Sydney Writers’ Festival workshop Belinda Jeffrey, an Australian author of YA fiction, broke down the important elements of the first page.
Keeping in mind it’s difficult to give absolute rules because story will often determine style, first pages should include:
1. A distinctive voice. A unique voice is essential to capture the imaginations of the readers and pull them into the story. Voice will make your novel stand out above the rest.
2. A strong character. Readers will engage with strong and interesting characters.
3. A sense of time and place. This grounds the reader into the story. They should be able to recognise the story’s genre in the first page. These should be markers only. Avoid wads of descriptions.
4. Questions. Don’t answer all the reader’s questions at once. Don’t give them everything they need to know about the characters, the history, the setting. They don’t need paragraphs of backstory. They don’t need -- or want -- everything explained too soon.
5. Intrigue. Similar to the previous point, it’s important to build intrigue to tease the reader into wanting to know more.
6. The point of change. The story should start at the point of change. This change should reflect conflict. Note: the conflict doesn’t have to be explosive.
7. No wasted words or throw-away lines. Keep it tight. Every word should have a reason for being. Try to avoid redundancies.
Can you think of other essential elements in the first page? How many times have you rewritten your first page?