Nailing That First Page

At last night’s dinner meeting for Guelph Writers Ink, we discussed a variety of topics, among them the all-important first page of a novel. Opinions varied around the table with most of us agreeing that the first page must introduce the protagonist and include a crisis or conflict of some kind. While it is important to set the scene, it should be done without getting bogged down in too many descriptions.

Those of us who write crime fiction must also consider the following question: Is it necessary to place the dead body on the first page of a novel?

In a recent article, bestselling author Louise Penny offered the following advice: “If you’re writing your first work of crime fiction, place the body near the beginning of your book—preferably on the first page, perhaps the first sentence. In later books this won’t be as necessary, but agents and editors like it established early, so readers know what they’re getting.”

I am a fan of Louise Penny and inclined to follow her advice. She has walked the walk and achieved literary success with her mystery series. Her first novel, Still Life, was turned down by 50 publishers and agents before it found a home with British literary agent Teresa Chris.

In my WIP, I had originally introduced the dead body at the bottom of the second page. But after reading Louise’s article and getting advice from other writers, I reworked the first chapter and placed the dead body in the first sentence.

Any other thoughts out there?


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