People’s ideas of writing “rules” sometimes flummox me, because they believe in them so firmly and yet a pretty quick survey of books on my shelves will disprove the need for said rule/s.
Recently it was what needs to be on the first page of a book. Now there are a lot of “rules” about the first line, first para, first page out there, so I wasn’t surprised to see someone else’s take on this. What got me was the requirement that the “story question” needed to be on the first page or the book was no good. Really?
Maybe I’m too indulgent a reader, but I never put a book down because they spend the first page giving me world building, set-up or even a touch of flash-back action. In fact I’ll stick with an author for the first scene in the book and usually the whole first chapter, because it’s a novel. The first chapter is, what, less than half of 1% of the total work?
Besides, any published book has a blurb which – if it’s doing its job – should tell you the “story question”, so why does the first page need to do that? Flummoxed.
For the record, my way of deciding on whether to read a book has always been to:
- read the blurb
- read the first page (not of a prologue, but the first chapter)
- read part/all of two-three pages randomly selected from other parts of the book
I find this is enough, generally, to tell me if:
- I like the writing (quality of the prose)
- the tone is going to bug me (macho rubbish, whiny characters, women obsessed with how they look, or food etc.)
- it has anything that’ll make me want to throw it at the wall (horrid protag I don’t want to spend time with, unthinking sexual violence, record numbers of cliches, unthinking racism/sexism etc.)
- the blurb is lying to me; in which case does the book still sound like something I want to read?
Not fool proof, but a useful guide.