Chapter One

Chapter One's pretty important, right? Start of the story, introduction of key characters and the hook that drags the reader in.

So here's the really important question: have you got the right first chapter?

How much happens? Too much? Too little? Both are as bad as each other.  Too much and your reader is going to sink.  Too little and your reader will be bored.

I've gone for the BEAT READERS AROUND THE HEAD first chapter...

It's really hard to find the right balance, and I think it's something you need to do with the help of beta readers or a critique group.  You're so close to the story, you might not realise it's too intense or too dull.

I like my original first chapter, but I accept a different way might be better.  I'm writing an alternate version to see how it works, but I won't necessarily keep it.  My original first chapter is the definition of "dump everyone right in the middle of the action", which is punchy and different, but the people who've read over it agreed it's too much too soon.  And because of that, the later chapters become massive info-dumps.  The alternate chapter one is intended to create a subtle sense of unease and foreboding.  The main plot of the novel still kicks off in chapter one, but it's a calmer introduction rather than EVERYTHING IS HAPPENING AT ONCE AND IF WE DON'T RUN WE ARE SO GOING TO DIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIE!

Comments

  1. My beginnings tend to be quiet, contemplative moments where the main character is hedging on breaking that fourth wall and talking directly to the reader. Lots of thoughts about all the trouble happening or the mess they've gotten into. My beginnings always change the most out of everything in my first drafts. :)

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  2. Holly: I think I need to follow your example and calm my openings down :)

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  3. I used to pack wayyyy too much information into my first chapters. Now I think I've hit a happy medium, FINALLY. >.<

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  4. It's a very fine line between hooking the reader in and trying too hard... I think you're right - critique groups and beta partners are in a far better position to judge than we are, even if we don't always agree with them! ;o)

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  5. So, for my first WIP (Sparks), the first chapter has been through ... four? incarnations. That's a lot! For Red Sky, I haven't changed it's structure since the first day I wrote it.
    Which actually punches me in the face now (that realization, not the first chapter of Red Sky), with everything I've been thinking about and all the feedback from my writing group on Red Sky.
    You'll have to let us know which first chapter you eventually decide on! I think both have approaches their merits, it just depends on the story.
    But omg omg omg, have you read the first chapter of Shatter Me yet? It's on the Facebook fan page (for the book... maybe Tahereh Mafi's too, I'm not sure). And It's. Freaking. In. Credible.
    Okay, have a good weekend! Listen to some Daft Punk. ^_^

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  6. I haven't found the right first chapter for my first novel yet. I've always have trouble with them >.< I must have wrote a thousand first chapters for my WIP.

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  7. Francesca: Ditto. I like to think of my editing as unpacking ;)

    Amanda: Exactly! And by not agreeing with them, we can be more certain of our own creative genius ;)

    Kris: I'll be sure to let you know which first chapter I go with! And yes, I did read it. I'll be curious to see where the book goes from there. Hee, I promise to listen to lots of Daft Punk ;)

    Sabrina: It's tough! If there's someone you feel you can trust, get their opinion. It can be the most helpful way to find the way forward.

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  8. I went through probably... three or four? first chapters before I landed on the one I have now. BEGINNINGS ARE HARD.

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  9. Steph: If I go with the alternate, this will be my fourth first chapter :P

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  10. First chapters are tricky to get right. I had to finish my novel before I figured out where it started. At that point, it became clear to me that I needed to chop off three chapters to get to the real start.

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  11. Kirsten: I'm so glad to hear I'm not the only one struggling to get it right :)

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