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 almost passed on this due to the cartoony cover, not a typical mystery look—but this is a “cozy,” so that may account for it. Here’s the opening page of From Garden to Grave (The Leafy Hollow Mystery Series Book 1. Would you read on? How does it perform? Should this author have hired an editor?
I almost didn’t answer the call that changed my life. Telemarketer, I thought, burying my head in the pillow with a groan. But in my family, a phone ringing in the middle of the night always signaled disaster. So I was genetically wired to jab that loudspeaker icon and croak, “Hello?”
“There’s been an accident. Your aunt is missing.”
“Your aunt,” said a man’s voice.
“Are you sure you have the right number?” I reached for my robe and slipped in an arm. After flailing about, I realized I’d grabbed a pair of jeans. Forget the robe. It wasn’t as if anybody was in my bedroom to ogle. I dropped the jeans back on the floor.
“Are you Verity Hawkes, Adeline Hawkes’ niece?”
I groaned again, inwardly this time. I hadn’t spoken to my estranged—and slightly deranged—aunt in years.
“That’s me.” I sat on the edge of the bed, rubbing my eyes, as the caller droned on. Given Aunt Adeline’s talent for getting into, and out of, sticky situations, I decided not to panic for now.
“Who are you?” I asked.
You can turn the page and read more here. Did this writer need an editor? My notes and a poll follow.
This earned an 4.6 stars on Amazon. I found the voice immediately engaging, and I empathized with the disorientation waking to a phone call can bring, so I was connected with the character. The part about trying to put on the jeans promises humor (fun) ahead, and I’m frequently in the mood for a lighter story. Serial killers are way overdone these days.
The writing is strong and clean, as well. As for story questions, the opening foreshadow is helpful, and so is the characterization of her aunt being both estranged and prone to trouble. Not to mention that the aunt is missing. For me, the combination of all of the above earned a page turn. I want to see what this fun character does about her missing aunt. 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.