Opening Pages

October 26th, 2017 in Writing by April Michelle Davis 0

What’s the first thing you notice about a book?

Now imagine yourself in a bookstore. You are looking for a good book to read. What about a book is going to capture your interest and make you pick it up? Possibly the cover art, the title, or the author? What’s the next thing you might look at? The opening lines? You open the book to the first page, and guess what? The opening lines are boring; they don’t grab your attention and make you want to read the book. So you toss the book aside and look for another one.

Now, imagine that you sent your manuscript to a publisher. The publisher does not have the cover art to look at and may have a title to read, but the marketing department will most likely change it. So what is the publisher going to look at? The opening lines. If the first line is a cliché, the manuscript will probably be rejected. If the publisher gets to the second line, but it is boring, the manuscript will probably be rejected. And if the publisher gets to the third line, but it does not intrigue, the manuscript will probably be rejected.

Your opening lines are paramount for your manuscript to be published.

What should the opening pages of a manuscript do? There are four main goals:

  1. Introduce the story-worthy problem
    The reader should be quickly introduced to the problem that will encompass much of the story. This needs to be a problem that is important enough to the main character that it can sustain the entire length of the story. The overall conflict of the story must be introduced quickly or the reader will begin to question the purpose of the story.
  2. Hook the readers
    A suspenseful event should occur in the beginning of the story to hook the reader, and this event should be connected to the overall problem in the story that the main character must overcome.
  3. Establish the rules
    In the world the author has created, the rules need to be quickly established. They cannot be introduced conveniently as the story progresses—then, the reader begins to doubt the story and may even put down the book if it becomes too unbelievable. The rules can be anything the author desires, but they must be consistent.
  4. Forecast the ending
    Many authors write the opening pages of the story last, and one reason for this is that the opening pages should forecast the ending of the story. The reader should not know exactly how the story will end, but the reader should know where the story is heading. Foreshadowing allows the reader to feel that the story has completed a circle. If there is no foreshadowing, the story simply ends, but it does not necessarily feel complete.