Afraid of making the same mistakes again, I decided to do some research. And here it is, in the hopes that someone else will find this useful too.
I went on Amazon and went through the first pages of thirteen books in the YA paranormal & fantasy categories. For each, I read the first page ONLY. If I wasn't hooked by then, too bad. If the book had a prologue I did the test on both the prologue and the first chapter (since I know a lot of people don't read prologues, and those that do might get turned off by the prologue before getting to the first chapter).
The three categories I had were: Setting, Character and Intrigue. I classified Intrigue as leading me to ask a question, wanting to know more. I only counted character if it was details about the main character, and it was more than just their name.
If I was on the fence about putting a book in any category, I left it off. Each book had to be clearly in each category.
|The numbers of books that fell into each category, or multiple categories.|
Based on this pie chart, Setting is the most common component of first pages. 88% of the pages I surveyed had details about setting. Usually they set up the MC's 'normal world', whether it was a fantasy setting or the real world. Kristen Lamb has a good post on why you want to start with the normal world, if you're interested.
Intrigue was the second most common at 56% and Character last with 37%. I think it's interesting that 44% of the pages didn't have Intrigue.
I also gave each book a rating out of five based on my 'Desire to Read On'.
Before I go on, I'd just like to say that these ratings in no way reflect how good the book is. It's only based on the first page and how badly I needed to turn to the second page to know what happens next. It's also, obviously, very subjective. Some pages I gave a five for that others may have given a two, and vice verse. Also, I didn't count words, so some books (if there chapter headings took up most of the page) had fewer words to capture me in.
Clearly, for me, Intrigue is the most important factor in getting me to read on. Which brings me back to the pie chart, 44% didn't have Intrigue!
Lets have a look at what groupings of these elements made me want to read on the most:
Because the sample size was so small here, it's probably best not to drawn conclusions from the data, but as I've already said, this is a very unscientific study, so I'm going to anyway.
Intrigue is the single most important thing to have on your first page. Probably also in your first sentence.
The differences between Character and Setting are marginal, but carrying on the unscientificness (it's a word) I'm going to say that Character is second, and Setting last (the most common element in first pages).
I'll break it down one more time, in the interests of transparency, and so you can disagree with me about various pages if you would like:
|* Fallen does have a prologue but I was unable to get the first page from Amazon|
So, what do you think? Agree with my very unscientific study? Disagree? Have anything else to add?
Next week, in part two, I'll break down the first page details, and what about each page lead to them getting a higher or lower 'Desire to Read' score.