Well, I’m back with a mystery, but I’m not happy about it.
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 FIFTY 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:
Bleeding Heart Yard by Elly Griffiths
My curse on this podcast strikes again.
If you do not see the audio player above, you can access the podcast here.
The prologue of Bleeding Heart Yard by Elly Griffiths is quite well-crafted and compelling and leagues ahead of the first chapter, which is an exposition dump detailing a separate character’s fast-track in her career with law enforcement. Now I can see that Griffiths herself is an avid mystery writer, winner of awards, etc., and the prologue shows me why. Writers would do well to study those first couple of pages to see how this first-person narrative shares a lot about the character without saying it directly. For instance, the first two lines read:
Is it possible to forget that you’ve committed a murder? Well, I’m here to tell you that it is.
This isn’t shocking necessarily, as the dust jacket alludes to the group of main characters committing murder during their school days. It’s how the paragraph ends that gets me:
…everyone [during the murder mystery game] would get drunk and forget the clues. This rather irritated me. I like following rules.
This speaks LOADS about the unique juxtaposition of character Cassie’s traits and morals, not to mention the way her mind works.
I was ready and willing to continue with Cassie, only the official first chapter just starts the story over again with a different character. Had Griffiths given us a bit more time with Cassie and smoothed that shift over to another character’s pov–ending a chapter with Cassie realizing this new character would be in attendance at a party, for instance–I think readers would be more intrigued to learn about her “friend” even if it takes sifting through an exposition dump to do so.
No matter what the season brings, keep reading!
Read on, share on, and write on, my friends!