Thanks to Lee for inviting me over here today.
The more I read – and write – the more convinced I become of the importance of beginnings. First impressions count, even more so when there are now so many books vying for our attention. So how do you select a book from the hundreds of new ones that are released every month? What makes you put one back on the shelf but take another to the checkout, or ‘browse the book’ online but then click on something different? When I’m choosing a book I read the back cover copy and I always, always read the first page. Those first few lines are important to me. They tell me a lot about the style of the story and the voice of the author. Sometimes when I ask someone about a book they’ll say ‘I haven’t got into it yet’ or ‘it’s a bit slow’. What they’re really saying, of course, is that the book hasn’t gripped them. And for an author, that’s dangerous. Maybe that reader will stay with the story regardless, but what if they don’t? They might decide that life is too short to stick with a book they’re not excited about reading and put it aside in favour of another one that grabs them right from the beginning. And then you’ve lost them...
I keep all this in mind when I’m writing my own books and try to remember that the first few pages may be my only chance to hook a new reader. This is especially true when writing in a short format like Harlequin Presents. Every word has to count.
So what makes that first chapter special?
For me, it’s being plunged straight into the action. Whether it’s emotional, physical or both, something important needs to be happening, right from the first page. The reader needs to be sucked straight into the story. If it’s a Harlequin Presents then there’s going to be plenty of passion and I don’t necessarily mean the lip-locking variety (although maybe that too!) – I’m really talking about high emotion. The book needs to begin with a situation that is urgent and really matters right now to the hero and heroine – a point of change in their lives.
The books I’ve enjoyed reading most have been the ones that have me rooting for the main characters right from the beginning. What about you? What makes you buy a book?