First Five Pages — Tips And Techniques

Random picture alert! Well, kinda.

cat not amused

Do you feel the cat’s conflict? The little mouse on his ear, I’m sure, went flying one second after this photo was taken. Anyway, keep reading, and check out exactly how we as writers, can create tension and conflict in our first five pages, thereby drawing the reader in. (Sorry about the “thereby.” I’m writing historical romance at the moment, and you might find the odd “aged” word appearing within the passages below.) *chuckles* 

Greetings my fellow writersHey everyone,

As writers we sometimes struggle with how our story should begin. We want to craft our first few pages in a way that draws the reader in. The last thing we want is for them to set our book down, to forget it, or to never pick it up again. So here, I’ve compiled a list of techniques to aid the writer in crafting a strong first five pages.

Open with a strong hook.

  • The first line of your book is crucial.
  • The first paragraph even more so.
  • And the first scene has to truly pack a punch.
  • So, how do we do this? Consider the main point of tension within your first chapter, and ideally try to work your first paragraph around that issue. The key is to captivate your reader into needing to know more. That means don’t go laying out all the facts, but aim to entice.
  • To aid you with this, a great way to open your first page is with dialogue. It’s a method which allows you to introduce your main character and highlight the point of tension all in one go. If the dialogue isn’t in the first line, then try to incorporate it in the first paragraph.

Don’t give me thirty characters in the first few pages.

  • If there’s one way to turn off a reader, it’s by confusion. Keep it simple. Spotlight your main characters right away so your reader becomes grounded from the start. Allow your reader to focus on them, to form a bond with them, to be invested in them.
  • Never forget that when a writer gives a character a name, the reader will automatically store that name, and expect that character to be someone of importance. That means, don’t go naming your non-important characters, and that goes for the entire book. As an example, the waitress who serves you coffee in the café, can just be the waitress.

You have a clever reader.

  • This is something I tell myself all the time, but continuously as I write the first few pages. “I have a clever reader.” It means as writers, we need to allow our reader to piece together the story without our continual input. Sure, give small hints, but don’t tell them everything. That way they’ll have a more fulfilling experience as they read right from the very first page.

Reflections.

  • Reflections in the first few pages should rarely be written in. This is where the main characters reflect on their life or past situations. They’re getting deep and meaningful, when really you need to highlight the actual tension and conflict of your story.
  • Save the reflections for where they’re needed.

Remember most readers will judge a book by its first few pages.

  • Generally readers will peek at the first few pages of a book, and based on what they read, decide whether or not to buy it. That means no grammar mistakes are allowed from the very first line. Proofread thoroughly.

I hope you’ve found these tips and techniques helpful. You may even have your own special tip or technique you’d like to add. Drop me a comment and let me know. I love hearing from you guys.

Take care, and I’ll catch ya next week.

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10 thoughts on “First Five Pages — Tips And Techniques

  1. The point about reminding ourselves of having smart readers is so important! I’m constantly asking myself questions as a reader and trying to include their answers in the story, when sometimes I read back over it and go, “The reader can figure this out. It’s okay.” Great advice.

  2. Great article! (And your own hook in this article was perfect. A cat crawling with mice? Nice!) I’m struggling with an opener now, and this was a great reminder.

  3. “You have a clever reader.”

    “You have a clever reader!”

    (Oh! Don’t mind me… I’m just reminding myself.)

    Good list, Joanne. Thank you.

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