•What keeps the reader reading or causes them to BUY the book?
•Genre will often dictate the hook or what kind of hook (i.e. startling statement, anecdote, analogy, literary quote, rhetorical question, shocking statistic, etc.)
•Elements of your writing that are the strongest? If you’re good at dialogue, scene setting, character description, whatever, highlight that in your first five.
•Exercise: Put a star by what you think your hook is. Have a few people read it and see if they think that is your hook, too. If it’s NOT in the first five, find a way to put it there!
•Ground the reader, orient the reader in space, time, world and age.
•State directly at chapter opening as a subheading like: London 1791 or slip into the narrative somewhere in those first five. Earlier the better.
•Be sly, use sensory detail and flavor to give time and place (example: After three generations the small dot in the sky grew to a disc, then a ball, then overwhelmed the view from the cockpit window of the spaceship) We know it’s future, its most likely SciFi and the character is in a spaceship and has known no other life. What do we know about your book?
•POV Point of View (who are we following and what voice is that character using and in what tense is the story being told)
•Protagonist (it is ALMOST always beneficial to have your protagonist in the first five pages)
•Must create empathy
•Exercise: look at your first 5 pages and make a list of what you KNOW about the MC (main character) from ONLY the words written, not what’s in your head or what you learn later. ONLY what is in the first 5. You should have at least eight facts, and physical character description counts for only one of those facts
•Your story must have a conflict: goal vs. obstacle to that goal
•Story Question: What is the overall question that will be answered if we keep reading. (i.e. Will he win the war, will the girl get the guy, will good triumph over evil, will the family be reunited, Will she overcome her handicap, etc.)
•Many of today’s readers want it stated explicitly at the beginning of the book. What are they investing in?
•Exercise: Underline your sentence(s) that show your story question or at least hint at it
•Your unique use of vocabulary word choice
•Ratio of dialogue to exposition
•Pacing or rhythm
•Sentence structure, length, use of prepositional phrases, fragments, compounds, lists, etc.
Did you try the exercises for Elements of Your First 5 Pages? How many characteristics did you find? Could you underline a sentence that hinted at your story question? How about the hook, is it there in your first five? I want to hear how you fared. My Girl in the Jitterbug Dress is A-Okay, now, off to check the new NaNo novel ;)
Tam Francis is a writer, blogger, swing dance teacher, avid vintage collector, and seamstress. She shares her love of this genre through her novels, blog, and short stories. She enjoys hearing from you, sharing ideas, forging friendships, and exchanging guest blogs. For all the Girl in the Jitterbug Dress news, give-aways, events, and excitement, make sure to join her list and like her FB page! Join my list ~ Facebook page