16.30: First Page Fundamentals—THE HAUNTING OF HILL HOUSE

Your Hosts: DongWon Song, Mary Robinette Kowal, Dan Wells, and Howard Tayler

In this episode we explore the first page of The Haunting of Hill House, by Shirley Jackson, with the goal of learning how to build  good first pages for own own work.

Credits: This episode was recorded by Marshall Carr, Jr., and mastered by Alex Jackson

Liner Notes: here is the 1st paragraph of The Haunting of Hill House, for reference.

No live organism can continue for long to exist sanely under conditions of absolute reality; even larks and katydids are supposed, by some, to dream. Hill House, not sane, stood by itself against the hills, holding darkness within; it had stood so for eighty years and might stand for eighty more. Within, walls continued upright, bricks met neatly, floors were firm, and doors were sensibly shut; silence lay steadily against the wood and stone of Hill House, and whatever walked there, walked alone.

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Write an introduction to your book that is purely description. No action. No dialogue.

Moby Dick, by Herman Melville

16.29: Building Trust

Your Hosts: DongWon Song, Mary Robinette Kowal, Dan Wells, and Howard Tayler

How do we build trust with our readers? What does that even mean? In this episode we discuss ways in which we let our readers know what they can expect from the book they’re holding, and how we set about getting the to trust us do deliver on those expectations.

Credits: This episode was recorded by Marshall Carr, Jr., and mastered by Alex Jackson

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Write down every character in your first chapter on an index card. Write each character’s wants and needs? Ask yourself what stakes can be put on screen now.

The Haunting of Hill House, by Shirley Jackson
NOTE: We’ll be talking about the first page of this book next week, so you may want to add at least page one of this book to your homework.

16.28: Common First-Page Mistakes

Your Hosts: DongWon Song, Mary Robinette Kowal, Dan Wells, and Howard Tayler

Let’s have a frank, and possibly painful discussion about the ways in which the first page can go wrong. It may seem like hackneyed writing advice, but rules like “don’t start with the main character waking up” are rules for a reason.  In this episode we’ll talk about those reasons, and why it’s so unlikely for books which break them to succeed with readers.

Credits: This episode was recorded by Marshall Carr, Jr., and mastered by Alex Jackson

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Have a look at the first page of your work-in-progress, and look for clichéd mistakes.

The First Line (literary magazine)

16.27: Nobody Wants to Read a Book

Your Hosts: DongWon Song, Mary Robinette Kowal, Dan Wells, and Howard Tayler

Our controversial episode title comes to us via John Schwarzwelder, and it points up nicely the importance of today’s topic, which is first lines, first pages, and how we set about convincing people (who may or may not want to read a book) to read OUR book.

Credits: This episode was recorded by Marshall Carr, Jr., and mastered by Alex Jackson

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Homework: read the first pages of the last three books you read. Take notes on what you find exciting about them. What kept you reading? What would make you pause?

The Last Watch, by J.S. Dewes