The topic this week in our writer’s group included the first five pages of whatever project we’re writing. We brought those first pages, and like some friendly mad-hatter’s tea party, switched them between members so everyone could provide feedback. Its a fun exercise.
What you need to know about your first five pages, or the first chapter:
You need a hook, known as the narrative or literary hook that ‘hooks’ the reader’s attention so that the reader will continue reading the story.
A hook in rhetoric is a rhetorical device that gets the attention of the audience and makes them want to listen to the rest of the speech. Hooks can often be metaphors, playing on emotional appeal, and they can also be a series of intriguing questions, a statistic, a fact, or any other rhetorical device that captures a listener’s attention.
You need compelling characters. Compelling characters are interesting and 3 dimensional. They have both good and bad traits, and offer the reader someone to follow along and root for in the adventure.
What’s the conflict? The start of any story begins at the beginning of the conflict. Otherwise, you end up telling too much back story. The first pages need to include the main problem or show foreshadowing.
Add an interesting setting. Where and when a story takes place can be as important as the character itself. This needs just enough description to show the reader the where and when without boring with detail, but also engage the reader to the place and time.
Using these basic elements of your first five pages offers the reader, (or agent or publisher) an idea to where the rest of the story is going.
And a note: Although you don’t need to start a story at the conflict in the writing process, you will need to edit your work so its illustrated in those first five pages.