You probably remember the recent post at Writer Unboxed that offered a look at the first page of Stephen King’s newest book and asked whether you’d turn the page. Here’s my blog post that directed you there. I was surprised and impressed that several of you guessed that was Stephen King, by the way. Even knowing that’s him, I can’t really see it. I mean, if I squint and think “COULD this be Stephen King?” I can sort of see it. But I could easily be persuaded it was someone else. This is true even though I’ve read a lot of his books, though mostly not the newer ones. The last one of his I read was Duma Key, a book which annoyed the heck out of me because of the unbelievably manipulative way King killed that woman at the end of the novel. Both the obvious manipulation of the reader and the unbelievability of the scenario involving her death bothered me a lot and that’s when I quit reading his books. Looks like he’s published 16 more novels since. Wow. He sure is fast.
But that’s not the point of this post.
The point is, the person who wrote that post, Ray Rhamey, does frequent posts like that at his own website, where he posts a first page and then explains whether or not he’d turn the page and why, and polls people on whether they would.
So, I mean, what could I do? The idea of sending Ray the first page of Tuyo and betting that I could make him turn the page was just irresistible. So I did. I did say I was a pro, though not at Stephen King’s level of pro-ness, in case he wanted only first pages by unpublished authors. But it turns out he’s fine with a turn-the-page challenge from a pro. So here’s his post about Tuyo’s first page.
Right away I felt I was in the hands of a pro. Strong voice, good writing. If you look at the checklist, you’ll see much of it reflected in this brief page. Setting the scene: check. Something has gone wrong for the character: check. Peril with high stakes: check. Something is happening: check.
The only desire we see is for him not to freeze . . . but to live has to be an underlying desire. Here, action is his inaction, his will to wait for death rather than flee. As for story questions, the narrative offers more than one. For me, plenty of reasons to read on.
A recommendation for you. I did read on . . . and on . . . and on. This is the first in a series, three novels so far. They were, for me, compelling. I hardly put them down for a week.…
So that’s certainly satisfying!
Also, these first page examples and the polls are just interesting. There’s a lot of them here at this site, if you’re also interested in effective novel openings.
Oh, also, I notice there’s a new such post at Writer Unboxed this morning. Here’s the first paragraph of the page provided:
This novel was number one on the New York Times hardcover fiction bestseller list for September 19, 2021. How strong is the opening page—would it, all on its own, hook an agent if it was submitted by an unpublished writer?
Blood-sodden, the girl staggers into the black. Her clothes are disheveled, hanging off her young body, revealing expanses of pale flesh. Shoe lost, foot bleeding. She is in agony, but the pain has become inconsequential, eclipsed by other sufferings.
Actually, for me, this paragraph is a bit of a turn-off because the girl’s not in good shape. But also, I do think it’s a weak paragraph. I’m bored by the advice to show, not tell, but the last sentence above is a weak example of telling. Also, as Elaine T commented here not that long ago, opening with “the man” or “the girl” is annoying to many readers. That includes me.