Writers, send your prologue/first chapter to FtQ for a “flogging” critique. Email as an attachment.
Many of the folks who utilize BookBub are self-published, and because we hear over and over the need for self-published authors to have their work edited, it’s educational to take a hard look at their first pages. A poll follows concerning the need for an editor.
When you evaluate today’s opening page, consider how well it uses elements from the checklist of first-page ingredients from my book, Mastering the Craft of Compelling Storytelling.
Donald Maass, literary agent and author of many books on writing, says, “Independent editor Ray Rhamey’s first-page checklist is an excellent yardstick for measuring what makes openings interesting.”
A First-page Checklist
- It begins to engage the reader with the character
- Something is wrong/goes wrong or challenges the character
- The character desires something.
- The character takes action. Can be internal or external action: thoughts, deeds, emotions. This does NOT include musing about whatever.
- There’s enough of a setting to orient the reader as to where things are happening.
- It happens in the NOW of the story.
- Backstory? What backstory? We’re in the NOW of the story.
- Set-up? What set-up? We’re in the NOW of the story.
- The one thing it must do: raise a story question.
AS HER final act on this earth, Lyda Sue Stalnaker plummeted out of a Las Vegas helicopter and landed smack in the middle of the pirates’ lagoon in front of the Treasure Island Hotel, disrupting the 8: 30 p.m. pirate show.
The video ran as the lead-in for the 11: 00 p.m. news. I caught it on a television in the sports bar. Actually, it was amazing I caught it at all. My name is Lucky O’Toole, and I am the chief problem solver at the Babylon, the newest, most over-the-top mega-casino/ resort on the Las Vegas Strip. I’d been fighting my way through the crowds packing the casino on my way to Stairwell Fifteen to deal with a naked man asleep under the stairs, when I caught the television feed out of the corner of my eye.
A grainy video of a helicopter with the Babylon’s script logo painted on the side appeared on the screen with a small headshot of Lyda Sue in the corner— it was Lyda Sue’s sweet smile that actually captured my attention. I leaned over the backs of two guys playing video poker at the bar, a sinking feeling in my stomach. In Vegas, nobody gets their picture on the news unless they’ve committed some grisly crime or have been a victim of one themselves.
Of course, I couldn’t hear what the talking heads on the television were saying. The clamor of excited voices from the casino combined with the pinging from the video machines and the piped-in music to create a cacophony of excitement that made it not only impossible to (snip)
You can turn the page and read more here. Did this writer need an editor? My notes and a poll follow.
This crime novel earned 4.5 stars on Amazon. It surely does start with a strong hook, a woman falling (pushed?) out of a helicopter. The scene is well set—we know when and where the now of the story is. And the character quickly and cleanly lets us know who and what she is. And she’s an empathetic character, shown by her reaction to the victim’s smile. She’s a caring person. The writing and voice are professional in quality.
I think I would eliminate the paragraph about the talking heads—this is description that doesn’t move the story. The paragraph that follows about seeing the video run again contributes a whole lot more to creating tension. Since this is crime fiction, we don’t expect trouble for the protagonist yet, but there is clearly a victim and something that needs to be solved. Good story questions: was she pushed? If so, why? If so, who did it? If so, will he/she kill again? If so, will Lucky find him/her? I turned the page. And, nicely, if this works out there's a second novel to enjoy, all for free. Your thoughts?
My books. You can read sample chapters and learn more about the books here.
Writing Craft Mastering the Craft of Compelling Storytelling
Fantasy</strong >(satire) The Vampire Kitty-cat Chronicles
Mystery</strong >(coming of age) The Summer Boy
Science Fiction Hiding Magic
Science Fiction GundownFree ebooks.