Julie Kagawa is a wonderful author. I LOVE her debut YA series which is why I was so excited to see her new YA series ‘The Immortal Rules’ out on a pretty kick ass display stand. Without reading the first five, I bought it. Now, I won’t say I regret it. Because I absolutely don’t. Julie is masterful with her world building and characterization, but I sort of stumbled over the first five of this book. (More accurately, the first sentence of five.)
Read Below: (From The Immortal Rules by Julie Kagawa.)
They hung the Unregistereds in the old warehouse district; it was a public execution, so everyone went to see. I stood at the back, a nameless face in the crowd, too close to the gallows for comfort but unable to look away. There were three of them this time, two boys and a girl. The oldest was about my age, seventeen and skinny, with huge frightened eyes and greasy dark hair that hung to his shoulders.
Admittedly, this paragraph doesn’t suck. Public execution is interesting and dominates the second sentence well, but the lead sentence fell flat for me. I believe it was the use of Julie’s label ‘Unregistereds’ that threw everything off. Later in the book, you learn all about the Unregistereds and how they scavenge to live, but here, in the hook sentence, it read awkward. Now, if it were placed elsewhere like this:
There were three of them this time, two boys and a girl. The oldest was about my age, seventeen and skinny with huge frightened eyes and greasy dark hair that hung to his shoulders. I stood at the back, a nameless face in the crowd, too close to the gallows for comfort but unable to look away. They hung Unregistereds in the old warehouse district; it was a public execution, so everyone went to see.
The ending is stunted flow wise because these sentences are so short, but the beginning has a smoother start and draws me in faster. arrangement is key in the first five. You should always erase anything that reads in the least bit awkward and try again. After all, this is your novels first impression so make it count.
In the second example, we become curious about the three people, then we find out what they look like in relation to our MC. After that, she tells us where she’s standing and what she’s standing near which worries us. ‘Gallows’ is a perfect lead in word for the ‘Unregistereds’ sentence because, at this point, our visual is formed and we can easily associate the term with the people about to be killed.
Now, let me reiterate. I am NOT saying Julie Kagawa did anything wrong. She didn’t. I am not even saying her first five were bad. What I am saying is that had I been her beta reader I would’ve pushed, hard, for a different arrangement.
Think of it like this: the first five is a handshake introducing us to your author voice, your character’s voice and the books current scene. Do you want your handshake to be a confusing fist bump, hand slap combo or a firm, unyielding grasp that will hold your readers attention like Rose held on to that plank of wood after the Titanic sank? (Ah. Poor Jack. I wish he’d been smart enough to find himself a flotation device. Silly boy.)
I digress. Today’s point is simply this: in the first five paragraphs of your novel always remember arrangement rules.
The End. 🙂