Someone responded to my Friday posting from the query wars with the following:
I know there’s no exact science, but what typically grabs you in the first five pages enough to make you request a partial (the writing, characters, plot)? I’ve heard agents say most of what they receive is an obvious pass, but what about well written pages with something interesting happening and potentially intriguing characters, yet you still pass? What are the factors then? How much can you really tell in those five pages?
My first reaction to this was to feel that it’s an impossible question. I thought about this and thought some more. It’s one of those questions that if you answer you know you’ll leave something out. So, I felt like if I did that I would not be helping either myself or anyone else. At the same time, I know that you really can tell a lot from the first five pages. Part of that may just be having read a lot of “first-fives” over the years and developing an eye for it. But I was still stumped as to how to sum this up, and then I was talking to a friend and this analogy (which appealed to my chowhound nature) came up:
You can go to a gourmet restaurant that’s scored Michelin stars and there will be things on the menu that you just aren’t going to eat, no matter how refined the ingredients or how skilled the chef. And you can often tell from the first bite.
What makes me read five pages and request more? When that first bite was a beckoning bit of all those ingredients (writing, characters, plot, etc.) that left my mouth watering.