If you’re a writer who’s been in the trenches for awhile, you know the importance of the first page of your manuscript. It’s supposed to do a myriad of things like establish voice, create character presence, and give an inkling of the premise. It’s a lot of pressure for one page. Recently, I received a critique back from one of my CP’s (critique partners) and she provided insight into the first page, but more importantly she reacted to my first paragraph. She pointed out what she’d learned about the story and character just from reading the first six lines. I was disappointed to find out that all she knew was that the main character must have suffered some really bad experience. That was it, she didn’t know anything else. Not the tone of the manuscript. Not the mc’s gender. Not the premise of the book. Nothing. Never mind the rest of the first page, I’d failed in the first paragraph.
So I thought it’d be fun to do First Paragraph Friday’s, where I critique the first paragraph of either an unpublished manuscript or a recently published novel. If you want to participate, send me the first paragraph of your first page to writedahl (at) yahoo (dot) com and I’ll give you feedback about what I learned from it. Then you can decide if that’s what you wanted your reader to learn.
Since this is the first post, I picked a book I just finished. It’s Jennifer Lynn Barnes, THE NATURALS, Book 2: KILLER INSTINCT. (My comments are at the end and in red.)
Jennifer Lynn Barnes, The Naturals, Book 2: Killer Instinct
*The majority of children who are kidnapped and killed are dead within three hours of the abduction. Thanks to my roommate, the walking encyclopedia of probabilities and statistics, I knew the exact numbers. I knew that when you went from discussing hours to days and days to weeks, the likelihood of recovery dropped so far that the FBI couldn’t justify the manpower necessary to keep the case active.*
I think the author was all about establishing the tone and premise of the book. The first few sentences led me to believe that the story is going to be about murder and the FBI. The main character is knowledgeable enough to know the FBI’s procedures. S/he might even work in a less active way with the FBI.
If you read the book, that’s exactly what it’s about; a teenage girl working for a clandestine FBI group and they solve cases. The one in this book is about several murders involving a serial killer.
Did you arrive at the same conclusions as I did? If not, what did you learn?