The first thing a reader of a novel wants to know is the main character, according to best-selling suspense author Hank Phillippi Ryan. If you’re writing a novel, she said your opening page must have these four important things.
#1 The main character: “Page one is the first moment reader and character connect, the moment they bond, the moment that crystallizes your story,” wrote Ryan in an article on Career Authors, an online resource for writers.
#2 Where and when? Your story should be grounded in a place and time, said Ryan. Otherwise, the reader will not be able to imagine your story.
#3 What’s at stake? This has something to do with what the character wants and what she’s going to do to get it.
#4 A Hook: Ryan called it a falling domino, referring to a change from normalcy. “What calls your character to action is the same thing that’ll keep the reader on board,” she wrote.
At the 2017 Writer’s Digest Conference, Ryan compared a novel’s first page to iodine. If your novel’s beginning fails to captivate a reader, then you’ve simply lost that person. “It's a drop of iodine in the water. It colors everything,” she said.
Ryan, an investigative reporter for Boston’s NBC affiliate, is the author of the Jane Ryland series. She has won multiple writing awards, including both the Agatha Award for Best Contemporary Novel and the Daphne Award for Mainstream Mystery/Suspense for “The Wrong Girl” (2013).
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