"I grew so impatient with the book that I stuffed it down into the seatback pocket along with the airsickness bag. I was going to leave it on the plane." "Maybe someday I'll force myself to trudge on through it." "I don't want to waste the time I have." "Truthfully? I toss a book aside if I'm not loving it."Ouch! How better to describe a writer's nightmare? Our characters can roll their terrible eyes and gnash their terrible teeth and show their terrible claws like Maurice Sendak's Wild Things, but it's no use: the readers say "no," then climb in their boats and sail away.
As Bonnie said, it's intensely personal stuff. Those authors who wrote the books we didn't read - if they notice this post at all, if they even find their computers under all those royalty statements - they can console themselves with the knowledge that they are in terrific company. PD James? Anita Diamant? Barbara Kingsolver? I neglected to mention that it took me years to get past page one of The Hobbit.
Still, Latayne has reviewed both of my novels, and I can tell you that she is a very kind reader. What could induce this sweet lady to leave a perfectly good, well regarded novel in the pocket next to the vomit bag?
For answers, I looked up Original Sin by PD James on Amazon and clicked on "Look Inside the Book," to read her first sentence:
"For a temporary shorthand typist to be present at the discovery of a corpse on the first day of a new assignment, if not unique, is sufficiently rare to prevent its being regarded as an occupational hazard."Are you bored already? Me too (and the rest of the page is no better). Because the book is a mystery, so of course it begins with the discovery of a dead body, and of course the body is found where bodies are not usually found, by people who don't usually find them. Please, Ms. James, take a break from answering your piles of fan mail and say something that surprises me. Make that first paragraph sing!
Because, as Sharon said, if the writing is bland or cliche, or if the characters don't engage, we can lose our readers before they get to the good stuff. There has to be something wonderful - something surprising, compelling and delicious - on the very first page.
Ah, but how to do that? I'm going to open the question for discussion: what makes a first page sing for you? What method do you use to make your own first paragraphs memorable. We want to know your thoughts.