Monday, January 16, 2012

The Page 99 Test

Ford Madox Ford--English novelist, poet, book critic, and recipient of a badass name--once said: "Open a book to page ninety-nine, and the quality of the whole will be revealed to you." The POD People, an online group dedicated to supporting and reviewing independently-published books, seem to agree. Or at least to be interested in the theory. So much so that they invited authors to post the 99th page of their latest works on this GoodReads group discussion board. There was also an entire blog dedicated the page 99's,, but it appears to be defunct. 

In the spirit of curiosity, I decided to see how Vessel stood up to the test. I opened Book I to page 99 and found it to be a rather pivotal plot point, complete with succinct but telling bits about the characters present. Cautious Corin. Bewildered Jordan. Messy Ghi. Behold:


Page 99

tightly. I moved quickly forward by some miracle and stopped in front of them.
     "Hi," I said, as normally as I could, and thus sounded like a robot or a very old woman.
      They just stared back at me, unmoving. Corin looked overtly cautious. Ghi appeared to be utterly terrified. And Jackson just looked slightly impatient.
     "I think I'm supposed to give this to you," I choked, holding the letter out.
      And that could have been the end of it.
      Jackson and Corin both reached for the envelope, but a strong gale blew it right out of my hand. Swooping, it slapped Ghi between the eyes and then fluttered onward. Before we could so much as lunge for it, Jesse's letter blew right over the platform's edge and out across the park.
     "I got it!" Ghi volunteered abruptly and darted for the steps, hurtling down them in a jumble of far-flung limbs. The three of us who remained moved to the side railing. Unacquainted and awkward, we watched him sprint across the lawn, chasing the envelope halfway around the platform. It cornered itself against the high walls, and Ghi jogged in to snatch it up before it had a chance to blow away again. With a triumphant motion, he stuffed it between his sweaters and started coming back around the jutting corners of the platform walls, back to us.
      But then Ghi turned a very significant corner of that wall. He stepped around it and came face to face with Stella Rosin. He saw her face register shock, then ferocious outrage.
     And then he saw concrete.


Interesting, right? At the moment, I have no other books handy but Jitterbug Perfume (I am travelling). Page 99 anticipates butt-sex in a barn, typically magical Tom Robbins fare. Ford Madox Ford is right again! Post or link your page 99s, be they spot-on or underwhelming, and have a memorable Martin Luther King Day.

1 comment:

  1. Interesting... I'm going to try this! And if I'm that far along in my manuscript (I'm a word- rather than page-counter), I'll have to check out my own 99!