Writing a Great First Page

On a recent school visit, a child said they really liked my first page of Cat Burglar (and the rest of the book – phew!). And they asked me what I thought made a great beginning to a story.

This was such a brilliant question, and so I decided to share with you my own thoughts and tips on what makes a killer first page.

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1) Start with a BANG!

Dive straight into the action or start with really interesting dialogue. You want to hook your reader in straight away – like grabbing a great white shark on the end of a very large fishing rod. My story is a fast paced adventure story, and so I begin with action.

‘I lie flat against the edge of the roof my senses on high alert. Come on dad, where are you? Surely it shouldn’t take this long to see if a room is clear. Then a hand clutches my shoulder and my body jumps. Somehow I manage not to fall of the three story house. I stare at dad in amazement. How can he be so quiet? I haven’t heart a footstep or even a scuff on the tiles.

2) Give a flavour of your story.

Is the tale going to be funny, sad or serious? In the first page, it is helpful to set the tone. so the reader knows what they are getting into.

In waiting for Callback, Perdita and Honor Cargill start the story with, ‘I’m dressed as a spider, waiting to go on stage as a carrot. It could be worse. I could be dressed as a carrot waiting to go on stage to impersonate a carrot.’

This is obviously going to be a very funny book. And for the record – it is!

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3) Show your distinct voice.

Whether it’s in 1st person or 3rd person, the voice needs to be authentic, and true to the person telling the story, reflecting who they are. A good way of working this out is thinking about people you know or see on TV. Imagine they were telling the story. What would their voices sound like?

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4) Give hints to the personality traits to your main character.

I wanted the reader to see that Scar is brave, eager to get on with the job, and in utter admiration of her father’s skills.

5) Give a little description of where the action or dialogue is taking place.

This enables the reader to know where they are, and not just dangling in mid air. I love Tatum Flynn’s description in The D’Evil Diaries.

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‘High above the cavernous glass roof of The Poison Gardens, the crimson skies of Pandemonium swirled lazily over the city. Inside the greenhouse, the spiked black branches of the Nemesis Tree swooped and darted like kraken tentacles searching for ships. The sap oozing from the Tree’s trunk was bright yellow and smelled uncannily of mouldy trainers.’

Great first pages suck the reader in. And I’m sure many of you have got your own ideas and tips too. Please feel free to share them. I’m always on the look out to learn more…

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