Your First Page Delivers a Promise

The first page of your novel needs to deliver a promise. It must start with an emotion, with a connection with the protagonist, not with the weather, not with a dream, not with a philosophical bit.

By Gryffindor (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0-3.0-2.5-2.0-1.0], via Wikimedia Commons
You must make your reader care. So your job is to make sure the reader can identify and sympathize with the protagonist.

The first page does not start with a melodramatic action, it starts with a scene.

It does not start with a jump from a cliff, but it starts with the promise of the jump.

It teases you.

Your first page delivers a promise.

It starts not in the heart of the action, not in the heart of a world, but in the heart of your character.

Your first paragraph is a promise of what’s coming, not of what is. It’s a promise that you, as a reader, will be worried for this particular protagonist.


But how do you do it?

You could start your draft by writing down your goals for the opening: “I promise that this story will… be action-packed, will focus on a group of girls, will deepen its mystery, will be funny, will deliver emotional punches, will stir your insides, will be witty or outrageous, etc.”

Oskar Herrfurth [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
Then deliver your promise. Get into your protagonist’s inner life, inner fears, inner feelings. What gets at him or her? Get to know your protagonist.

The opening will reveal something about the character, an inner truth, something about what’s to come, something the character worries about, and something about the way the character reacts to what worries her the most.


And worry is contagious.

If your story is action packed, then maybe your protagonist worries about the bad guys looking for her. If your story is about a group of girls, then maybe her biggest worry is to be rejected by the group.

Whatever you choose to promise, the situation will speak for itself.

By Philippe Alès (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons
EXAMPLE: If your character’s biggest fear is spiders, then his roommate needs to have a tarantula. His roommate needs to be very absent-minded therefore not being able to take care of the poor animal. And the protagonist needs to witness his roommate leave the tarantula’s cage opened.

This situation is simple and reveals so much, there is no need to explain further. This is instant conflict, worry, and emotions.

So go ahead and deliver your promise.

That’s how you hook your reader.




If you liked this article, read more articles by Sussu Leclerc at Novel Without Further Ado or follow her on Twitter.


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