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.
For Sister Anne, death was always near.
But tonight, it felt closer and she didn’t know why.
Tonight was like any other in the Compassionate Heart of Mercy Shelter at the fringe of Seattle’s Pioneer Square District, where she was offering tomato soup to those who had lost hope. Their pasts haunted their faces. The pain of their lives stained their bodies with lesions, needle tracks, and prison tattoos.
Moving along the rows of plastic-covered bingo tables, Sister Anne saw how her “guests” occasionally looked up from their meals to the finger paintings on the basement walls, pictures taped there by the children of the shelter’s day care program. Portraits of happy families holding hands under sunny skies and rainbows.
No dark clouds. No frowns. No tears.
Glimpses of heaven.
She was moved by the juxtaposition of the dreamy images and the cold realities of these unfortunate souls, handcuffed to mistakes, tragedies, and addictions, searching the artwork of inner-city children for answers.
Silent cries for help.
Offering help was Sister Anne’s job. Her mission was to rescue broken people. To give (snip)
You can turn the page and read more here. Did this writer need an editor? My notes and a poll follow.
This mystery earned 4.5 stars on Amazon. Another good writer with a pro voice starts this novel out with strong foreshadowing in the first two paragraphs. I felt pretty sure that the good sister was headed for being murdered. But is that suggestion enough for a page-turn?
The narrative moves into setting and an introduction of the character. All good, and the character is sympathetic, but for this reader the tension created by the opening dwindled rapidly. On the other hand, the writing is promising. For me, the combination of the strong story question implied at the beginning combined with high-caliber writing was enough to earn a turn of the page . . . but only if he delivers soon. 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.
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