Kick off the Plot at the Beginning

As many new writers learn, the job of the first page of the story is to hook the reader. There are many cheap ways to do that–like a dream or the reader finds out that the first thrilling five pages are part of the a story the main character is reading. But if you can kick off the plot at the beginning as well as establishing the major characters and setting, you are also creating a hook for the reader that genuinely reflects what they can expect in the story.

Below is the opening paragraphs to my YA mystery, A Shadow on the Snow, with analysis


This novel is a mystery and the first line kicks it off by showing what somebody wrote in an anonymous note.

  • 2. I stared at the sheet of copier paper in my hand as the note fluttered in a gust of January wind. 

The reader knows that this “I” is a female named Rae. When you write in first person, you need to establish right away if the narrator is male or female, so readers can start imagining the character. A disembodied personality will turn off readers. I’m also setting the scene in this paragraph—it’s January and Rae is outside.

  • 3. Really? It had only taken three weeks for someone to hate me and my mom enough to leave an anonymous insult? 

Since the entire novel is told from Rae’s POV, every word is supposed to be from her. The first paragraphs are the readers’ introduction to her personality. I also work in some backstory.

  • 4. Turning over the envelope, I saw my address was written in the same marker, same all-caps style. It was postmarked. I must have missed it when I grabbed my mail last night

These are details to help the reader see the setting and the action. It also shows what kind of mind Rae has, since she’s examining the letter, not just reading it

  • 5. Shivering on the miniscule landing to my apartment, I blew out a sigh, which formed a little cloud in the freezing air. At least the idiot hadn’t crept up to my mailbox in the dead of night. I shivered again, and it wasn’t from another gust. 

More scene setting, more thoughts to get to know Rae.

  • 6. People could hold a grudge in Marlin County, Ohio. I’d learned that in the last three weeks since I discovered Mal was my dad and announced Bella Rydell was my mother. The strained smiles, cold stares, conversations that didn’t get much past “hello” and “I’m fine.” Mom had made a lot of enemies, but that was twenty years ago. I’d told everyone who asked the story of how she’d been saved and changed her life. Well, most of it. 

Just enough backstory to help readers understand Rae’s thoughts about the note

  • 7. I shoved the piece of paper back in the envelope, tossed it inside my apartment, and locked the door behind me. 

Action and scene setting.

  • 8. Holding my tripod and a roll of leftover bulletin board paper in one hand, I clutched the strap of my backpack with the other and climbed down the icy steps to the pad in front of the garage. Picking my way across Mrs. Blaney’s snow-covered lawn, I pulled the keys to my ancient truck from the pocket of my down vest. The Rust Bucket sat by the curb, draped in a thin layer of snow that couldn’t disguise its demolition derby appearance.

More action and scene setting. I provide specific details about the scene such as “holding my tripod”, “clutched the strap of my backpack”, “my ancient truck”, to help readers “see” the scene and to know Rae better. The action, thought, and setting work together to carry the plot, which is the mystery surrounding who wrote the nasty note and why.

For more tips on writing plots, click here.

What stories have you read that do a great job to kick off the plot at the beginning and hook readers on the first page?

A Story for Easter: “Dad Sent Me”

I wrote this Easter story a few years ago to express how I think about Easter. May you be blessed during this most hopeful holiday of the year!


I am trapped.

The boulder is heading straight for me. I can’t escape.  What good would it do anyway?

I’ve ended up in this exact situation before, too many times before, so why try to get away?

It’s my own stupid fault.  I finally get that.

There’s nothing I can do.

I huddle down. How much will it hurt this time? I can’t take much more pain. I am so sorry. So very, very sorry. Not that that matters.

I’m knocked to the ground.  But not by the boulder.

A man, a stranger, shoves me out of the way. I twist around to him. The boulder smashes into him and shatters into a pile of rubble, burying him.

I gape. I stare. Why would a stranger save me?

The pile moves. Flinging off the rocks, the man stands up.

I splutter, “B-b-but how?  But who?  But why?”

Brushing off the dust and dirt, the man gives me a huge grin and answers all my questions with one sentence.

“Dad sent me.”

Be My Valentine Book Giveaway

The Be My Valentine Book Giveaway runs 2/6 through 2/11. The 1st place winner will receive all ten books (authors’ choice of format) and the 2nd place winner will receive three books (authors’ choice of format) of their choosing. A variety of genres, from fantasy to historical romance to suspense and more, are featured. 

Never fear if you don’t have social media–there are author newsletters and blogs you can follow to gain points. Most importantly, for an additional set of points, you have to answer this question: Do you like chocolate, and if so, what’s your favorite type (dark, milk, white, etc.)?

Although it isn’t a romance, my YA mystery A Shadow on the Snow has key scenes set during a Valentine’s Day snowstorm when my teen detective Rae Riley is chased by a mysterious figure. Here’s a snippet:

“At the sidewalk, I glanced up the hill. And dropped the bags.

“A figure, backlit by the streetlamp, stood at the corner.

“Spinning, I fell to my knees. I snagged the bags and, stumbling across the lot, reached the guardrail at the opposite side.

“I scrambled over it and fell five feet down the retaining wall into the little yard behind an empty building. Panting, I raised myself into hunched stance and ran, scrambling over snow-encrusted chunks of crumbling asphalt.

“Please, Father. It can’t end like this.”

A Shadow on the Snow

Enter at this link:

Best of luck!

The Way We Are by Tanya Eavenson

Today’s the last day of our Christmas promotion. I have one more author to introduce to you. I hope some of these titles and blurbs stirred your interest and can help you check off a gift on your list. The Way We Are by Tanya Eavenson is two books in one–two romantic suspense novels in one volume. To take read the first pages, click here.

To Gain a Bodyguard – Book One

Undercover ICE agent Madi Reynolds has spent years infiltrating a human-trafficking ring, but when her life is threatened, she is forced to walk away and advised to leave the country. Undeterred, she continues her plan to attend her brother’s Christmas wedding, with her partner assigned as her bodyguard. But after seeing Brice care for her niece, she finds it’s more than her life that needs protecting. Is there really any defense for the heart?

War Veteran and ICE agent Brice Johnson has been defending his country and American lives for as long as he can remember. Now, he faces the biggest assignment of his life–protect the woman he loves. He’s never been one to run from a fight, but when an old flame butts in expecting a second chance with Madi, and crippling visions of war call out to him, he begins to wonder if surrender is an option after all

To Gain a Bodyguard – Book Two

Undercover ICE agent, Brice Johnson, fell in love with his partner, but the fight to control his PTSD drove him to leave her and his assignment.

Deep undercover, ICE agent Madi Reynolds’ identity is blown, and she is involved in a hit-and-run meant to kill. Lucky to be alive after her vehicle was forced off the mountain, she finds herself in a wheelchair and facing an unknown future.

Even though the men responsible were tracked down and brought to justice, Brice’s gut tells him Madi is still not safe. Details of the investigation aren’t adding up. In secret, Brice moves to Helen, Georgia, across the street from Madi. But how long can he stay in the shadows when seeing her struggle day in and day out bombards him with memories of their happier days.

Unable to forgive himself for Madi’s accident, Brice vows to protect her, but is it enough? Is he enough?

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