Writing a great beginning can be complicated and frustrating. Not to mention all the “so-called” rules a writer must follow. First, you’ll need to “hook” the reader from page one and reel them into your narrative. Second, you must have an original and compelling opening sentence. And third, you must lure your reader into the storyline so quickly and cleverly that they are already on page twenty by the time before they realize it.
Most writing advice will state that a writer should dump their character(s) into the midst of some horrible dilemma.
Whether you want your manuscript to stay clear of the slush pile and gain an agent’s interest or entice a reader to flip the page of your self-published novel, as the writer your job is to achieve all of this within the first page.
You’re probably wondering how to get readers to instantly connect with your characters if they don’t know more about their backstory or history.
Don’t worry about that in the first chapter and learn to trust your readers. If you’ve began your novel at a crucial point in the character(s) lives where they’re caught in some type of conflict or danger or the inciting incident, then the reader is going to connect with them right away and be eager to find out what happens next. The reader will have a natural curiosity in finding out how the characters resolve their differences, stop the antihero, tackle their fears, or overcome adversity.
Now, take an impartial look at your first scene. How many questions are left unanswered? If there are none or very few, then look at your first chapter and see where the real questions, the real excitement starts, and then put that at the opening of your manuscript.
The goal of the first chapter is to create a “tension rope” tight enough to pull the reader into the second, third, and fourth chapters, and on to the end. Your openers in each chapter are very important to keep your reader turning the pages to find out what’s going to happen next.
As a writing coach, I consider it a privilege to edit the work of other aspiring writers. I know each one of them has spent countless hours creating their stories and I love helping them bring out their voice, enrich their prose, and take their writing to the next level. That said, the first chapter is so vital that I work closely with my clients to craft a riveting first paragraph
For a first chapter to be successful, it should do at least one of the following:
* Appeal to the readers’ emotions
* Include unanswered questions
* Hint that something is about to change
* Reveal the main character(s) goal
* Create immediate some type of suspense or dilemma