The first page, part 3 - Establish the protagonist

This is continuing my series on things to look for in your first page.
Click here for part two.

Establish the protagonist

Your first paragraph (ideally—or at least the first several lines of the book) should mention one of the main protagonists by name.

The first page of the book is one place where you can break with deep point of view and mention the entire main character’s name, even though technically, in deep point of view, the main character would only think of him/herself by a first name.

This was not the smartest way to die.

USAF Pararescue Jumper Manny Péna grunted, tensed his muscles and tried again to flare the canopy on his parachute.

No go.
--A Soldier’s Family by Cheryl Wyatt

It’s usually best to start the story in the main protagonist’s point of view, opening the storyworld from the protagonist’s eyes, being in her thoughts and body.

Allison Stewart’s future hung in the balance. Her job. Her research. Her attempt to make a difference.
--Countdown to Death by Debby Giusti

Sometimes you can have another character mentioned in the first sentence, but it’s from the main protagonist’s point of view:

Martha had an iron rod where most people had a backbone.

Grant smiled as he pulled his team to a stop in front of the train station in Sour Springs, Texas.

She also had a heart of gold—even if the old bat wouldn’t admit it. She was going to be thrilled to see him and scold him the whole time.
--Gingham Mountain by Mary Connealy

Now, before you start hollering that “lots of multipublished authors don’t start with the protagonist,” yes, you’re right.

But here’s a bare fact: the majority of readers expect the first character they meet to be the protagonist. I don’t know why, but it’s a common phenomenon.

Therefore, it behooves you to start with the protagonist.

One exception is if you start in the villain’s point of view. But that’s still starting with one of the main characters in the story (just not the hero or heroine):

Not so pretty in death, are you.

Head twisted, back arched. Contorted mouth, eyes wide in shock, limbs all locked tight.

Now your outside looks like your inside—a black soul, an immoral soul, a horrified and horrifying soul, bound for the black pits, the depths of darkness, for eternity, ever and ever on.
--Dead of Night by Brandilyn Collins

Look at your first page—do you establish the protagonist within the first few lines? Are you in the protagonist’s point of view?

Click here for part four.


  1. Great examples, Camy. I also found Noah Lukeman's book, The First Five pages helpful. Blessings, Teri


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