The First Chapter Is Like Speed Dating
Do you face the challenging task to write your first chapter of your exciting new romance novel? Well it’s like speed dating.
Yes, you introduce yourself with “my name is…” or “I am a …” But you never jump at the person and dump your entire life story with all the nice and not so nice bits.
On the contrary, if there is this first tender moment when you like what you see. When the air is filled with the sizzle of excitement and the scent of the person sitting on the other side of the table entices you, then act like a coy geisha.
Remove the delicate veil just enough that they can make out your intense eyes and the contours of your lush lips.
Toss some interesting words and facts into the conversation, but never reveal your whole story. Give them just enough that they want to see you again.
And voila, you have hooked them.
Coming back to writing the first chapter of a novel. Remember, whatever you write sets the tone for the rest of the book.
Invite us to a place. Don’t start the scene in a so-called “white room”. If you write SciFi and Fantasy especially, you need to do some world-building, but limit it to the absolute necessities and fill in the details later.
Introduce your character in a way that we care. This is trickier than it sounds. What makes us care? There’s no formula and no one thing will work for every reader in every genre. Make it personal. Maybe reveal one of his or her quirks. Whoever we meet first in a book is the character we’ll bond with. If that person gets killed on page five, we feel cheated.
Now comes the important part. What is the story about? Don’t be blunt. Instead, use the power of foreshadowing. Your reader needs to know what the character wants and why he/she can’t get it. Ignite conflict with a goal in mind.
Give us a goal. We want to root for the charter to reach this goal, but make it hard to get. Easy is boring. The journey is the adventure why we read this story in the first place.
Present us with an event that propels us to the next scene. That’s where the actual story begins. From here on we are in for the ride.
Another curious element is the fact that what you ignited in the first paragraph will be tied up neatly and prettily in the last paragraph like the ribbon on a packaged plot.
A beautiful or at least, effective, final sentence anchors a story in a reader’s mind long after the book is finished. But let's speak about that next time.