Welcome back to the first season of Ten Days of Writing! On Day 1, we went through our favorite first chapters and analyzed what made them hook the reader so fast. So today, we’re going to build a list of FIVE elements that make a beginning great.
There are hundreds of posts out there on this topic. So the way I’ll be working today is I’m going to link a few of the articles on book beginnings I found most relevant, and point out my favorite element in each of them.
ONE: Compelling Character
From Writer’s Edit, 7 Key Elements to Include in Your First Chapter.
This is probably the most important thing for me. As I said on Day 1, if the first chapter doesn’t have a unique voice or format, if it doesn’t have high stakes or a twist, I can still be hooked in the story by falling in love with the characters, like I did in The Fault in Our Stars.
The best way to ensure that you introduce a compelling character in Chapter One is to get to know that character as well as possible before you start writing.
TWO: Where to Begin?
From Tckpublishing, Elements of a Great First Chapter.
We all know the importance of starting our stories at the right place. But I like how this is approached in this post. In my opinion, All the Bright Places is one of the best books ever written, mainly because of its opening. For a book revolving around the theme of suicide, what better place to start than with two teens meeting on the roof of a building, ready to jump?
Plots are built on conflict and change, after all—so in order for things to change, you’ve got to establish a status quo first.
THREE: THE PUZZLE
From Darcypattison, 4 Goals for a Novel’s Opening.
When I read a book, I need to understand quickly what the quest is. What the characters are going to try to accomplish. It gives me a sense of where this is going and if I want to be a part of it. It also gives me a mystery, a question I want badly answered. In this article, they see this as giving the reader a puzzle to solve, and I agree with them that it should be one of the most important goals of your novel’s opening.
The plot, the events of the novel, should give the reader an immediate puzzle to solve, something to worry about, something to read on to find out what happens next. It must start on page one! Not page 3 and certainly not page 25.
From Nownovel, How to Begin a Novel: 8 Ways to Captivate.
With the billions of books out there already, and the billions being published every year, it’s more important than ever to captivate the reader from page one. There are several ways to do that: an original concept, a scandalous character’s goal, a unique format or setting.
But one thing that works for me every time, no matter the genre I read, is an interesting dialogue. For two reasons:
1. Because dialogues are easy on the eye, and I feel like I’m making progress really fast in this book.
2. Second, because they show me how the characters think, and it can surprise me, or comfort me when I can relate to someone else’s thought process.
FIVE: THE INCIDENT
From Livewritethrive, 3 Things You Must Have in Your Novel’s First Paragraph.
The first line is really important. The first paragraph even more. This article strongly suggests you to start with a BAM! from the very first paragraph. To put your character in the middle of something.
Conflict. Conflict is vital for the survival of a plot.
Insinuate a conflict, a problem, some tense situation that puts the protagonist right in the heart of a scene that will be the perfect milieu to showcase her humanity, needs, fears, dreams, or whatever it is you want to reveal about her to the reader at the start.
- Know where your story begins
- Introduce compelling characters
- Captivate (dialogues are useful for that!)
- Give the reader a puzzle to solve
- Start in the middle of conflict
Those are, in my opinion, the most important things to have in a first chapter.
For the comment section below:
- Do you agree with this list?
- What are some elements you would like to add?
- Does the first chapter of your WIP cover these?
For your personal wordcount:
- Write a book beginning that starts with dialogue. Try to give a puzzle to solve through that dialogue.
That’s it for today!
Stay tuned for tomorrow!