by Ray Rhamey
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.
As the clay disk sailed out of the trap house, the president swung his gun, tracking the target. A gentle squeeze of the trigger and the target exploded, nothing left but dust in the air.
One for one.
The Secret Service agent standing ten feet behind him nodded. President Thomas Walters was a life-long member of the NRA and former winner of the Marines’ Expert Marksmanship Badge. The man was lethal with a gun.
It was a typical fall day for northern Maine. The morning sun had just cleared the tree line but wasn’t yet strong enough to burn away the fog seeping out of the woods. Although the air was chilly, the president and his entourage of agents didn’t seem to mind. Trap shooting was something that the many demands of his office prevented the president from enjoying as often as he would have liked. The way he looked at it, he could escape for a few moments while his Secret Service detail enjoyed a change of scenery. Besides, today it seemed the foliage was at its peak. The red, orange, and yellow leaves, together with the scent of autumn, reminded him of hunting trips with his father long ago.
The clay bird shot off to the president’s left, but he swiftly adjusted his aim and fired.
Two for two.
His father was the one who had taught him how to shoot, the one who had told him again (snip)
You can turn the page and read more here. Did this writer need an editor? My notes and a poll follow.
This book averaged 4.6 out of 5 stars on Amazon. It was billed as an “intense political thriller.” So how about the thrill ride this first page gives us? What could jack up your pulse rate better than a weather report, some pretty scenery, a man who never misses a shot, and that man reminiscing about his father? Be still my heart.
So no page turn here. And, true to my experience over and over, the first page foreshadows the nature of the narrative to follow. Desperate for something to read on my Kindle while I do my treadmill, I started the book. Despite an interesting plot situation, I was quickly bogged down in page after page of exposition and backstory. But maybe this first page struck you differently. 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(satire) The Vampire Kitty-cat Chronicles
Mystery(coming of age) The Summer Boy
Science Fiction Hiding Magic
Science Fiction GundownFree ebooks.