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I thought it’d be fun to do First Paragraph Friday’s, where I critique the first  paragraph of either an unpublished manuscript or a recently published novel.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.

For today’s FPF, I thought I’d try a prologue. I’m not sure if it’ll work or not. We’ll have to see. I know that a lot of agents aren’t fans of prologues, but in the thriller genre it seems they’re in almost every book I pick up.

The book I chose is The Fever by Megan Abbot. I haven’t read the back cover or looked at the front cover. (To be fair, it’s an e-book, so I did glance at the cover, but I picked out a bunch of books and can’t recall what it looked like.)

Here’s what I consider the first paragraph.

“The first time, you can’t believe how much it hurts.”

Deenie’s legs are shaking, but she tries to hide it, pushing her knees together, her hands hot on her thighs.

Six other girls are waiting. A few have done it before, but most are like Deenie.


1. The story is going to be about whatever the six girls are doing. I’m not sure what it is. The way the author wrote makes me believe it might be about sex, but I don’t think it is. I think it’s like some secret society thing.

2. The tone of the book seems to be about pain. Note the words–hurt, shaking legs, waiting. All of them seem ominous to me.

There isn’t much to go on, so we’ll see how close I came to guessing the book. If you think I missed something, please feel free to add your own observations in the comment section.

***Click here to see how how my observations panned out.