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I thought it’d be fun to do First Paragraph Friday’s, where I critique the first paragraph of either an unpublished manuscript or a recently published novel.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.
Today I picked a book that I’ve never read so as to provide feedback without knowing the story. Also, I didn’t read the back jacket blurb or look at the cover. That way I’m completely in the dark. However, I do plan to read the novel to see if I’m right or not.
I chose THE AFFAIR by Lee Child:
The Pentagon is the world’s largest office building, six and a half million square feet, thirty thousand people, more than seventeen miles of corridors, but it was built with just three doors, (4) each one of them opening into a guarded pedestrian lobby. I chose the southeast option, the main concourse entrance, the one nearest the Metro and the bus station, because it was the busiest and the most popular (3)with civilian workers, and I wanted plenty of civilian workers around, (1) preferably a whole long unending stream of them, for insurance purposes, (4) mostly against getting shot on sight. Arrests go bad all the time, sometimes accidentally, sometimes on purpose, so I wanted witnesses. I wanted independent eyeballs on me, at least at the beginning. I remember the date, of course. It was Tuesday, the eleventh of March, 1997, and it was the last day I walked into that place as a legal employee (2) of the people who built it.
There’s a lot here for a first paragraph. I highlighted the sentences that provided me clues and coordinated them with the number. Here’s what I learned:
1. Main character is not only a citizen of the US, but also a military person.
2. That whatever adventure or journey’s s/he’s about to embark on will end his/her career.
3. That the MC appears reckless, but is really careful, like s/he will make rash decisions, but they’ll really be calculated risks.
4. The pacing of the story will be full of lots of details and twisty surprises.
If you’ve read the story feel free to comment as to whether I’m right or not. If you haven’t read the story, feel free to comment on things that you noticed. **I do plan on reading the book and will come back and update whether I’m right or not for those of you who haven’t read it.