Ask Daphne! About First Pages

June 14th, 2011 • Kate

jessicasimpson_wedgeIn a comment on a previous post, Olivia asked:

If a query letter interests you and you go to read the pages, what things about the pages might turn you off to requesting more? (Or what things in the partial/full will prevent you from wanting to go further with the project?) Very wide questions, I know, but having had a request for a full (from someone else- haha) and then that full being ultimately rejected without any sort of feedback, even general things might be helpful as I set about more edits.

When I’m looking at the first couple of pages, I’m usually wary about rookie mistakes — main characters waking up, especially on their birthdays, looking in the mirror to describe themselves, complaining about how ordinary or boring their life is. If you’ve avoided that, I don’t so much as think about things that will get me to say no, as what can you show me to make me say yes.

I want to be immediately interested in your main character, and get a sense of their personality. Or maybe you’re opening with a situation — I want to believe it’s real, and be appropriately terrified/anxious/nostalgic/amorous, etc. I want something different, something that compels me to read on, not the same trite, tired introduction. I want emotion. Humor. Yearning. Heart.

So it’s not about what turns me off, but what turns me on. Hint: not the shoes above. Do.Not.Like. And yet they could have been great with a different heel.

And maybe that’s a metaphor for your opening pages. Ya think?

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2 Responses to “Ask Daphne! About First Pages”

  1. Emily B Says:

    Thank you! As always, your advice is very helpful. I've just started sharing my first pages with a critique group, and I'm so glad I haven't made any of the rookie mistakes you mentioned.

    Also, I agree about the shoes. I don't think they know what they are trying to be. Wedge? Classic black heel? Let's have a distinct personality, shoe!

  2. Tonya Kuper Says:

    Always great to hear what is inside an agents head. Thank you for the post!