Wednesday, December 15, 2010

The Page 69 Test

You may have heard of the page 69 test. I’m not sure who deserves credit for thinking of it. I’ve seen similar tests before. The premise is that you can open any book to page 69, read what is there and know whether you want to read the book or not. I think there is some truth to the premise. Page 69, in many books, comes before the break into the second act, so we’re still identifying the problem to be solved, but we’ve gotten most of the introductory stuff out of the way. Page 69 is likely to be the climax of the problem definition.

I applied this test to my WIP, The Unwanted Mother (or whatever the title is by the time this post airs). It turns out that on page 69 of my manuscript, Fox is talking to his wife about the two guests that have shown up unexpectedly. He has taken his wife breakfast that was prepared by the woman and he discovers that while his wife had initially accepted the girl the woman brought with her as her granddaughter, she is rethinking her position. During the night, she overheard the woman and the girl talking about blackmailing Fox’s son, so that he would marry the woman.

When we consider that the whole book revolves around the distrust Fox has for this woman who has shown up and his fear that she is trying to harm his family, page 69 appears to be very descriptive of the story as a whole. I’m sure that we can apply this to many other books as well. But there is a problem in that not all books are the same lengthy. I’ve seen books that were 100 pages long. Page 69 in such a book is well past the midpoint. It’s easier to apply a hard and fast number to movie scripts because they are written for time and the turning points all happen about the same place in the script, but with books it is problematic. So, by all means, read page 69 of a book, but it might not hurt to look at the pages around it as well.


Michelle Davidson Argyle said...

Hmm, interesting. So if it's a novella would you cut that page number in half?

Timothy Fish said...


As far as where it puts us in the story, it probably should be, but I doubt many readers in a store are deciding which page to turn to based on how many pages the book has. I could see me doing that, but most readers who are trying to apply the page 69 test are going to turn to page 69.

Michelle Davidson Argyle said...

Hmm, you're probably right. I'll have to go see if page 69 of Cinders is intriguing. :)