Archives For April 2013

Secret First Page Templates of Bestselling Authors
A riveting story can flop because of a poorly thought out first page. If the first page doesn’t grip a reader immediately, the reader is unlikely to continue with the story. In this way, the first page can be the most important page of the entire story.Bestselling authors consistently use specialized techniques to structure and write first pages to grab attention and build instant connections that last the entirety of the story. While there are too many techniques to cover in a single blog post, today I want to share with you the overarching structure that I have discovered after reading and studying bestselling novels over the past 10 years. These structural templates can be applied to any genre.
Before jumping into the templates, it’s probably helpful to remember that the first job of any piece of writing is to intrigue the reader, to captivate, mesmerize and pull the reader deeper into the folds of the story. However, as you likely know, intrigue is not the only goal.Beginnings require the delicate handling of several goals all at once. These goals include the following:

  • introduce characters
  • introduce major story question, problem or conflict
  • introduce the setting of the story
  • introduce the mood of the story (funny, violent, dark, light and romantic, etc.)
  • and more!

Style and technique come into play when deciding how to accomplish all of these goals at the beginning of the story, much less on the first page of the story (I’m certainly not advocating that authors cram all of these objectives into a single page, although it can be done).

In this blog post, I want to focus on the main goal of the first page, which, again, is to Intrigue the reader. My personal research has demonstrated that bestselling authors use one of several templates for crafting a first page that readers find nearly irresistible.

While these templates might not shock and surprise you with their genius, I found that bestselling authors consistently use them to launch their stories. Therefore, I’m hopeful that they will help you in designing first pages In which agents, editors, publishers and readers fall in love.

First Page Templates of Bestselling Authors 1: Character Introductions

Bestselling authors sometimes open their novels by introducing characters. This works wonderfully when handled carefully by a master storyteller. However, I have also witnessed younger, less skilled authors butcher this first page template by falling prey to pitfalls inherent in this structure. While nearly every novel requires the introduction of one or more characters on the first page, this template is unique in that the first page is dominated by the introduction of a single character.

 Common Pitfalls

Common pitfalls of the character introduction template:

  • Boring backstory
  • Boring character
  • Boring writing

How to Overcome the Common Pitfalls

The good news is that all of the pitfalls are easily overcome with time, thought and revision. If your character introduction is bogged down by backstory, consider cutting as much of it as possible. Ask yourself, “What is essential for the reader to know right now?” If the reader doesn’t  absolutely need to know a piece of information, move it to later in the story (or take it out completely –  your choice!).

If your character introduction suffers from a boring character, infuse the character with more life, energy and personality. Exaggerate a trait or two (rude turns to blatantly aggressive, sweet turns to superhero sweet. Punch up the personality with something unique and memorable. Embellish your character with colorful passions, hobbies, goals, inner conflicts – something, anything – to make them stand out in the literary crowd.

If your character introduction suffers from less than stellar writing, spend some time revising. Return to the basics: alternate sentence structure and sentence length, invigorate your language with stronger verbs and vivid nouns, add sensory information (or take it out, depending on specific writerly challenges). Cut, cut, cut and add some, too. Read great writing (from other bestsellers whose style you admire) and study their technique. Use what you learn in your own writing. Like any other craft, writing improves with time, practice and dogged perseverance.

The Least You Need To Know: Character introductions work best for stories that revolve around characters with strong, colorfull personalities and voices.

Thank you for stopping by my blog. I hope you have enjoyed this post and that it helps your writing. If so, please let me know in the comments directly below this post. Feel free to share these ideas with others.

Sincerely,

Christopher Kokoski, author of Dark Halo and the Past Lives series.

P.S. – Sign up to receive brief, infrequent updates on my writing projects: http://eepurl.com/oreL9

Creepy Friday Fiction video of two actors reading a scene from Past Lives! Pretty cool. Please check it out and share with others!

YouTube video

That’s all for today!