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.
My mother is an expert guilt-maker. Joanna Sharp, the Rani of Reproach, the Shazadi of Shame. When she turned her talent on me, it was usually about the fact that I didn’t date the right sort of guy. Unfortunately, my mother’s idea of a suitable male was someone like Phillip Dewar: privileged, pasty and pissy. But since I’d moved back home, due to loss of employment and a spot of pennilessness, Joanna had broadened her guilt trip to include my latest career venture.
‘Why can’t you just get a good job in the government, darling? Or let your father help you find work?’ she asked me with unrelenting regularity.
My reaction was consistently emphatic: ‘I can look after myself, Mum!’
Of course that meant that I had to come good on my statement, which meant earning money, which explained why I was currently on my way to a meeting with a brothel madam.
‘And it’s all good … it’s all go-oo-ood!’ I sang the Hill Top Hoods chorus line to Crosby Sweater and sent my 1980s Holden Monaro—aka Mona—into a sharp left-hander with only the faintest squeal of her wheels.
I’ve always been a great believer in affirmations. I CAN eat less chocolate. I CAN do more exercise. I CAN meet a perfect man. No, scrap that last one. I don’t believe in perfect men.
That said, my current date, the gorgeous Edouardo, came close. He was a model, a good egg and he seemed to like me—all of which made me uneasy. He was really too good to be true.
You can turn the page and read more here. Did this writer need an editor? My notes and a poll follow.
This offering averaged a strong 4.8 out of 5 stars on Amazon. To start with, the author has a fun voice, and the writing is good. If you found the make of her car odd, I understand that this is set in Australia.
There was a solid story question, too—why is she meeting with a brothel madame? She doesn’t seem to be a hooker. For me, when the narrative diverged to her current boyfriend, I began to lose interest. I want to get to that meeting and find out what’s happening there. Nothing is “wrong” yet in this scenario, but that meeting promised story. Unfortunately, the tension withers at the end of the page, for me at any rate. I ended up with a no vote. 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.