The Challenges of Writing the First Page
Do you truly believe on the first page as the beginning of a book? For sure it seems like the beginning. However it is (luckily!) just the first half of your history. The challenging white that rises from the screen (or shines, in case of papers) have defeated several writers over generations. It defeats me every week. So why it will not defeat you anymore?
Because if you are reading these words, it means you are looking for improvement. And I contacted an specialist in first pages. His name is Claudio Parreira, a writer from São Paulo who is author of the romance “Gabriel” (Draco), also known as “The Swindler”. He’s the right person to help us through the “dangerous” task of crossing the edge between the world of ideas and the literature’s one: “In my case, when I am writing the first page it is because I had an idea before, although it’s just a slight inkling of what I actually wish to write. I think it is truly hard, but it isn’t impossible, to simply began from nowhere. That’s because the first pages define the next steps of the plot. And the readers can catch it swimmingly and immediately: if the first pages aren’t that strong, one might think whether it’s worth keep reading your book”.
Furthermore, following The Swindler’s idea, the first page is a challenge either for you, the writer, as for your reader. There`s a difference between you both and the responsibility of moving your relationship forward is, in fact, all yours. You are the romancer, the novelist, aren’t you? Whether you let his attention go, don’t eager for a second chance. You may handle with one or at the most two chances to catch the reader. Which means one or two paragraphs.
“Julio Cortázar, Argentinean author, wrote about the difference between a short story and a romance: to the first one you must win the reader by a knockout. For the second you might win by score. But I prefer win by knockout on both cases, to be honest. In my opinion, a genial introduction is that catchs the reader instantaneously. For sure it is easier for short stories, but it’s also possible in romances and novels”, explain Parreira.
Trust me, even the masters suffered on the first page. Gay Talese, for example, in his book “A Writer’s Life”, wrote a lot about this writer’s trial, about the process of starting a story and keep writing it for as long as it will require. According to our specialist, Claudio Parreira, the most important clue is to put the fear out of the table. Then write the first word, then the first paragraph, then let it flows: “it’s really complicated to get it right on the first try, so read what you have written, repeat the process loudly, it can help you on the identification of several mistakes; and start it all over again, if necessary”.
So never give up! Just start it and let it flows!
FIVE GREAT FIRST PARAGRAPHS INDICATED BY CLAUDIO PARREIRA
The Posthumous Memoirs of Bras Cubas, Machado de Assis: “For some time I hesitated whether I should open this memories from the beginning or from the end, which means, if I would start on my birth or my death”.
The mom comes from Asia, Campos de Carvalho: “When I was 16 I killed my professor of logic. Invoking self-defense – and what defense could be more rightful? - I was acquitted for five votes against two, so I moved to a Sena’s bridge, however I never have been in Paris”.
The Shadow of the wind, Carlos Ruiz Zafón: “I can still remember that dawn, which my father drove me, for the first time, to visit the Cemetery of Forgotten Books”.
The Hobbit, J.R.R. Tolkien: “In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit”.
Vertical Plaza, Parrera‘s unpublished romance: “The sleepiness was interrupted as a mirror shattering on the ground; the night exploding in shine and sharp pieces, dust and fragments of a dream”.
TIPS FOR A NICE FIRST PAGE
1 - Let the ideas grow inside your brain and take your time. Remember: in general the first page is the outcome of a maturation
2 - If an idea just arose, suddenly, without warning and demanding to become an urgent text, just let the words flow as a free writing; don’t mind about grammar
3 - Forget your fear and type the first line, then the first paragraph and so on;
4 - After the first paragraph or the first page, stop and read it again, loudly. Listen carefully to your own phrases;
5 - If you dislike what you wrote, don’t push yourself too much, just erase it and take a break. You can back to the text when you feel self-confident again;
6 - Always remember the Samuel Beckett’s phrase: “Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try Again. Fail again. Fail better.”
By Jr. Bellé