Sunday, March 6, 2011

the Importance of first Pages

I love reading in bed. There is no better feeling than great lighting, a comfortable seat and fluffy covers that will make sure I never get cold, I can start and finish a book without even moving.

I have noticed, however, that since I feel I have less 'time' to read when I am about to start a book at 11pm, I'm getting more titchy about first (1o or so) pages. There's so many promising books that have first pages that... just don't do it for me.

So today's post is about first pages. My opinion, expectations, wishes, and of course, your thoughts.

I believe first pages have the potential to make or break a book. If they suck you in right away and capture your interest completely, I'm sold. I'm in, 100% and it makes me unbelievably happy because it makes me feel like I've found a treasure. If the writing or characters are especially engaging, I can easily read the entire book in one sitting, and most likely give it a positive review.

However, on the flip side, I think I've gone through the first pages of four or so books recently. They are books I expected to love, like, fall head over heels but something--the immediate connection-- is stopping me. Just two examples:
  • Ash by Malinda Lo, I haven't read more than 50 pages because quite frankly, I just can't for the life of me connect with anything.
  • Sea by Heidi R. Kling, another one I expected to love, only to find myself converting all the hype to skepticism. The voice isn't particularly working for me. Now don't get me wrong, I will go back and read it through but from initial thoughts, I'm not really turned on.

And of course, I'll mention some first pages that totally worked and had me reading well into the night: Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins: there is humour and fun stuff and intrigue and interest to keep me reading. Not That Kind of Girl by Siobhan Vivian just has a fantastic protagonist with such an engaging voice. Haha, maybe I just need to read books with longer titles. Both these books' strong points are evident within three or so pages.

What I always hope from a book: a sharp voice. And by sharp, I don't mean clipped or pointy, more like something confident, something that is in control of the book and right away starts guiding the reader through. Something put-together and please, dear god, something that is engaging. Not necessarily witty or funny, but something real.

With first pages, this will always be the first thing I notice. I mean, there doesn't need to be a plot yet, or even secondary characters, the first few pages are just me and the writing. And I feel this should be enough.

I feel the first 10 pages should be enough to make me want to read more, it should be enough to make me not jump ship and open another book, and I don't think I'm expecting too much. I'm always disappointed if this isn't the case.

However, I feel in the scope of the novel, if I can get past the initial detachment of the first pages and fall in love with the novel, initial reactions are the furthest thing fro my mind.

Now I'd LOVE to hear your thoughts :) And please note, that 'first pages' is not the same thing as a 50 page rule, it is the first 10 or so pages that can immediately raise or lower your expectations.

Do you feel the first pages affect your immediate reading enjoyment?
Do you have certain expectations for books to immediately draw you in, or are these just hopes?
Do you easily plow through these first 10 pgs and get to the action?
Lastly... how important are first pages to you in the scope of an entire novel?

PS- this just sprung and idea, perhaps you will find a post about 'first sentences' soon ;)


  1. This is a fabulous idea for discussion!

    I totally know what you mean about first pages. There is just something so satisfying about opening a book and immediately being sucked in.

    I use the 100 page rule when I review, but like you mentioned above, I would really like it if a book was able to suck me in within the first 10 pages. I find that a lot of books that I end up liking in the end have really slow beginnings, and if the first half of the book bores me, I usually drop the overall rating, even if I give it a positive review.

  2. First pages are definitely important for me. I want to know the character well enough to want to spend the rest of the book with them. No matter what, though, if I've got the book, I will read more than the first ten pages, even if it doesn't completely grab me (I almost always finish a book). Overall, the first ten pages is all about the character and their problem. If that's cool, then I'm cool :)

  3. Great discussion topic! I'm a first pages snob, even though I really shouldn't be.

    I was standing in the library when I read the very first page of Kiersten White's Paranormalcy. I snapped the book closed and walked straight to the checkout line. I was hugely confident that I would love the book and I was right! Evie's voice just completely sucked me in and I knew she would be a character I wanted to read more from.

    On the other hand, Deception by Lee Nichols, Waterfall by Lisa Bergren, and Brightly Woven by Alexandra Bracken are all some of my absolute favorite books, but it took me a chapter or two to get into the books. After the initial set up I was totally hooked, but those first few pages didn't immediately grab me.

  4. I used to be more willing to give books a longer chance when they weren't initially doing it for me, but like you said, there are so many great books I want to read that I feel like if this book can't do it for me in the first few pages, I've got plenty of other books that I could be reading right now instead of this one.

    My insanely large to-read list is what is causing me to dismiss books so much more quickly than I used to.

  5. Yes if I find I can't even focus on page one who says I'm going to stick around for the rest? it's pretty much like this if I'm reading the first sentence and I find my eyes and mind wondering how many pages are left then I don't know if I'll even request it from the library to start with
    A little bit of both I always want the book to draw me in but if it doesn't draw me in on like the amazon preview then I don't think "I'm not going to like it" I just hope that I'll focus on the actually book
    No not really I mean for example I started reading city of bones but just could not finish it lagged so so did I the hunger games on the other hand I plowed though the first 10 pages not even thinking about it
    though there are exesptions such as hush hush and 13 to life where I couldn't get past the prolog online but once I had the book it's self I finished them no problem but for the most part if it doesn't grab me from the first page then no thank you

  6. Great post!
    l think it really depends on what mood l am in and how time limited l am but l do agree, the first pages are very important.
    l wasn't sure about a book at the library, read the first few lines and knew it was my sort of book!

  7. I think being pulled into a novel within the first pages is getting more important to me now that my TBR pile seems to be growing a lot more.

    If it's a book I see randomly through browsing at the book store that I'm not as familiar with, it's even more important that I'm grabbed in right away because I usually read reviews beforehand to see if it's a book I know I'll love. If it fails, I set the book back on the shelf, but if I'm hooked, then I'll usually buy it or at least put some more thought and consideration into it.

  8. To be completely honest, I don't really have a rule I go by....but it's usually the first 50 or so pages.
    And I believe they're ridiculously important! I think it's one of the things an author should work hard on! Who's going to want to read your book if the first few pages suck and you can't connect to anyone, but the ending is good?

  9. Oh, totally, this applies for me! I want the first pages to grab me. I'm usually more lenient for stories that promise to be good plot-movers, but as Maggie said, it doesn't matter if the first few pages suck but the ending is good.

  10. OMG yes! The first pages make it or break it for me. I wish it wasn't true. But it totally is. Great post :)

  11. Great discussion. I think the first 10 pages are important. I think it gives you are good idea of the flow of the writing and if the writing is too disjointed then I will give up then and there. When it comes to characters I give it a bit longer.

  12. I know, right?

    Also, I didn't think SEA was all that great :/ I was all pumped about it b/c of the reviews but it didn't really do much for me...

  13. Most definitely agree here, Audrey. I've given up on books because the first pages didn't grab me, but what is even more surprising for me is when I read a review that convinces me to give the book a second chance and I'm swept away.

    I don't think I have an expectation that books will automatically do this, but I can't help hoping that they will.

    Great food for book thought post.

  14. Yes! I totally agree! I have huge expectations for books to pull me in and hold me quick. I would have to say that one of my favorite 'first sentences' from a book would have to be Before I Fall by Lauren Oliver. --

    "They say that just before you die, your whole life flashes before your eyes..."

    I will definitely be looking out for that post on 'first sentences' :)


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