It doesn’t matter how good the end of your book is if the reader isn’t swooped in by the beginning.
The beginning needs to be a mix of introduction, intrigue, quality writing–and it’s a precarious balance. Too plodding and you’ve lost us. Too much information and we’re drowning. There is no room for a slow start and making up time as you go. In fact, the beginning is the hardest and arguably most important part.
But it doesn’t stop at the first five pages. Perfecting those first pages are just the beginning. The whole book needs to be as perfect and well edited as those first five pages. If the beginning isn’t captivating no one will read to the middle and the end–no matter how good the middle and ending might be. So the entirety of the book rests on the quality of those first chapters.
I suppose my message is to write and edit those first 5 pages phenomenally well, but don’t stop. Apply that eagle eye to the whole novel to set a precedent for what is to come with each turning page.
‘Dos’ and ‘Don’ts’ for the start of your novel: Continue reading How are you going to grab the reader’s attention in the first 5 pages?
I’ve touched on how not to write a prologue, but today I want to lay out the makings of a really striking prologue. A lot of writing blogs tell you ‘what not to do’, which is always subjective in itself, so let’s explore a great prologue and see why it works.
Tom Perrotta’s The Leftovers (his prologue can be read under ‘read an excerpt’ on his website here) is the story of when the Rapture hits Mapleton:
“What if the Rapture happened and you got left behind? Or what if it wasn’t the Rapture at all, but something murkier, a burst of mysterious, apparently random disappearances that shattered the world in a single moment, dividing history into Before and After, leaving no one unscathed? How would you rebuild your life in the wake of such a devastating event?
This is the question confronting the bewildered citizens of Mapleton, a formerly comfortable suburban community that lost over a hundred people in the Sudden Departure.
Through the prism of a single family, Perrotta illuminates a familiar America made strange by grief and apocalyptic anxiety. The Leftovers is a powerful and deeply moving book about people struggling to hold onto a belief in their own futures.”
Now, to the prologue. Perrotta’s prologue works on a few different levels: we are introduced to major characters; the themes are established; and the setting is intriguing. So why does this work and so many prologues don’t?
1. Quality of writing Continue reading The Makings of a Captivating Prologue: Skill, suspense, backstory and plot