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The First Five Pages

A Fifteen Point Checklist Developed By
Patricia Kay

checklist• Hook the reader with an intriguing opening.

• Start your story just before the beginning on the day that is different.

• Introduce your protagonist – if your book is a romance, either your hero or your heroine should be introduced in the first scene.

• Set the stage by showing a bit of his/her ordinary world.

• Introduce his/her goal. Give us a reason to root for this character.

• Establish the five Ws: who, what, where, when, and why. You not only want to orient the reader, you want to help the reader understand your character.

• Once you’ve set the stage, bring on the inciting incident – the event that will propel your protagonist from his/her ordinary world into the new world created by this event.

• Don’t load this first scene with back story. If back story is absolutely necessary for the reader to understand the present story, write a Prologue and make that back story active. Absolutely do not use a flashback in your opening scene. Flashbacks do not belong in scenes; they stop the action. If a flashback is necessary, put it in a sequel.

• If there’s more than one character in your scene, don’t head hop. Keep the point of view consistent.

• Give the reader at least a hint of what the conflict will be.

• End the first scene with a hook to make the reader want to read on: either a story question or a disaster of some kind.

• Remember that the way you begin your story makes a promise to your reader about the kind of story they can expect to unravel in future pages. This also covers the tone of your story. If you’re writing a lighthearted story, begin with something lighthearted. If you’re writing a heavier, more emotional story, then you should begin with a dramatic scene.

• Remember that research counts. Make sure your facts are accurate.

• Remember that careful editing counts. No editor or agent wants to read a manuscript riddled with misspelled words, inaccurate punctuation, and bad grammar.

• Bear in mind that the first few pages of your manuscript are similar to the way you present yourself for a job interview. These pages show the world what kind of writer you are and what kind of writer you want to be.

Copyright 2014 – Patricia A. Kay

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