Monday, May 14, 2012

SERIES - Your First 50 Pages

Part 1 of 8

Do you know the value of your first 50 pages and what they must accomplish? They must:

1.  Engage the reader
2.  Introduce your main character
3.  Establish the context of the story
4.  Reveal the genre
5.  Set up the tone
6.  Introduce the antagonist
7.  Establish the MC's (main character) desires
8.  Begin the MC's inner journey

How do you do all this in the first fifty pages without boring the reader, misleading the reader, or dumping a whole lot of back story on the reader? Very carefully and with finesse. I know, not the answer you were looking for. Let's dig further for a better one.

Okay, so let's look at how to Engage The Reader:

First and foremost - feeling. Think about a main character from a book you read, or a movie you watched, and try to figure out why you cared about that person. Maybe they brought back memories, or helped you to relate to a certain dilemma in your own life. In other words, they moved you and helped you experience the story on an emotional level. You felt their sorrow, anger, and joy. You felt sorry for them, maybe even pitied them. You felt.

The best way to engage your reader is to make her develop a bond with your character. Build a strong and solid emotional connection between your reader and the main character.

Think about this. Writers don't only do this with people. Do you remember the Benji movies about the little mutt dog? How strongly did you feel for that little guy? And all he had to do was look at you. But the writer brought you inside the dog's head, made you feel his sadness, pain, turmoil, etc. The writer made you forget there was a trainer standing off-camera making the dog do the tricks. That's what you must do as a writer. Make the reader forget there is a writer off-stage making your characters do and act the way they are.

Does your main character need to be likable? Let me ask you this: have you invested many hours reading a book where you didn't like the main character? Probably not. So, to engage your reader you must make your reader like your main character. 

I'm not saying you can't have a main character with a bad side. In fact, it's almost required that your character be flawed in such a way that the journey is worthwhile. But also remember that she has to be somewhat likable at the beginning, or you'll risk losing your reader for good.

Now, we've determined you need to make your character likable; but how? You need to make your main character a hero of some sort. Give them principles, show their softer side, their vulnerabilities, make them wise, or intelligent.

Get your reader to pull for your main character, intrigue the reader, give them a reason to turn the page.

Make your reader's world dissolve, and help them enter the world of your character. This, and only this, will make them turn the page.

Please don't forget to stop by for part 2 of this series - Introducing Your Main Character. For more resources on engaging your reader check out:

Until then, my best wishes for your greatest success.

Dee Ann
Author of The Consequential Element