First Five Pages Checklist

The first five pages of your book are so important. As aspiring authors, we are well aware of their significance. And we place so much time and emphasis on getting them right. While we probably have a fair idea of what to do and not do in our first five pages, here is a quick recap of things to keep in mind when looking at the start of your novel.

Important questions to ask yourself:

Does the first line engage your reader?

Is your main character properly introduced?

Has the POV and narration style been made clear to the reader?

Does your reader get a good feel for the world – i.e. have you set the status quo?

Have you established your main character’s deepest desire?

Is there an inciting incident?

The most important thing to avoid at the beginning of your novel:

The information dump. 

Your reader is only starting to get to know your main character and within these pages, so you don’t want to overwhelm them with backstory or world building information so early on. Remember, you’ve got a minimum of 80,000 words to work with, you can take your time introducing the important background information. 

Writing Flashbacks

There are many ways that we can provide our audience with the information they need to follow along in a story. Many of us will use dialogue secondary characters to expose important tidbits of information that are integral to the plot.

However, sometimes another technique that can be used are flashbacks. These are moments within a story that take you back to specific moments within a character’s life. Flashbacks are not to be confused with simple memories. Memories can be summed up in a few sentences like “Alice held the melting ice cream cone in her hand, thinking back to the breakup. She hadn’t touched mint chocolate chip since.” Instead, flashbacks are a whole scene set in the past that takes your reader to that exact moment. And, flashbacks usually tend to expose something important. 

I had a professor in college once who described flashbacks as sort of like an “aha” moment for the reader. They are supposed to make something click in the story, whether it’s a key plot point or a breakthrough in character development. 

Since flashbacks are usually set in the past, they can be a little tricky to write as they can be jarring for the reader if not done correctly. That is why some writers tend to stay away from them. Personally, I love a good flashback. I think they’re great for giving readers very in-depth insight into a character’s origins. But flashbacks should be used sparingly – don’t include one in every single chapter or else you’ll end up with some very confused readers. 

The rule of thumb that I tend to follow for setting up a flashback is essentially what my college professor told me. She said keep them short and sweet. They don’t have to be any longer than a paragraph. And don’t use dreams as a way of setting up a flashback. It’s too cliché. Instead, she taught me to think of all flashbacks as being a doorway for your reader. While your character might be your reader’s guide, you still need something that will take your reader through that doorway. This has to be a trigger for your character to then open up that door. For example, that trigger could be the smell of lavender if your flashback is set in lavender field in the south of France. Or, perhaps a stack of dishes crashing to the floor in a busy restaurant can trigger your character to flashback to a traumatic moment in their past. Either way, it has to be something that will pull them into the flashback and then pull them out. 

So, if your character is an old woman harboring a secret about her eldest child not being her husband’s child but rather the product of an affair with a French lavender farmer, then you have two options. You can either expose it through dialogue or some other means like a found letter, etc., or you can reveal it during a flashback. If you decide that a flashback is how you want to expose the secret then you need a doorway. If the old woman smells the fresh lavender in her garden and thinks back to that wild summer in Provence, then she needs to come out of that flashback through the scent of lavender. If your character is escaping an abusive relationship and the sound of shattering plates takes them back to a really dark moment in their past, then those shattered plates need to bring them back to the present – that can be the scraping of the dishes being swept up or something like that. 

Flashbacks can seem intimidating to write, but they do add something unique to your writing. Are you pro flashbacks? Let me know!

Author Interview with Ashley L. Hunt

Dragon Soul Press sat down to interview Fairytale Dragons Author Ashley L. Hunt.


  1. Where do you get your inspiration?

My inspiration comes from a lot of places. Sometimes it’s a way I had wished another story ended. Some of it is adventures I would have loved going on, if they were possible. (Anyone know where I can team up with a dragon?) Sometimes characters just form and they need places to go.

  1. When did you start writing?

I was very young, I remember that. When I was 3 or 4, my brother and I would get all our toys and we would send them on these long epic odyssey to reach a goal. I didn’t think to set my stories to paper until I was 9 or so.

  1. What does success mean to you? What is the definition of success?

Success to me is completing a task and getting some acknowledgement for it. It’s probably on the smaller scale of what success means to others, but it’s good for me.

  1. How much ‘world building’ takes place before you start writing?

It’s a little bit before and some after. I leave space to build as I go, but I have enough foundation for a solid world.

  1. Describe your perfect book hero or heroine.

A perfect book hero is someone who is flawed, someone who gets scared or isn’t always sure, but does their best anyway. For me, they need to do what they can to make the world better, and they learn a lesson on the way.

  1. What was the inspiration for the Fairytale Dragons story?

I’ve been studying fairy tales since I was a child and I absolutely love dragons. Cinderella is easy to mock because in today’s day and age she looks weak. It’s not fair because she was a brave and courageous young woman who stands up and she bears her part well. She deserves better and I hope I gave her that.

  1. What were the key challenges you faced when writing this story?

In the original, Cinderella is passive and docile. She reacts to the plot rather than inspiring it. The plot happens around her. So I had to give her an active role in the story. Her godmother is also this strange shadow in the background who shows up randomly then vanishes from the story again. (According to the French telling, she’s absent in the German and Italian) so an added challenge was to show a relationship with Cinderella and her godmother while giving her a reason to not help Cinderella.

  1. Who is your favorite author and why?

Favorite author is harder to pin because there are so many for a million different reasons. Madame Du’alnoy stands out among fairytale writers because she has a particular style to her writing that is rich but doesn’t bog down the story. My favorite book is the Wizard of Oz, by Lymen Frank Baum so of course he has a special place on.

  1. What was your dream job when you were younger?

I wanted to be a singer, but I can’t hold a note. My dog runs up to check if I’m dying.

  1. Where can readers learn more about you?

You can find me on Facebook.

View at Medium.com

Author Interview with Andrea J. Hargrove

Dragon Soul Press sat down to interview Fairytale Dragons Author Andrea J. Hargrove.


  1. Who is the author you most admire in your genre?

The author I most admire in the fantasy genre is J.R.R. Tolkien because of the way he made his magical and fantastical stories feel real, especially in his Lord of the Rings trilogy and related works. He was able to draw on his own experiences fighting in a war when fleshing out the conflict in his stories, and more importantly, how that conflict affected both the soldiers and the civilians. Then he took that foundation and layered his own carefully-crafted world on top of that, including fully-realized histories, cultures, maps, and even his own invented languages. Finally, he put memorable, fully-formed characters into that world and gave them some incredible adventures. That level of craft and commitment is something I admire and aspire to.

  1. Do you listen to audiobooks?

I like to listen to audiobooks while I’m doing things like knitting, painting, or chores that take a long time, because I don’t want to keep stopping and re-starting the story. For the same reason, I don’t usually listen to them on my daily commute, but I usually play one or two on longer road trips.

  1. What do you like to do when you are not writing?

Besides reading, I have a few different hobbies that help clear my head. I go on short walks almost daily and longer backpacking trips as time permits. I’ve recently started kayaking, too, in warm weather. Fortunately, I also like some things that can happen year-round. For instance, I like to dabble in various arts and crafts (without too much success so far, though that won’t stop me from experimenting). I also study kenjutsu and iaijutsu (samurai sword arts) at a nearby martial arts dojo.

  1. Where did you get your inspiration for the Fairytale Dragons story?

The timing of this anthology worked out really well for me. This year, library where I work had the Summer Reading Program theme of “Imagine Your Story”, celebrating fairy tales, fantasy, and mythology. As a result, I’ve been immersed in these since we started preparing last winter. We had to cancel or modify most of our programs due to quarantine, but the theme stayed the same, which made me happy, since it’s one of my favorites so far.

During this whole process, I brushed up on lots of old stories, and one that was on my mind when I saw the call for submissions to Fairytale Dragons was The Frog Prince. It seemed like a natural transition, since humans being transformed into animals is a common staple in a lot of fairytales, and someone being transformed into a dragon would create a whole new spectrum of problems. This is what I wanted to explore in The Golden Arrow. Before I started writing, though, I re-read a few different versions of the tale. I was most familiar with the version told by the Brothers Grimm, but it’s been retold many different ways in many different places. Besides the Grimm tale, I also drew inspiration from another German version and a tale from Russia called The Frog Princess.

  1. Are you currently working on anything new?

I’m simultaneously working on my first novel and putting the finishing touches on two more short stories that I’ll be submitting for consideration to upcoming fantasy anthologies.

  1. What famous author do you wish would be your mentor?

Though he isn’t primarily known for his speculative fiction, I would want James Patterson as a mentor. He has an incredible ability to connect with readers across genres and age groups. At my library, I’ve talked to kids, teens, and adults who’ve all gotten hooked on his page-turners, and I think I’d have a lot to learn from him.

  1. What’s your favorite food?

Breads of any kind are my weakness, especially blueberry muffins. I try not to bake these too frequently, since they disappear far sooner than they should.

  1. If you had to describe yourself in three words, what would they be?

Curious, quiet, & hopeful.

  1. What’s your favorite spot to visit in your own country?

Locally, there’s a park where I go to walk and to write a lot. I also like visiting relatives and spending time with them where they live, but besides these places, my favorite spot to visit is the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City. It’s packed full of stories from different people in different places and different times, and those stories are told in a beautiful way.

  1. Where can readers learn more about you?

On my blog, Amazon, Facebook, Twitter, and Goodreads.

Author Interview with Robert Prescott

Dragon Soul Press took a moment to interview All Dark Places 2 Author Robert Prescott.


1. What inspired you to start writing?

I caught the bug in high school through reading. I read a lot of fantasy and horror, and I was enthralled with the world building and relationships between the characters I was reading about. That led to me writing my own stories, which I’d bring to my creative writing teacher for feedback.

2. What advice would you give a new writer, someone just starting out?

Don’t do what I did. After high school I let writing fall by the wayside because of my career and other creative outlets like music. It was only in the last year or so that I rediscovered how much I love telling stories, and now that I’m refocused, I regret the time I lost. Aside from that, I’d say don’t be afraid to submit your work. Be confident in yourself and your story—all they can say is no, right? That doesn’t mean someone else won’t say yes. Lastly, make sure every part of your submission (the story, the body of your e-mail, your author bio) are all fully proofread and professionally presented.

3. How do you handle writer’s block?

How do you come up with the titles to your books? I’ve only written short stories so far, and I usually look for a common theme in the story to help me with the title. In The Cell Block, that theme was obvious since the entire story takes place in the town jail. I did the same thing for another story of mine titled Black Friday.

4. How do you do research for your books?

I’ve mostly used the internet to find what I need. It can be risky due to the loads of misinformation on the web, but if you take your time you can find a lot of good primary and secondary sources for your topic, and even peer reviewed articles if your story contains more technical or scientific aspects.

5. Who is your favorite author and why?

Stephen King. He’s probably the main author who inspired me to write. Any time I’m describing what a character is thinking or feeling during a scene, it’s because I read so much of that in his work.

6. What do you like to do when you are not writing?

When I’m not writing I’m either playing guitar (mostly rock and hard rock), gaming (PC, Xbox, or Switch), spending time with my girlfriend, or reading.

7. Favorite artist and favorite song?

Music is a huge part of my life—there are too many artists to pick a favorite! Right now I’ve got “Blood From Above” by Stryper on heavy rotation, and I’ve also been listening to a lot of Metallica, ZZ Top, and Rush.

8. What are you reading now?

I just started re-reading The Night Angel Trilogy by Brent Weeks.

9. What’s your favorite food?

Italian food, definitely. Manicotti, lasagna, and spaghetti are some of my favorites.

10. Where can readers learn more about you?

My Amazon author page, Facebook author page, and lastly, my Instagram author account.