The first page of a book is crucial, to hook your reader and give a sense of what the story is all about. Introducing characters and problems with a sense of drama. A sense of setting. A hint of voice. The reader is in the bookstore, sees the pretty pretty cover and picks up the book. She’s never heard of you, but she likes fantasy romance so she checks out the back blurb, maybe the reviews page…and then opens to the first page. Times are tough. Money’s tight. Are you worth blowing $15 on the unknown? Gotta impress her in a hurry, so she doesn’t put you down and walk away. What do my first paragraphs tell you about each of the following books?
Rufus Quickblade hadn’t returned from warning the king.
Dara rose from her sleeping mat and slipped outside. Fiery Mount Aege towered above all, a silent menace in the northwest. An unnatural stillness hovered in the leaden dawn. No birds chirped from the bare branches of trees. No small animals scurried through the fallen leaves on the forest floor. She peered through cold, curling autumn fog, shivering as thunder rumbled closer. The clarion call of trumpets pierced the silence, followed by the shriek of a wounded charger.
The woman was destined to die without his aid, forever lost to the spreading darkness.
Cianan ta Daneal’s visions were no longer confined to nighttime dreams. In yet another one, he watched as, surrounded by boiling rivers of blood, she held off an army of skeletons with a flaming sword. How many times had he seen her fall, felt her terror and despair in her final moment of life? Horror skittered up his spine. He had no idea how to find her, or how much time he had to save her. But his heart told him where he needed to be—here in Shamar, an unfamiliar name in the northern region of his map.
“Bran, don’t go,” Finora pleaded, even as she handed him his seabag. Rona, the ginger cat, wound around her ankles with a plaintive meow.
“One last trip and we’ll have enough coin for a boat of our own.” In the flickering candlelight, Bran’s copper green eyes gleamed down at her from a face ruddied by years of salt air winds and pounding surf. “Think on it, Nora, no more workin’ for others, none to answer to but ourselves.”
The supreme irony that he worked so hard for his own freedom whilst denying her own was not lost on Finora. Her heart ached. She pushed the pain aside. “I’ve a bad feeling about this trip. Clouds pile up just beyond the horizon and the wind is rising. Please, stay here with me.”
What to do when nightmares become real?
Kneeling on the damp, stony ground, Pryseis took a deep, shuddering breath of frosty mountain air and stared at her sunlit reflection in the shimmering pool. She ran a hand through her hair, watched the long, iridescent strands slide through her fingers in the streaming sunbeams. Light which made her wings tingle as they absorbed energy directly from the sun’s rays. The fading glow warned her the end of the day fast approached. Dread seized her at the thought of sleep. Every night the same small, scared voice in the dark haunted her dreams.
“Help me…save me…” She’d added her magic to her sister faeries’ to ease his suffering. But the group’s spirit-nets had no effect on the child. Now he’d faded from their senses and singled her out. None other still heard his cries. His anguish was in her head, in her heart.
And she couldn’t get him out.
Wrongness. The fine hairs rose on the back of Cheyenne Rafferty’s neck as she crouched beside the ice-laced pond and surveyed the too-still Montana forest. She sniffed the air, catching only the normal scents of an early mountain spring: spicy Ponderosa pines, new quaking aspen leaves and the mineral tang of mud-tinged snow. She strained to listen. Silence. Dead silence. No animals, no birds. She wanted to melt down into true-self and let Sister take over. The white wolf’s senses were more acute, but she needed to record and report for the Forestry Service. Hard to do with paws and a growl.