. You want a launch that will immediately thrust your reader into the fictive dream and keep her there.

What other tips can you offer to make that critical first page shine?
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Copyright 2013 by Dr. MaryAnn Diorio. All Rights Reserved.

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