The beginning of your novel is the most important part; that first chapter determines whether or not a reader will invest their time reading to the end. The first chapter has many jobs:
With this is mind, here are a few do’s and don’ts to help you nail down that first chapter:
Don’t: Start off with your character either waking up or dreaming. Why? We have all read these openings too many times; these clichés are uninspiring and boring to readers, so unless you want them to close your book and never pick it up again, just don’t do it!
Do: Start in the middle of the action. There needs to be conflict and excitement to keep your readers reading. Bring your readers in on it.
Don’t: Start off with the weather or any other type of setting description. You want you readers to feel something palapable in your first chapter, so paint a picture that involves all of their senses and makes them feel as if they are there, rather than listing components.
Do: Add subtle hints and explanations that lead to an overall understanding of the setting. Allow the reader to slowly put the pieces together rather than giving them the image. Drop them into your scene and let them slowly look around.
Don’t: Leave room for confusion. Although you do not want to come right out and blatantly tell the reader something, at the same time you don’t want to confuse them. Show the readers what is you want them to know about your setting or characters.
Do: Create a connection between the reader and your main character. This is vital. If your readers do not create an emotional bond with your character(s), you will likely not hold their interest.
Don’t: Make your character introduce him/herself or start off with a backstory. While you do want your audience introduced to your main character rather quickly, you don’t want them reading a bio.
Do: Allow your reader to gradually and continuously learn about your character. Introducing your character slowly and delicately will leave room for the reader-character connection.
Don’t: start off with two characters in conversation. Dialogue is a wonderful and necessary thing, but not when your reader has any idea who your characters are. This creates the confusion we are so desperately trying to avoid.
Do: Start off with an attention-grabbing sentence. Your first sentence needs to capture your reader’s interest. Do not give the audience a chance to put your book down.
NOTE: This post was written by Kristyn Fetterman.