Writing the first chapter is seen as a difficult task. Many believe that if you don’t nail it, you have lost your reader. The reality is that it is very easy to achieve a great first chapter, it doesn’t require much of you or your story at all. There are just some simple things to remember.
Let’s jump into it!
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1. An Interesting Opening
The first and most simple thing you need to remember is an interesting opening. The way you make it interesting is by getting the reader’s attention with a scene fitting for your novel. In other words, dive right into the action!
No matter what genre you are writing, be it horror or romance, you need to give the reader a sneak-peak of what is to come. It not only puts them in the right mood, but it also gives them a good idea of your writing style. Whether you start with a romantic monologue, a haunting crime scene or a suspenseful fight-scene, you have got your reader’s attention!
2. Don’t Rush the Plot
You don’t want to rush the plot. Your reader has just been introduced to some characters, they have a decent understanding of what is going on, but they don’t know what the core plot is just yet. Nobody should establish their goals and dictate the events that are to transpire in your novel.
Your first chapter sets the scene, introduces intrigue, nothing more than that.
In the second chapter and beyond, you can get straight into it with the knowledge that your reader is interested.
3. Keep it Simple at First
Next, keep it simple. There elements to every story that is foreign to the reader, only known by those who have read the novel or written in. World-based jargon is confusing to most readers unless you have a character that goes ‘what?’ a lot.
Start simple, don’t throw them into the deep end. That is a strategy that works for other activities in life, but not so much for writing. Give your reader an opportunity to be immersed, don’t exclude them by confusing them.
4. Use Dialogue
Dialogue is interesting and investing. A reader can get a good idea of a character’s personality from their dialogue. What they are feeling, what they want to do etc. It doesn’t matter if you are writing in the third or first-person, a dialogue is a part of writing that everyone can enjoy.
You can ignore this piece of advice if lack of dialogue is important to your plot, but certainly, keep it in mind. If you have characters to work with, don’t let narration be your only story-telling mechanic. Dialogue keeps your reader reading more than paragraphs of world building and description.
5. Careful Pacing
Pacing a story as a whole can be difficult. Pacing a chapter on its own is more difficult. Being that is only a single chapter you are writing in the beginning, you need to space the events of the beginning properly if they are to lead to the events at the end of the chapter.
Something that is obvious to some, but not to most. You cannot simply jump from action to calm dialogue without a good reason. ‘Pacing’ doesn’t mean breaking up slow moments with fast moments, it means properly ordering a sequence of events so that each scene flows into the next. Make sure you maintain pacing in your first chapter this way.
The good news is that if you have a great idea of what your story is about, you will have a great idea of pacing for your novel.
6. Establish Some Core Details
While you are not establishing the plot so soon in your novel, you need to establish what kind of world and characters your reader is going to be reading about. If you are setting your novel in the future, make sure they get that idea. Some science-fiction props and well-described technology (barring jargon) can go a long way in setting the scene.
World building is something that you will do throughout your novel. Core details on your novels setting and characters should be established soon. It will help immerse your reader, get them settled with what they are jumping into. It will also keep you from overcomplicating it.
After all, the core of any novel is a character or group on some sort of journey. Be it to find treasure or justice or a date to the prom. Well, it makes sense then to establish what’s important for your story. The character and world-space.
7. Establish Important Character/s
In regards to your important characters, don’t feel stressed if you have more than one. You simply need to start with the first. If it is a group of characters than know each other from the beginning, introduce them in the beginning. However, if it is a group of characters that are all equally important, but are only introduced gradually, then simply start with the first.
Which is the first character you wish to talk about?
It may not even be the protagonist. It could be the antagonist who is so important that they need to be introduced. All this needs to be considered.
8. Do Your Best
Now is not the time to be shy or lazy. Your first chapter is the first impression you leave with the reader. It can decide if they leave your book on the shelf or take it home. It is time to show what your book is worth and put your best foot forward.
You have some sense of your writing style, so take it up a notch and show what you can write on a great day. Introduce your character, describe your scene and wrap your reader in the pages of your book. Their fingers should be stuck to the book with the glue of interest!
Simply, write the first chapter and keep rewriting it until you are happy with what you have!
Many novels I have written have gone through constant scrutiny, from the first chapter to the last. However, it is the first chapter that I have always enjoyed more than any other.
It is the beginning, the simple start to a story that draws me and my readers in.
Upon finishing a novel I truly enjoyed, I immediately turn back to that first chapter and start again. I turn back to a time when it was simple when it was innocent when the characters were naive and unaware of what was about to happen to them. The feeling was similar to nostalgia, despite having started the book not too long ago. Sometimes it is a sad feeling, or a happy one, or a comforting one. It all depends on the story.
If I get such a feeling from the first chapter of my book, then I more than happy with the chapter, I am proud of it.
No doubt this is the kind of accomplishment and personal satisfaction you are aiming for and I hope these tips help!
Good day, goodnight and happy writing!