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How to Nail Your First Three Pages

Lesson 9 of 9

What is the Ongoing Consequence?

Lisa Cron

How to Nail Your First Three Pages

Lisa Cron

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Lesson Info

9. What is the Ongoing Consequence?

Lesson Info

What is the Ongoing Consequence?

As you can see, those first lines hooked us. Now, we've gone into the, here's something happening, here's who it's happening to, your protagonist. We've seen what's at stake and what's that tough decision they make. Given the decision they make, and this is what's going to hold you, the question becomes, how does the consequence of what's going to happen, move the story forward? The domino has gone over. A way to look at it, another way to ask it is to say, how did what just happened lock your protagonist into the story? They're now locked and loaded, because that is what's going to hook your reader and keep them reading. Here, what's happened here in All the Bright Places, is that he decides to save her, and so he talks her down, and the consequence of that is, because in life, once we know somebody, we tend to think that we know what they'll do in just about every situation, and that's sort of how we go forward. I've gotta know you and then I can figure you out. Are you safe or aren'...

t you? So we make assumptions based on, you know, what people have done in the past. Their past, right, because our past is how other people figure out who we are as well. Again, I can't get in enough times, backstory matters most. But anyway, so given their backstories, Finch and the girl whose name is Violet, well everybody knows that Finch is always talking about killing himself. The school knows, her parents know, his parents know, their friends know, so when he talks her down, the assumption everybody makes is that he was gonna jump and she went up there and talked him down. That's what everybody thinks. That is what everybody thinks. And what happens is, they both let that stand, neither one correct that, neither Finch or Violet correct that. They allow that to be believed and now the two of them come together and we find out about Violet very quickly, what's happened to her, she did have a reason to be up there, she certainly would've wanted to jump. What happened to her was she had an older sister, a year and a half older than her, and nine months earlier, her sister died in a car crash. They were in a car together and her sister died. And it's really kind of great because it wasn't the usual thing where she blames herself for the wreck for some reason, she doesn't. You know, she wasn't driving, her sister was driving. They weren't drunk or stoned or anything, it was just wrong place, wrong time. Coming back from a party and they went over an icy bridge and the, you know, the car just skidded and went over and her sister was killed and she has not been able to come back into life after that. In fact, she's not gotten into a car from that moment and now it is January and she's out there in bare feet in the snow. She's been riding her bike to school in the snow, because she will not get into a car. So what happens is, we're locked and loaded with them as we see how they're gonna navigate forward. And what happens is, as he tries to pull her up, she tries to keep him alive and they end up passing each other as they go forward. And it becomes her story by the end. So locked and loaded by page three, we have now got exactly who the particular protagonist is, they're together, we know what the story is. So that brings us back to what it is that you need to know and what you need to get onto the page in order to hook and hold the reader. You need that first paragraph that makes a promise to your reader, that gives us some notion of what is the big overarching plot problem, the picture we're going forward with, where is the conflict? Give us that conflict right there if you can, or at least intimate what it's gonna be. Give us the context of what arena is this problem going to unfold in, so that we have some yardstick that we can use to play forward and make meaning. Let us know what the scope is, how far are we gonna go, so it doesn't feel like it's going to go on forever and a day. Then, you wanna be sure that now that we know what the problem is, you need to be sure that that is, right now, kicking into gear, something is happening. You've given us the yardstick, now we're gonna use it based on what exactly is happening, that first domino that's going over. But in order for that to have meaning, we have to have the protagonist. The protagonist needs to be there so we know, it's not just about something that happens, it's about who it happens to and how it affects that person. And in order to know how it affects that person, we need to really understand why it matters to that person. Which means you need to really figure out, okay what is their agenda, what have they stepped onto the page wanting, how does this affect that? Them achieving that goal, that agenda, and then given what happens here in this scene, what do they lose? What's the first thing they're gonna lose? Or gain, sometimes they gain something, it's not always a loss. In fact, you might even say there with Finch, he actually gained something, cause he didn't die. I mean he does, he gains something, because what he gains is, is his relationship with Violet, with somebody who pulls him out of wanting to die for a while. So he actually gained something, he didn't lose something in that situation. So what is that loss, that skin in the game that that character now has? And then you wanna be sure that that then plays forward, because now you've got us hooked and you want that next domino to topple, because if we're there with you, we are already anticipating what that might be. We've already got enough of the wow, I'm so curious, I see what's at stake, I see why it matters, I see what might happen, and I have some notion of how that's going to affect this person who I now care about, whose skin I'm in, the protagonist, and I wanna know what happens next. In fact, you don't just wanna know what happens next, the truth is, it's biological, you need to know what happens next. That's what gives you that sense of urgency. So you get those things onto your first three pages, or four if it needs to be, and you will have hooked and held the reader. And then the only thing that you need to do, is now that you've made that promise to the reader, you need to write forward and fulfill it. So, I wish you luck in doing that and that is what you need to do in order to nail those first three pages. Don't worry about writing it beautifully, that is the last thing I'll say. The end.

Class Description

Writers know that the first three pages are the most crucial when it comes to hooking the reader. You have to stoke the reader’s curiosity, making them not just want to know what happens next, but have to. It’s biology! Not only that, but the seeds of everything that will happen in your story are planted in the first few pages. No pressure, right? And to make the task even more daunting, ironically, most of what writers are taught to do in those three pages end up locking the reader out, rather than luring them in.

We’ll debunk myths that may have been leading you astray, zero in on exactly what readers are wired to expect in those first few pages, and how to get it onto the page. And the best news yet: the last thing you want to do when first writing those opening pages is make them “beautiful.” The biggest fear that keeps writers from getting past the first sentence is believing that it has to be “perfect” right out of the starting gate. Not only doesn’t it need to be, it can’t be. Big sigh of relief!

In this session you’ll learn how to:

  • Duct tape the critical inner voice to a chair so you can really write.
  • Create the five essential things your reader is wired to expect on the first three pages.
  • Plant the seeds of what’s to come beginning on the very first page.
  • Avoid the crippling myth of “holding important info back for a big reveal later.”
  • Make your reader have to know what happens next.


Elise Loyacano Perl

I rewatched this recently to help me as I was getting ready to write my first few pages. Very helpful guide in focusing on important aspects of how to hook the reader. Lisa Cron is clear and engaging. I highly recommend all her classes.

Caleb Koh

I love and immensely enjoy Lisa Cron's classes! They are packed with so much insightful information, palpable exhilaration and courageous authenticity. She provides enormous value at a fraction of what she SHOULD charge! This class is no exception. Thank you, Lisa, for all that you do here at creativeLIVE.

Jacquelyn Dohoney

A friend of mine recommended this class to me and I'm so glad she did! Now I know exactly how to reorganize my first chapter!