The First Two Pages

Every Tuesday, a mystery writer explains how he or she faced the challenges of those brutally difficult–and vitally important–first two pages.

In Media Res: Journey of Strangers

Elizabeth Zelvin

In medias res, ( Latin: “in the midst of things”) in narrative technique, the recommended practice of beginning an epic or other fictional form by plunging into a crucial situation that is part of a related chain of events; the situation is an extension of previous events and will be developed in later action. – Encyclopedia Britannica, available at http://britannica.com

I must have heard the term in media res as a college English major a hundred years ago, but it made an impression on me as a fiction writer when I was working on Voyage of Strangers, my first historical novel. Its protagonist was Diego Mendoza, a young Jewish sailor who accompanied Columbus on his first two voyages to the Indies. Diego’s sister Rachel became a second point-of-view character.

Read More…

Read comments or add your own

Engaging Old and New Readers

Gigi Pandian

Writing a series is tough. I’m not talking about a lack new ideas to keep the books fresh. I mean the challenge of how to hook two different types of readers right away: existing readers, and those who’ve never before encountered my characters.

As an author who writes two not-quite-cozy mystery series, I want any reader who picks up one of my books to have a satisfying experience. How can I strike the balance for what will appeal to both old and new readers?

Read More…

Read comments or add your own

Keeping Readers Guessing

B.K. Stevens

The first sentence of a newspaper article, experts say, must answer five basic questions, usually referred to as the five Ws: who, what, when, where, and why. Some people say the first page of a novel or short story must provide the same sort of information. As soon as possible, writers should let readers know who the protagonist is, what he or she is doing, and where, when, and why all this is happening. I’ve had a contest judge tell me my first page doesn’t work because it doesn’t include a physical description of the protagonist; I’ve seen agents and editors on conference panels toss first pages aside because they don’t precisely identify the threat the protagonist faces. If you Google “first page checklist,” you’ll find confident assertions that the first page must establish the plot’s central conflict, reveal the protagonist’s primary motivation, and do eight or ten other things as well.

Read More…

Read comments or add your own