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First Pages of Best-Selling Novels: Revival

Today, for our first-page analysis, we’re going to look at Revivalby Stephen King. Little needs to be said about King and his being the king of the horror genre. I’ve read many of his novels over the years, and some I loved and others I didn’t. His style has changed a bit over the decades, but readers of his novels have high expectations and enjoy his trademark storytelling.

If you haven’t been following these weekly forays into best-seller first pages, be sure to read through them. By looking at various genres and authors, you’re getting to see many ways a first page can draw readers into story. What’s interesting to note, to me, few of the novels we’ve looked at have any dialogue. Many have prologues, and most have been solely narrative—as is the case with Revival.

Writers are often urged to start their opening scenes in the middle of action and/or dialogue. But clearly that’s not a requirement. Sure, it can be easier to pull readers in with action and showing. It’s more challenging to engage readers in a thoughtful discussion, especially theoretical or abstract or philosophical. But often great authors start their books this way, as we’ve noted in recent posts. And Revival is no exception. Continue Reading…

First Pages of Best-Selling Novels: The Goldfinch

In this week’s look at best-seller first pages, we’re going to dive into another literary work. Donna Tartt’s The Goldfinch won the Pulitzer in 2013 for fiction. I had a lot of reservations about reading this novel. Not because I read a lot of reviews, which were mixed but because years earlier I had read her highly touted novel The Secret History, which I found quite tedious and highly overrated.

I cringe to admit that I’ve read quite a few Pulitzer Prize–winning novels over the years, and I’ve almost always scratched my head wondering who in the world chooses these books. They are often packed full of narrative that drags on for pages, or they are so much about the writing that the plot reminds me of a deflated balloon that’s been crushed by a truck’s tires.

Call me snooty. That’s just my taste. Thing is, I love literary fiction and I write it. So that should, at least, make me a targeted reader for this kind of book.

I had mixed feelings about The Goldfinch. I actually couldn’t finish it after getting about two-thirds through. When I get to the point in a novel where I’m pushing myself to read in order to be fair and patient (but I’m starting to fidget and hate every moment and thinking of all the things I’d rather be doing than sitting reading that book), I slow to a crawl and finally give in and give up. Continue Reading…

3 Ways to Not Lose Your Readers on Your First Page

Readers will often stop reading before they finish the first page of your story. While this has always been true, in this fast-paced age that foments impatience, it’s even more true.

If a writer doesn’t deliver what a reader hopes for on that first page, it’s going to be tough to convince the reader to stick around for the whole chapter—let alone the whole book.

We’ve been looking at all the things needed on a first page of a novel or short story. And while it’s not a hard-and-fast rule that all these elements have to show up on page 1, the more elements a writer includes, the better.

This, of course, is going to vary a lot. And if a writer is starting with a prologue or some scene that doesn’t introduce the protagonist, that makes a difference as well. But the overall objective, regardless of opening scene, isn’t going to change. And that is to engage the reader. Continue Reading…

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