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.
“This better be good or you’re dead meat,” I warned my midnight caller. And I meant it. I had a 26-year-old bartender parked next to my wrinkled old hide. I didn’t take kindly to interruptions.
“You’ve stepped in it now,” Bobby D. replied, his voice oozing with satisfaction. He takes great pride in pointing out my screw-ups.
“What is it?” I mumbled, tugging the sheets away from Jack. Jesus, he was a human Labrador retriever glossy black hair, big wet tongue, sturdy chest, and a silly grin on his face when he slept.
“Your babysitting job just went sour.” Bobby followed this pronouncement with a cough. I could practically feel the phlegm bubbling through the phone wires. I don’t know what goes on inside Bobby’s massive stomach but half the time, whatever it is, it’s trying to crawl out.
“It’s three o’clock in the morning,” I said, fumbling for my black cat eyeglasses. “What the hell could go wrong with that woman at this time of night? She get caught breaking into the Junior League membership file or something?”
“She got arrested for murder.”
“What?” I was wide awake. Mary Lee Masters arrested for murder? No way in hell. Not in the middle of the final month before the election.
You can turn the page and read more here. Did this writer need an editor? My notes and a poll follow.
This offering averaged 4 stars on Amazon. There are things to like with this opening page. Lively female voice, adequate writing—there’s a tense error and some comma issues. The opening line has conflict in it, and toward the end a strong story question is raised. The narrative also starts to portray a not-your-usual-sexpot-detective character with hints of age and bawdy sex. Despite the small craft issues, which an editor could fix, it seemed like a page turn was appropriate for me since I do enjoy mysteries. 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.