Writing First Chapters

I’ve scoured the internet in search of information to understand how we, as writers, might better write out first chapters. Right from the get go. Although my first chapter has already been written I have every intention of making sure that I have included the points listed below when it comes to editing. There is lots that can be found on how one should attempt to write a first chapter – I have taken the main points that I found to be the most beneficial and listed them here, along with some links to other sites that have posts about writing these first chapters so that we can all benefit from the information.

Deciding Tense & POV…

Use the first chapter to choose the tense & point of view that shall be used throughout your novel. Use this first section to have a play with tense/POV if you’re unsure what will be best for your story. Try difference points of view – whether it be first person focusing on just your main character or third person narrating everybody. Try it all out before you make a decision because the way you frame your story will effect the way it comes across. Take a look at what is typical within your genre – obviously sometimes it’s good to go against the grain but some stories work better with certain POVs so do your research to find out what your readers will expect & what might work with the narrative.

READY, SET, NO ACTION…

Don’t worry about getting straight to the action – if your novel needs to go into characters & setting first, then that is what you should do. Not all stories have to dive straight into action [especially certain genres]. I have read a couple of books that went straight in for action & I actually didn’t like the entire story. The narrative focused so strongly on action first, narrative later that it took me a good chunk of the book to piece everything together. I didn’t get time to be emotionally invested in the characters or their circumstances, I simply didn’t care. Not all stories need to start slap bang in the centre of a war – sometimes you need to explore the normal world & main characters before they get thrust into a battle.

Stand Out From The Crowd…

Introduce your character & make them stand out. Make them memorable. The world is full of books. I hate to say it, but ultimately if your book never got published – the reading community would not be lacking in choices of reading material. The US published over 300,000 books in 2010, so how are you supposed to get your novel noticed? Readers are fiercely loyal of characters that they care about. Without memorable characters you haven’t got a story. So ask yourself – what is special about your characters & their story?

Mini Stories…

First chapters should be a mini story that can stand alone, in order to make it strong & important, something that will hook readers. This bit of advice stumped me at first, I have to tell you. But the way I have interpreted it, is that there doesn’t need to be a full outlined story within your first chapter – what it means is that the chapter should be able to stand alone and hook your readers into wanting more. For example my novel The Bloody Maiden, the first chapter focuses on my main character’s mental health problems climaxing at her considering suicide at the end of the chapter – whilst it’s not the main plot of the story, it does stand on it’s own as a mini story & hooks readers. Don’t overthink it, just try to ensure that all the information given within the first chapter makes sense. Readers want to be able to take in everything you’re giving them & begin to form ideas of where the story is going – don’t leave them confused & frustrated because they don’t know who or what anything is.

Some more little notes for you…

  • Be confident and bold in your first chapter – start with a bang!
  • Provide information for your readers but DON’T give anything away.
  • Start with something interesting – not necessarily action, but an interesting scene to intrigue readers and get them to want to know more.
  • Introduce your story’s setting.
  • Set the tone for your story.
  • Set up the plot, get the ball rolling.
  • What does your main character want? Why?
  • How might they achieve their goal? What’s stopping them?

Here are some links to writing articles that I found useful when compiling this list:

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