The first page, part 5 - Establish the tone or atmosphere

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

Establish the tone or atmosphere of the story

In addition to using key words to indicate genre, use key words to develop a certain feel to the writing, setting, and story in that first page.

Remember, you are dumping the reader in a completely new story world. You want them to be able to know what type of story this is going to be right off the bat. If they’re expecting a gripping, emotional story and the first page is heavy with action, they’re going to close the book.

If your story is going to be humorous, start it out humorously. Also, use key words that indicate whether it’s dry British humor or slapstick comedy or sarcastic chick lit.

If it’s going to be a roller-coaster ride, start it out quickly. Use strong words and sharp sentences to strap the reader in for a wild read.

If it’s going to be deeply emotional, start it out emotionally. Use words that evoke strong emotional responses so that the first page tugs at the reader’s heartstrings.

It is not just your reader you’re trying to orient in your story world—it’s the editor or agent. You want to let them know as soon as possible what type of story this is—it marks you as a professional and not someone who still needs lots of unnecessary fluff edited out of your story.

Click here for part six.


  1. Hi Camy! Just wanted to let you know how personally helpful I find your posts. In appreciation for all the writing advice, I'm giving you a blog award at WordVessel (


  2. Thanks, Cathy! I'm glad my blog is helpful to you!


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