As a writer, I’ve long been aware of the importance of the first page and chapter of a book. In fact, I discussed the approach one editor takes to first pages in the entry called Chapter One: More or Less Done. But I think that it’s only been the last few years that I’ve though of the first chapter as a contract with the reader with respect to tone, style and content.
I ran across the idea for the first time in a book on writing by Richard Peck, but I’m sure that it’s been around for a very long time. Orson Scott Card has an entire section on this in his book, CHARACTERS AND VIEWPOINT. In a recent talk at an SCBWI retreat Harold Underdown talked about what a first page needed. Here is something that’s fairly close to a quote: “What does a first page need? The author makes a promise to the reader. There are many kinds of promises and many ways to make these promises.”As I get to work on revising my YA mystery, I’ll be reviewing the promises that I made in the first chapter.
So far I’d like to think that I’ve promised the reader a YA mystery with a touch of humor and romance.