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.

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

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© Author Lorraine Ambers and http://www.lorraineambers.com, 2020.
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Novel Writing – The Three Act Story Structure

A quick reference Infographic for all writers, whether you’re a plotter or planster, to help guide you through your hero’s journey. Take a look at the Three Act Structure and see if it suits your story.

There are other methods, which I’ve covered them in another post: Four Ways To Structure A Novel. If you want to know more, check it out.


I hope you enjoyed this fun glance at structuring novels. The options are endless, let your imagination run free and don’t give your hero an easy time. 😉

If you’re interested in further ideas, check out: Six Ways To End Your Story. 

Happy Writing.
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Do you use the Three Act Structure? Or do you have prefer another method? Please share your writing style, know I love hearing from you.

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

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© Author Lorraine Ambers and http://www.lorraineambers.com, 2020.
how to choose a captivating title

Writer Tips on How to Choose A Captivating Title

The title of a book is important; it has the capacity to entice your audience, or have them reject it simply because it did nothing to intrigue them. I don’t know about you, but I find choosing the right title a nightmare. In this post we’re going to offer some tips on how you can hone your choices and captivate your audience with a just a few words.

how to choose a captivating title

Finish your WIP: Sometimes the title simply comes to you, a miracle gifted from the literary gods. If this happens cherish it and continue onwards in your writing journey. However, this is rare! Often you’ll need to finish writing the novel before you can look back and reflect upon the story.

Do your research: Look up other titles in your genre. Not only will this give you a clue as to what works, but it will also tell you your choice is already taken. There’s nothing more disheartening than having an excellent title in mind, only to discover it’s already in use within your genre. Not the smartest move, especially if the other author is a runaway success.

It’s all in the name: You may choose to use your main characters name as a title, like the famous Harry Potter. Perhaps you could use their mythical heritage, like The Hobbit. Or name it after the place they visit or live in, like Caraval, and if you haven’t read any of these magical series yet, I highly recommend you do.

Caraval by Stephanie Garber

Get poetic: Use alliterations, internal rhymes, slant rhymes and poetic prose. Listen to lyrics, pay attention to movie lines and don’t be afraid to play around with words. Be careful not to copywrite, but you’re an artist, so have fun and get creative.

Themes: Once you’ve finished your book you’ll get a clear picture of the themes, key events, and any related words. Check out my post on defining themes in your novel for more clarity on the subject. Using a single word as your title can be evocative and punchy, try an adjective, a noun, or a verb to sum up the actions or feelings of the book.

Characterisation: Take a closer look at your main characters, what are their key traits and how do they correlate to the story, and to each other. Then use them as a title, this is how I named my second WIP Mischief and Mayhem, click on the link to find out more about that work.

The Positive Trait Thesaurus by Angela Ackerman & Becca Puglisi

Key phrase: There’s nothing more satisfying than reading a novel and coming across a sentence that encapsulates the story or characters and relates to the title. Pay attention when writing or editing, and pick out any phrases that could work as a title. Perhaps a resonant, unusual phrase carries meaning for your work.

Check out a thesaurus: Maybe you’re close, you understand your character and have pinpointed the themes. You’ve loads of ideas, but something is not working and the words land flat. Try using a thesaurus to mix it up a little. Word to the wise, be sure to check each word in the dictionary for clarification, otherwise you could end up with a title that makes little sense, and worse still, has no relevance to your story.

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How did you come up with your title? Please share your experience, it’s fascinating to know how other writers make their choice. You know I love hearing from you.

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

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