Crafting a Killer First Page

Creating Scenes that Come Alive!

Ray-Rhamey-150wBased on the Flogometer critiques Ray gives on his blog, Flogging the Quill, Ray has led this participatory workshop at the Write on the Sound, and Murder in the Grove, and Mendocino Coast writers conferences.

Feedback has been consistent--both the writers whose work is critiqued and the other workshoppers both enjoy the session and learn a lot about crafting a compelling first page. There’s a lot of laughter in his workshops, too.

Workshoppers submit opening chapters ahead of time to Ray, and he covers as many of the submissions as time allows. Writers whose work is critiqued benefit from the light of many fresh eyes, including notes by the other workshoppers and Ray’s comments.

The photo below taken at the 2009 Write on the Sound conference, shows over 100 writers hard at work in Ray’s workshop.

Comments from 2009 Write on the Sound workshop

Super presentation, very useful, eye opener.

Excellent, helpful, learned a lot, well prepared & interesting speaker.

Excellent training method.

Great fun and a real demonstration of what it takes to be noticed.

Outstanding information, worth the price of admission!

Interactive, real-world exercise was very helpful.

Presenter was witty & informative.

Entertaining, informative and the energy he gave to reviews was amazing.

Excellent, powerful, useful.

Great class, interactive, bring him back.


killer 100WThe fiction writer’s task is to create the experience of the story in the reader's mind, not to just write a report of what happens. Combining a technique called experiential description with action beats in dialogue, writers can turn description and speech into the experience of the story.

This workshop leads writers to think about how to write for effect—the use of writing technique to affect the experience the reader imagines. The workshop presentation is based on these chapters in Flogging the Quill:

  • Writing for effect
  • Six vital story ingredients
  • Make it experiential to characterize
  • Tags: games writers shouldn’t play
  • Cook up some tasty beats

Writing exercises in the workshop:

1. Describing place and action through experiential description

2. Adding action beats to dialogue to bring it to life


Novel, Kathleen Toomey Jabs
Fuze Publishing

      Workshop details:

  • Topic segment: fiction craft
  • Course level: all levels
  • Workshop length: 1.5 hours or 1.25 hours will work.
  • Workshop format: presentation and writing exercises. Using examples from my book, Flogging the Quill, I illustrate “writing for effect” as a way to focus on delivering the experience of a novel. Then I discuss how to use “experiential description” of place and action to characterize and deliver a character’s experience, and how to interlace dialogue with action beats to make it more real while also characterizing and advancing story. Then attendees are given brief scenarios and apply the techniques (i.e. describing a place through the points of view of two characters), which are read aloud to the group.
  • Expected outcome: a greater understanding of how to craft narrative and dialogue to bring to life the experience of the story in a reader’s mind.
  • Presentation needs: ideally, handouts and a projector for my laptop (PC), but the workshop can be done with handouts only.