How to Write a Fantastic First Chapter

How to Write A Fantastic First Chapter

The first chapter of a story has a lot to deliver. On top of setting up your main character, and their world, it also has to hook the reader. Get it wrong, and you’ve lost the reader–that’s game over! So to help you get it right, here’s some tips on what you should or shouldn’t do in that all important first chapter.

Setting up your first chapter.

Do – introduce your Main Character. The reader needs a sprinkling of basic details to build a picture of the character. Show them in their ordinary surroundings, living with a flaw (or emotional wound) that impacts their lives in a negative way, ready to take them on their arc.

Dohint at the theme. It might only be a sentence, but it will help set the tone of the story, giving the reader a taste of what’s to come.

Don’t – start with lengthy exposition, world building, flashbacks or dreams. This also includes lengthy internal monologue, while your character stares out the window. It’s super boring. Instead, orient the reader in your MC’s world right from the start.

Dream Big and Let Nothing Hold You Back
Photo by Matheus Bertelli from Pexels

Do – keep the scene active. Have your character interact with the world around her. We want to see her/ him running for the bus because they’re late again. Out hunting for food to feed their starving family. Or leaving their own birthday party, because the cute guy hasn’t noticed her, only to bump into him in the courtyard (that’s a scene from one of my novels). Set the pace, set the tone and get the reader inside the character.

Do – Include your characters goals. You’ll want to hint at, or include, the conflict that will prevent your MC from reaching their goal, thus injecting stakes. If you’re following The Three Act Story Structure, then the inciting incident may not appear in the first chapter. But delivering the set up, that will propel your MC to take action and begin their journey, is a skill worth building.

Don’t – bog down your first chapter with side characters. Keep it central to the protagonist. That doesn’t mean you can’t include other characters, that’s not realistic or practical, but limit them so that the reader connects to your MC first. If your story is a romance novel; include the love interest. If it’s a murder mystery; have them stumble across a dead boy. And it’s always fun to hint at or include the antagonist too.

Water-girl-emotions

Do – open the scene with an intriguing, catchy first sentence. This is a skill all writers would love to possess. Read the first page of lots of books, get a feel for what works and what doesn’t… and practice, practise, practice.

Remember, just because were told not to do something, doesn’t mean we have to listen. If you want to open your scene with a flashback, or multiple charters, then go for it. Read lots and write lots, that is the real advice, and the best way to learn your craft.

I’m sure there are many more do’s and don’ts. Do you have any? Tell me friends, what piece of advice would you give for writing a first chapter. You know I love hearing from you, so please leave a comment.

Fantasy writer Lorraine Ambers blog banner

Thanks for stopping by, until next time, Much Love.

Pinterest    Instagram    Twitter    Facebook

© Author Lorraine Ambers and http://www.lorraineambers.com, 2020.
Blog banner - notebook - pens- candles

Writing The Perfect Opening Chapter… and what not to do

The first chapter of your novel is important; its where you’ll hook your reader, introduce your protagonist, hint at the antagonist, reveal their goal and introduce the stakes. And that’s not all, writing the first chapter will set up the rest of your novel, linking all of the plot points together.

Are you overwhelmed yet? I know I am. I thought I knew how to write a great first scene. Turns out, I was wrong and in today’s post I’ll tell you why.

We’re constantly told not to open with a clique start: No starting in the middle of a battle scene, waking up from a dream, or with lots of internal monologue while your character does something mundane like washing the dishes.

But we’re also told to show the character in his ordinary life, just before a pivotal point which will start the story and raise the stakes. BUT make sure it’s not the inciting incident, because that comes a little later. What?

Notepad-coffee-flowers-writer

The first chapter should focus on your main character, don’t clutter the scene with secondary characters, unless they play an important role. Eeh?

Make sure you give the reader all the details; age, weather, time of year, appearance, their fears, a goal and, of course introduce the stakes. BUT don’t bog down the scene with exposition. Right?

World build: Know the rules of your magic system and adhere to them. BUT don’t throw too much at the reader and confuse them.

Start with an action scene to hook the reader, something to show the character actively engaging with the world around him, be careful not to write a passive character that gets led alone. BUT remember the reader doesn’t know the character yet, so why should they care if they get killed in battle.

Please, no prologues. Unless it adds to the story, them yes give the reader a prologue.  Ahh, screams at the conflicting advice and throws a fluffy pillow across the room.

Whilst wending my way through the S**t storm of conflicting information, I wrote a great chapter, but I also got it seriously wrong. I did not ask, Why should the reader care about my Main Characters?

You see, I’d used the checklist of Do’s and Don’ts, but completely forgot the power of empathy. We need our readers to become invested in our characters, right from the start.

And there we have it writer friends, there is no one-stop-post to fix your first chapter. It takes persistence, a continuation of building upon your craft, getting honest feedback, and practice, practice, practice.

Never give up, my writer friends. I believe in you.

Fantasy writer Lorraine Ambers blog banner

Please share your experiences of writing that all important first chapter, you know I love hearing from you.

Thanks for stopping by, until next time, Much Love.

Pinterest Instagram Twitter Facebook

© Author Lorraine Ambers and http://www.lorraineambers.com, 2019.
As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.

hook-blog image-writing tips

How to Hook a Reader from the First Sentence.

We all know first impressions count, from the title to the very first sentence. So if you lose the reader at this point, chances are they won’t be coming back again. Whoever said ‘don’t judge a book by its cover’ probably was not in the writing industry. The first line needs to be brilliant, presenting something curious, shocking or entertaining, and it must be an example of your best writing.
pen-notebook-coffee-writing tips

 

Fear not, writing buddies; you’re not alone in editing that all important line for the trillionth time. It’s something most of us struggle with at some point.

Here are some examples of excellent first lines, they hook your attention long enough for you to think, ‘oh, what’s happening here?’ Lets’ take a look, perhaps you’ll recognise a few.

“It took seven years to get the letter right.”

“Blue Sargent had forgotten how many times she’d been told that she would kill her true love.”

“The screw through Cinder’s ankle had rusted, the engraved cross marks worn to a mangled circle.”

“I remember lying in the snow, a small red spot of warm going cold, surrounded by wolves.”

“I hate having to dress like a man.”

“After a year of slavery in the Salt Mines of Endovier, Celaena Sardothien was accustomed to being escorted everywhere in shackles and at sword-point.”

Book Petals Love Writing Novel Author Lorraine Ambers

So what are the magic ingredients for crafting a great line?

They encourage a sense of curiosity or shock: Why does she have to dress like a man? Why does she have a rusted screw in her ankle? What was so important that it took seven years to write?

They present the reader with conflict: Will she escape slavery? Why does she have to kill her first love and will she get away with it? Will the wolves kill her?

By combining curiosity and conflict you drop the reader straight into the action, where things are about to start happening, getting to the heart of the story as soon as possible.

While it’s tempting to lure the reader in with beautiful descriptions and lengthy prose, you run the risk of losing the reader’s interest before they’ve had a chance to meet your character.

The same might be said for opening with dialogue; the reader hasn’t had a chance to become orientated with the story, let alone become invested in your character. Why should they care what they’re talking about?

Alternatively, opening with inner dialogue gives a deeper perspective, potentially allowing the reader to become accustomed to your MC through their thoughts and actions.

Don’t forget to check out your favourite novel and see if any of their first lines grab your attention.

Author Lorraine Ambers - fantasy romance writer

Thanks for stopping by.

Until next time, Much Love.

Pinterest    Instagram    Twitter    Facebook

© Author Lorraine Ambers and http://www.lorraineambers.com, 2019.