Sunday, September 4, 2011

Gone Fishing

by: Joelle Charbonneau

I’ve been working on a presentation I’ll be doing this week at a local library on the importance of the first five pages of a book and decided it would be interesting to chat about it here on DSD. With editors and agents coming back from summer vacations, this is a great time to submit your work. And, if you are like me, you might have a project under contract that you need to get a jump on. Regardless of where you are in your publishing career the same rules apply. The opening of your book matters – A LOT!

Think about it. If you are in a book store, chances are you’ll see a cover that catches your interest and flip to the first page. If that first page doesn’t grab your attention (and you don’t have a previous love affair with the author’s work) you’ll put the book down and move onto something else. Just that quickly you will have either pulled a reader in or lost them. Sigh… That may seem unfair, but it’s the way it is. Kind of like fishing…


Yes. Fishing. Have you ever gone fishing? You have to pick the right bait, put it in the water and hope the fish decides it is tasty in order to reel it in. The wrong bait and the fish doesn’t take a bite. And even if they do take a bite you have to keep the tension on the line just right in order to land the fish in the boat.

Same goes for writing. With writing the opening line is your bait. You want something that will attract the reader and get their attention. The next several paragraphs are the hook. Do you give enough information and action to make the reader want to turn the page? The next several pages of the book are part of the reeling in phase. Your writer voice, the pacing, the story questions and the characters we meet will determine whether you land the reader or they wiggle off the hook.

With that in mind, what books hooked you from the opening pages and why? I’m betting anything if you take a look at those books you’ll see that they gave you the right bait, got you hooked and reeled you in.


Dana King said...

Too many to mention, but two come to mind right away.

One is Declan Burke's THE WRONG KIND OF BLOOD, with the best opening line I've read. (Okay this opens Chapter 1, not the prologue. So sue me.):
The night of my mother's funeral, Linda Dawson cried on my shoulder, put her tongue in my mouth and asked me to find her husband.

My most memorable opening scene is from McFetridge's EVERYBODY KNOWS THIS IS NOWHERE, where the guy falls off a building and lands on the windshield of a car where another guy is getting a blowjob.

What's tricky is that I have been fooled by enough openings not to trust them as much anymore. Those two books delivered the goods, but a lot of writers now seem as though they've spent as much time on the first page as on the whole rest of the book, and it shows.

Dario said...

Really enjoyed reading it!