In this week’s column, I thought I’d take a look at the first chapter must-haves for those writing fiction. There are a number of key elements that you must-have in your first chapter or opening and if you get these right, you are on the way to success. The links this week include tips as well as a first chapter checklist series. I hope you’ll find them as useful as I have.
- https://www.masterclass.com/articles/how-to-write-the-first-chapter-of-your-novel – How to Write the First Chapter of Your Novel: The first of the links for this week comes from the MasterClass website and it takes a look at what the first chapter of your book should do. This includes engaging your readers, introducing your main character, and setting the scene for what is to come. The article has a section on how to write the first chapter of your novel as well as a list of 5 things that you should include in the first chapter. It’s a short read and it explains the three things that your first chapter should do as well. The list of 5 must-haves includes a gripping first paragraph, an introduction for both the main character and the antagonist, a vivid setting, and a hook or inciting incident.
- https://writersedit.com/fiction-writing/7-key-elements-include-first-chapter/ – 7 Key Elements to Include in Your First Chapter: This article from Writer’s Edit explains that the opening chapter of your novel needs to hook readers, agents, and publishers if you choose to go the traditional route. There is no formula but there are some key elements that successful first chapter have. These include a great opening paragraph, a compelling character, a strong voice, a good starting point, a good sense of setting, conflict or at least the premise of it, and a hook to keep readers turning the pages into chapter two. This article includes examples and detailed explanations to help you learn more.
- https://annerallen.com/2013/06/10-things-your-opening-chapter-should/ – 10 Things Your Opening Chapter Should Include: This article features 10 things opening chapters should have and provides you with a checklist for the editing phase. Your first chapter should introduce your main character and make the reader care enough to keep reading. It should set the tone for your book and let the reader know the theme. Setting is important and the reader needs to know where they are. Most first chapters will also introduce the antagonist and ignite some conflict. The reader should gain a sense of the goal of the character and include an inciting incident. Other major characters can also be introduced in your first chapter. There are some brilliant examples included in this article to explain each of the ten points.
- https://www.writersdigest.com/improve-my-writing/8-ways-to-write-a-5-star-chapter-one – 8 Ways to Write a 5-Star Chapter One: This article is from Writer’s Digest and looks at things to include and leave out of your first chapter. It includes things like deciding on the tense and point of view you are going to use as well as finding a natural starting point for your story. Your main character must be strong and introduced right away. Avoid over description and only use carefully chosen details. Mini plots are discussed too and there are lots of examples of how each of the 8 tips are used successfully.
- http://terribleminds.com/ramble/2012/05/29/25-things-to-know-about-writing-the-first-chapter/ – 25 Things to Know About Writing The First Chapter of Your Novel: I’m a big fan of Chuck Wendig’s blog and this post is excellent. He lists 25 things about first chapters and while it is a longish read, there are plenty of nuggets to be found. He talks about hooks, where to bring the reader into your story, great first lines, hooking your reader into the second chapter, making your main character stand out, using conflict, mood, theme, mini arcs, opening with action, adding mystery, backstory, cliffhangers, and prologues. Wendig’s unique voice and humour is one of the big draws for his blog, and there is so much to learn in this one.
- https://www.nownovel.com/blog/how-to-begin-novel-first-chapter/ – How to Begin a Novel: 8 Ways to Captivate: This article looks at how to begin your novel so you captivate your readers right from the start. It includes tips like making your readers need answers, settings that help to set the tone and mood of your story, using interesting dialogue, starting with action, strong character goals and motivations, foreshadowing, opening lines and what makes a good one, and how to end your first chapter. There are examples included with each of these tips to show you how to make the most out of the information provided.
- https://www.helpingwritersbecomeauthors.com/first-chapter-checklist-1/ – Your Ultimate First Chapter Checklist, Pt. 1: Hooking Readers: This is the first in a series of articles from K.M. Weiland and in this first part she talks about the importance of your first chapter and what it must accomplish. She explains that there are three different kinds of first chapter checklists and the first of these is hooking readers. This includes the opening line hook, the opening situation your character finds themselves in, and the hook which sets up the main conflict. There’s also the tonal hook. Examples are included and at the end you will find a link to Part 2 of the series which looks at the special requirements you need for your stories first scene. There is also a part 3 which finishes the series by looking at how you introduce your story in the first chapter. You can read or listen to this article.
I hope you’ve enjoyed all the links this week and are getting ready to practice all the advice given. If there is a topic you’d like to see me cover, all you need to do is get in touch with me via any of my social media links.
(c) Amanda J Evans