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.
Next are the first 17 lines of the first chapter of Stone Groove. Would you read on? Should this author have hired an editor?
“You sure don’t look like a special agent.” The waitress eyeballed him. There was a small grin on her face that said, You’re either yanking my chain, or you’re completely full of crap. But, still, it was a nice smile. Pretty. Not the kind of smile that tells a story but one that gives a thousand little hints. Lots of sparkle. And a bit of mischief.
Dale couldn’t help but notice her other assets too, notably an illicit figure that did one heck of a job filling out her uniform— a light red, almost pink, dress with white trim around the edges, snug in all the right places. She was the new girl. Her name tag read Julia.
Dale was angling for her phone number, but the window of opportunity was small. The lunchtime crowd at Rich’s Diner was thick, and Julia had several other tables. In a sea of greasy spoons, Rich’s was the greasiest. It wasn’t the first place one would expect to find a federal agent in the middle of the afternoon, in the middle of Washington, D.C., in the middle of the 1970s. Everyone knew federal agents wore business suits and ate meals with three forks and five courses. But not BEI Special Agent Dale Conley.
“What do you mean I don’t look like an agent?”
“Just look at you.”
Dale glanced over himself. He was wearing his usual— a T-shirt and 501s. His tan leather jacket was on the seat beside him. “What? Because I’m not wearing a suit?”
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 4.4 stars on Amazon. The writing is okay and the voice is likeable. If you were to read on, you’d get an introduction to this character in action and then getting an assignment to investigate the disappearance of the population of an entire small town. Sounds like a good story, right?
But would you ever get there? What is compelling about a grubby guy in a greasy spoon dive hitting on a pretty waitress? His only goal is getting her phone number, and his only problem is that he doesn’t look like an agent to her. And there’s no hint of trouble or the stakes if he doesn’t get her number. So, no, on the basis of this first page there’s no promise of tension to come. For me, this author needed to start with the action. And, if the waitress doesn’t figure in the rest of the story, there’s entirely too much time devoted to her. What do you think?
So, should this writer have hired an editor?
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.