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.
In journalism, it’s called a tick-tock.
It’s a piece that recaps a big, ongoing story by hitting each important date and occurrence in order to bring the audience up to date to that very moment.
Spewing blood from a battered nose and curses from a mouth of ill repute, Sheriff’s Deputy Foster Redus climbed into his brand new forest green Ford pickup outfitted with flared fenders, chrome brush guard, skid plates and Holley headers and drove into the Wyoming gloaming last fall. It was the Monday after Thanksgiving. That was the last anybody in Cottonwood County admitted to seeing him.
That same week, in a land far to the east where the canyons are concrete and the herds are SUVs, I finally opened my eyes to the fact that my divorce decree covered not only a man, but a career.
A week before Christmas, the Cottonwood County, Wyoming sheriff arrested Thomas David Burrell, who’d caused the aforementioned spewing of blood and curses, and charged him with murder, though neither Foster Redus nor his pickup had been found.
You can turn the page and read more here. Did this writer need an editor? My notes and a poll follow.
This crime story earned 4.3 stars on Amazon. Professional writing starts this first page out on the right track—turns out the author has a long career in journalism. Which, no doubt, led to the “tick, tock” factoid that she uses—and that helped to intrigue me.
It’s a murder mystery, and it definitely starts out with strong hints of a crime. We don’t expect something to go wrong, crimewise, for the protagonist at this stage, but things have gone wrong in her professional life, and that promises trouble ahead for her. Since she is a likeable character and the insight into journalism was interesting, and I wondered what happened with the deputy, and I like the voice of this character, I was willing to turn the page.
The strong voice and the quality writing promise good storytelling to come to this reader. However, this is starting out with setup and backstory, so it had better deliver on more tension soon. 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.