You’ve Got Five Pages, #TheLioness by Chris Bohjalian, to Tell Me You’re Good. #FirstChapter #BookReview #Podcast

Hello, amazing fellow creatives! Here’s to more fun perusing the library’s new releases to see what strikes our fancy. As I mentioned in an earlier post, I’ve retitled Story Cuppings to better fit the premise of the podcast.

As writers, we hear all the time that we’ve got to hook readers in just the first few pages or else. We’ve got to hook agents in the first few pages or else.

Whether you’re looking to get published or just hoping to hook your reader, first impressions are vital. Compelling opening scenes are the key to catching an agent or editor’s attention, and are crucial for keeping your reader engaged.

JEFF GERKE, THE FIRST 50 PAGES

Well then, let’s study those first few pages in other people’s stories, shall we?

Today I snagged from the New Release shelf:

The Lioness by Chris Bohjalian

The opening pages of The Lioness by Chris Bohjalian are…well hang on. The single page of prologue is not dense. In fact, the prologue feels a little like a cheat. “We went on a safari and almost everyone died! Who died and who didn’t? You can’t know yet!” So of course we have to read on to find out what they’re talking about. Only of course the first chapter isn’t starting off with such a tense moment; in fact, we start the chapter with watching giraffes.

If you do not see the audio player above, you can access the podcast here.

That is not to say the first chapter is without tension, however. I will give Bohjalian all the props for having very layered prose, hinting multiple sources of tension on a honeymoon where tension between newlyweds should be the last thing anyone wants to see. Nothing is stated, but sure as hell is implied, and this kind of setup cues the reader that personal conflicts will boil over in the coming chapters. Because the hints are wrapped up in exposition about characters and interactions from a previous evening, the first chapter feels very dense and motionless, which doesn’t seem fair. I’ve no suggestions for how else to do this, for as a writer, I deeply respect the layered prose of meaning between the lines. I just wish a bit more action could have broken up the density of that first chapter so a cheat of a prologue wouldn’t have to be used at all.

As always, I love hearing what’s on the shelves of your own libraries. Libraries Rock!

Read on, share on, and write on, my friends!