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.
I’ve had a hankering for science fiction lately. Here’s the opening page of Starshine: Aurora Rising Book One. Would you read on? How does it perform? Should this author have hired an editor?
THE END OF THE WORLD began with a library query.
. . . or perhaps it was the space probe. The alien was being vexingly reticent on the matter, the man thought as he straightened his dinner jacket in the mirror.
“She is hardly the first person to express an interest in that region of space. Why are you so worried about her when the others didn’t concern you?”
The others did concern us, but they were deflected with little difficulty. This woman, however, has exhibited a notable talent for discovering what others cannot. As such, we would prefer she never look.
The man smoothed out a crease in one of the sleeves then fastened the antique pearl cufflinks, an heirloom passed down to him from a grandfather that never was. “Do you want me to have her killed?”
Not unless alternative methods are unsuccessful. Her death could cause the opposite effect of drawing further unwanted attention.
The man nodded cursorily and stepped out of the washroom, crossing his spacious office to the windows lining the far wall. “Very well. I’ll work to ensure she’s distracted from this pursuit. What about the Senecans?”
They are a more troublesome problem as they have already discovered an anomaly exists. (snip>
You can turn the page and read more here. Did this writer need an editor? My notes and a poll follow.
This earned an 4.3 stars on Amazon. The writing is a little clunky at times (vexingly recitcent, a crease in one of the sleeves, nodded cursorily, spacious office), and I’m not a fan of unnamed characters such as “the man.” Why not name the guy? If he’s going to be in the story, we’ll know, won’t we?
On the other hand, the opening teaser line offers a strong hook with a twist—the idea of the end of the world being launched with a library query is intriguing. The narrative suggests that there’s a strong and interesting heroine to come, and those two things are positives that got me to set aside my writing craft misgivings to give the first chapter a look—but the narrative had better be stronger and raise story questions. What are 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.