- francis isn’t EVEN DEAD god damn it nostradamus get ur fucking futures straight
- ayLEE BASICALLY DIED FOR NO GOOD REASON!?
- FRANCIS PROBABLY THINKING THAT MARY WAS RUNNING OF WITH BASH
- ON THAT NOTE WHY IS BASH/MARY STILL EVEN A THING WRITERS
- STOP GIVING ME FRARY AND THEN TEARING IT AWAY FROM…
Asked by Anonymous
Voice + Character + Set up = Hooked!
You have to have a good voice. No matter what kind of cool or interesting backstory your character has, if the voice doesn’t “speak” to the reader then it will be hard for anyone to get interested.
Great voice examples in the first pages: Beat the Reaper by Josh Bazell, Halfway to the Grave by Jeaniene Frost, The Nightmare Affair by Mindee Arnett, Finnikin of the Rock by Melina Marchetta.
You also need an interesting character. Someone, somewhere, at some time said something along these lines: I will follow a character I love anywhere. This is very true. One of my very favorite books out there is Saving Francesca by Melina Marchetta. It’s a book about a girl (Francesca) whose mom is sick. That doesn’t sound like much, but you don’t understand if you haven’t read it. It’s about A GIRL! (Francesca!!) and HER MOM IS SICK! AND I CARE A LOT BECAUSE I LOVE HER.
Either before you start writing or when you’re revising really think about your characters. Not just your narrator but all your characters—think about their backstories and personalities and make sure those traits are making it onto the page. Bring your characters to life and make them feel real. If you can inspire passionate reactions to your characters then readers including agents will have to keep reading.
Other great characters: Kent who is the love interest in Before I Fall by Lauren Oliver (I loved him so much!), Sophie from This is How I Find Her by Sara Polsky, and Rule and Shaw from Rule by Jay Crownover.
Then because this is a business and part of that means marketing, you need a great hook (which also means you have to be starting your story in the right place!). Great first lines are a definitely plus and a set up that can be summed up in a concise sentence or two (this is also called a logline) is even better.
For instance, Losing It by Cora Carmack is about a 22 year old virgin, who after a failed one night stand, discovers her new theater professor is the guy she left naked in her bed 8 hours earlier. The first pages open with the attempt for a one-night stand and they’re hilarious.
You want to try to start in the middle of things (in media res if you want the actual term) which means not with your character waking up (unless you’re Suzanne Collins of course) and not with your character looking in the mirror as they get ready to do something (unless you’re EL James). But you also don’t want to start too in the middle of things. If something dramatic is happening to your character, you need to ground your readers in who that character is and make us like them, before you make them weep up and down the page. (this goes back to character).
Some books with great set ups: The Ghost and the Goth by Stacey Kade, False Memory by Dan Krokos, All Our Yesterdays by Cristin Terrill, Feed by Mira Grant, and The Time Traveler’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger.
After you’ve written and revised and polished your full ms go back to your first chapter and take it one line at a time. Read out loud and make sure that your first sentence will hook your reader and then your remaining sentences will hold onto them.
At a conference, a writer once us agents on a panel how much we read before we stop. A great agent (not me) said this: “I read the first line. If it grabs me, I read the second line. If I’m still grabbed, I read the third line and so on. I stop at the point where I don’t feel grabbed.”
This is very true.
Some great first lines with also great openings of books that have voice + character + set up:
"My father took one hundred and thirty-two minutes to die." Jellicoe Road by Melina Marchetta
"If there’s a Hell on Earth, it’s high school." (He’s a demon) Personal Demons by Lisa Desrochers
"God is a slick god. Temple knows. She knows because of all the crackerjack miracles still to be seen on this ruined globe." The Reapers are the Angels by Alden Bell
"The year the ghosts came started like this:" The Year of Shadows by Claire Legrand
And one of my personal favorites:
"This is how it feels to die: it starts from outside and works its way in. Your cuticles, the tips of your fingers. Fire under your nails that spreads into your books, burning and freezing everything it comes into contact with. Your arms, your ankles, your knees, your stomach, and the place where your heart should be." All These Lives by Sarah Wylie.