In Medias Res – Action From the First Page

Now is the final stretch, Minions. Time to make the last push. If you hone your mental prowess to razor sharpness, you will join the elite chosen as Darklings in the service of the master of hypnosis.

So you wrote a great query and the editor opened the attachment. Good job! Now it’s time to set the hook. So you need an amazing first page. Real estate agents will say most people decide if they want to buy a house based on their impression when they drive up. It’s called curb appeal. And even if you have problems elsewhere in your manuscript, a great first page will inspire the editor to keep going.

Style, voice, punctuation… all good. Once upon a time writers could go on for pages building the setting and feel of the piece from the beginning. Today’s attention deficiet readers won’t give you that much time. “In medias res,” means, “into the thick of things.” You want to draw them in from the first sentence. Then keep building through the first paragraph. Hold them for a page. Tease them through a chapter. Each step will bring them further and further into your web until they are hopelessly entangled and commited to read the book through. That’s why the first page is so vital. Many writing teachers say the best place to start the book is usually several pages or chapters later than the author thinks. If you have any back story, I suggest you cut it and move it somewhere else. If you have long descriptions or world building items, they need to be moved. Find the coolest thing somebody says during the most amazing scene and put it word one. The first page, Darklings, is for ACTION!

Here’s the first page of my upcoming novel, Theocracide.

Willing his feet to remain silent, Jason Hunt concentrated on the ground as he weaved between the outstretched claws of the tree branches. The lens on his computer helped him see despite the heavy black of night. He deliberately lifted each foot higher to avoid rocks and roots, which looked deceptively flat on the computer projection screen wrapped around his face like glasses. He controlled each breath so the tiniest sounds would not give away his position to the people hunting him.

Ahead he recognized the welcoming gesture of a large tree with wide branches. Nimbly he slipped around, quietly leaning his heavy pack against it and pressing in so it would support his weight and let him rest. Risking his own safety for a moment, he quickly checked on each of his companions. They were all running from the foes, too. He knew he couldn’t help them now, but resting here, he just wanted some reassurance they weren’t dead yet. He ignored the desire to talk to them and hear their voices. It would be suicide to speak aloud now. The men chasing them were in the army of the Undying Emperor. They would not hesitate for an instant.

Jason winked his left eye, engaging the user interface of the computer. Then the computer tracked his eye movements as he raised the sensitivity of his microphone to maximum. The speakers inside each earpiece of his glasses began to hum as Jason strained to detect the faintest sound within thirty feet. Hearing none, he lowered the volume and then pulled the glasses off the front of his nose so they hung below his chin. Nobody ever did this; removing the computer.

He stared into the dark sky, waiting patiently for his eyes to adjust to the near total darkness. Only a tiny sliver of a moon illuminated the forest tonight. Enough brownish smog filled the air to block out any star light. The pollution filtered the crescent line of light behind many layers of brick red silk. Jason’s father always said something about the moon having turned to blood, but Jason didn’t know what that meant. Right now, he had to exploit the small advantage. His pursuer would never remove the computer.

Eventually his eyes could distinguish the dark gray trees from the black air. So he quietly peered around the edge of the trunk serving as his fortress and scanned the woods. Patiently he traced the ground and every silhouette; searching for any abnormality. His heart leaped when he spotted the steel toe of a black combat boot poking out from a tree trunk about forty feet away. The computer would never recognize it as anything more than a rock.

Jason pushed his glasses back into place, staying well hidden so the light from them would not give his position away. The projected light temporarily night blinded him. He ignored the blur from tears as he blinked up his computer screen and selected the tree. Immediately a dim red glow highlighted the tree among all those around him. Then he returned to the main program. He would be able to find this tree easily from any angle.

A predatory smile cracked Jason’s face. He loved the moment where the game turns; the hunted became the hunter.

For the rest of chapter one, go to my Theocracide Excerpt page.

Please feel free to ask for critiques, suggestions, or clarifications. Head back to the contest site. Go forth in the service of Dark Brain.

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4 thoughts on “In Medias Res – Action From the First Page

  1. Thank you for your comment on my first page. So you think if I stated with more intrigue and mystery, it would read better? Is everything else okay as is, or should I tweak anything else?

    • It’s good, for sure. I just think you want to start with the protagonist. Do the Ashton thing a little later when we care about the girl he is threatening. Start moving from the very beginning so the descriptions are suspenseful breaks from the running.

      • I did have it starting with River. I added the little bit about Ashton because my revision on my query, I changed it completely to Ashton’s POV. My query with River just wasn’t working. At all. Changing over to Ashton’s POV in the query seemed to work much better. But my opening chapter started with River. Now I don’t know what to do…

        • This is not a problem. You don’t actually have to start with the same character as your query. Romance generally has two protagonists (one male and one female) and it is expected that POV will trade between them. So it is okay to start with her even if the strongest pitch is about him.

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