Does Your First Chapter Make A Good Impression?

By on January 17, 2017
Does Your First Chapter Make A Good Impression? - Writer's Life.org

Your first chapter is arguably the most important chapter of your book. This is the one that publishers will read and decide whether your book is worth paying more attention to, and one that your readers will read and decide whether it is worth continuing.

With so many books out there, readers can now afford to be picky. If a book doesn’t grab them from the word go, it makes it tough to reason why they should waste their time struggling on through if they are not enjoying it.

So making your first chapter outstanding is pretty crucial.

Of course, writing chapter one of your book can be somewhat intimidating. You want to get you readers immersed in the story but not give away too much, you want to include lots of details but not pack in so much detail that you overwhelm or confuse. Writing your first chapter can be tricky, but if you manage to include the main points below, then you are doing pretty well.

Be clear on your tense and who is telling the story

Chapter one is where you need to make it clear whose perspective you are telling your story from, and the tense you are telling it in. Consider this carefully. You might, of course, be telling a story that includes different characters POV’s and even in different tenses. If you do just make sure you are clever and obvious about this. Readers do not like being confused and having to go back and check who is saying what can suck the enjoyment right out of the story.

Introduce your main character and make them shine

A strong central character is one of the most important things to introduce to your book right away. You need to make it clear who your protagonist is and then make them so intriguing and exciting that your reader can’t wait to hear more about them.

Set the scene, but not too much

You want to introduce your world to the reader early on in your novel. However, don’t make the common mistake of explaining exactly how everything works in great detail. Readers don’t need to see, hear, smell every single thing in the first chapter. Pick your details carefully and wisely. Use succinct and powerful descriptions to set the scene. Chapter one should focus on your character and their story, so don’t go too overboard when it comes to setting, don't’ give your readers a ten year history (unless it is crucial to the plot of course).

Present the plot

Your initial chapter needs to hook the reader and draw them in; it should create immediacy, and explain the premise. You don’t have to reveal your entire plot, but focus on the action, make sure something happens, cause trouble, have your main character make a big decision. By the end of your first chapter, your story should have already picked up some pace.

Be daring

To write a first chapter that really stands out you need to be brave. Think about how to make a reader sit up and take notice, to get the hairs on their arms standing up or send a shiver down their spine. Readers, agents, publishers - they all want to read something that excites them, that they have never read before - so make some brave decisions, be bold and daring and it will pay off!

Writing a first chapter is where you get a chance to show off your very best work. Don’t be intimidated by it, or overwhelmed - be excited by it and use these tips to guide and inspire you!

Bethany Cadman -author of 'Doctor Vanilla's Sunflowers'

Bethany Cadman -author of 'Doctor Vanilla's Sunflowers'

About Bethany Cadman

Bethany Cadman is an author and freelance writer. Her highly anticipated debut novel 'Doctor Vanilla's Sunflowers' is available on Amazon as both an eBook and a paperback. You can find it here - http://tinyurl.com/z47t8qf

One Comment

  1. Don Falloon

    March 25, 2017 at 9:24 pm

    I’m curious then, on your perspective on using a Prologue to open a novel. My current work is the genesis of a new Batman-esque superhero. Tying together who he was before and how he develops into the superhero is crucial backstory (IMHO) because it establishes the type of hero he is and will be. It defines him. Therefore, my use of a prologue is to give the reader an opening teaser that (I hope) invests the reader into where the story will go. But, is this just a form of cheating? Your take?

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