What Should the First Page of My Book Look Like?

by jvoves

Penning down the first few paragraphs of any novel can be one of the most nerve-wracking moments in the writing experience, especially the first line.  It can make or break the experience for the reader.  Does it hook them into reading the rest or do they skim past it without a second thought?

Sometimes, writing that perfect intro is easy and will come out naturally, but the rest of the time it takes a little more thought than luck.  To that end I wanted to present a few different ways to start a book.

1. Dialog
I’m sure you have read a book or two that starts with a snippet of dialog to start the book.  Dialog should be dynamic but should also include something that gives enough information to set up the story (setting, characters, etc.)

“What do you mean you can’t make it tonight?” Jack shouted over the phone.
“I’m sorry!” Linda replied, “I know this party is important to you but something’s come up.”

2. First-Person (or I Am)
This one is pretty self-explanatory.  Best used in first-person novels, this type of intro is used as the characters opportunity to set the stage and reveal a little bit about themselves in the process.

I never cared to spend much time outside.  I always hated feeling like there were a million tiny creatures crawling over my skin, and having a fair complexion meant that the sun was more likely to turn me into a boiled lobster than anything.  So, when my husband suggested we go on a hike I was not exactly excited about the prospect.

3. It was/It Is/This Is
This particular intro can be incredible or bland.  One of the classics uses this type of intro, Tale of Two Cities.  It allows for a lot of flexibility in setting up the story because practically anything can follow it.

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity…

4. Description of Landscape
This type of intro is ideal for creating a setting that the story will be built around.  It’s an incredible way to set a tone, paint a verbal picture of the scenario the reader finds themselves in, as well as the kind of world/time that the story takes place in.

The sun rose slowly over the horizon.  It’s creeping light illuminated the lone shack that sat at the top of a steep hill.  The grass was wet with dew and the birds were warming up for their morning serenade.  On the porch of the shack was a thin, old man staring absently as he rocked gently back and forth on his weather-worn swing.

Ultimately, you will need to decide what kind of start will work best for your manuscript and the feel that you want to present to the reader.  If you want to learn about a few more ways to intro a book here is a great article from Kobo Writing Life with prime examples from current books.

What has been your all time intro to a story?  Let me know below!


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