The First Page, or as most agents consider it, the first 250 words are tricky. We as writers usually hear one of two things.
1) Throw us into the action. The story needs to truly begin (not later 50 pages in).
2) Let us get to know the character, don't just throw us into the action willy nilly.
It seems like both of these pieces of advice are at odds with one other. Either we need more action or less, but with this action we can lose our character.
Here's the deal. We need to care about a character before anything else, but that's not to say we can't open with some action. Things need to get moving.
Here's what I believe a first page needs:
1) We need to get to know the character.
2) We need to establish some sort of conflict (doesn't have to be the main one) It can be as small as "Omg I'm going to finally ask my crush out today." But we need something to make the reader want to read on.
3) Somehow we must marry the two.
Here's an example from my own story, IT'S COOP NOT CUPID. It's certainly not perfect, but I think I establish those two things in the opening.
We know that Alex has been into this guy since first grade. We also establish that she has a little brother .
We also know she talks to herself and isn't afraid of loud colors.
Now, in terms of conflict. She's asking out this crush.
I can do this. Sam is just a guy, I told myself, fiercely. A really hot and out of your league guy, a voice in the back of my mind reminded me as I walked down the wet sidewalk. Rain pelted my face. I groaned, trying to angle my hot pink umbrella against the wind.
The memory of the first time I’d ever laid eyes on Sam entered my mind. Sure, we were six, and he merely shared his animal crackers with me, but in first grade that was a date. Of course, first grade isn’t eleventh grade.
My cell buzzed in my dress pocket. I glanced at the caller ID. Crap. It was Mom.
“Yeah,” I answered.
“Sweetie, I have to work a double-shift tonight and I need you to pick up Cody from that birthday party. Can you do that?”
I swallowed. Great. Now, I had a time limit for asking Sam out.
“Yeah, I’ll do it.” I hung up and felt the urge to vomit.
The butterflies just wouldn’t leave my stomach. Still, they had good reason for taking up residence in my belly. Although, at the moment it felt like they’d made their way up to my throat.I sighed, and stopped walking. I was here. I gazed into the café’s window where Sam worked. Rain slid down the windowpane as I watched him mix a plump woman’s coffee. He smiled sweetly at her as she tipped him.
There will always be more things that go into making a first page shine, but I truly believe it's a balancing act between a little bit of conflict and letting us get to know the character. We need to care, otherwise why read on?
What do you guys think?