Saturday, May 1, 2010

Sara Crowe: My Favorite First Pages (or How to Make an Agent Fall in Love with You in Four Pages or Less)

Reported by Angelina C. Hansen

Sara Crowe, literary agent with Harvey Klinger Inc, a full-service literary agency in New York, shared with us examples of first pages that caught her eye and then explained why. Of the projects she represents, most of those first pages haven’t changed.

Sara loves to see first pages that establish voice. Voice includes an engaging emotional truth and sets a tone for the rest of the novel. For Sara, it must be endearing and honest.

The second element she looks for is the character. She wants to meet the main character by means of a description that shows who they are. She looks for word choice and again, the voice. She warned, though, that too much description is “not good”.

After character, Sara looks for the hook. This is the element that makes the reader ask, why?

The fourth element that will make her fall in love with your first pages is authenticity. She recalled spending teen summers in Nantucket when the police would send out decoys to find out where the party would be that night. They could always spot the fakes by what they wore (touristy T-shirts) and how they spoke. “Dude, where’s the party?” Not authentic. Teens will easily detect a fraud.

Sara concluded by warning her audience of three first-pages turnoffs: clich├ęs, lots of dialogue in the opening, and prologues that aren’t really prologues.

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