Sunday, January 8, 2012

First Chapter Objectives

More from kid lit extraordinaire, Mary Kole's, webinar. This was geared toward YA/MG writers, but any writer can benefit from her professional advice.

I have tons more to share with you, but today's post is on the blasted glorious first chapter. Here are some things I learned from Mary, but posted in my own words. Check this out:

* Good first chapters introduce the MC (main character) without a huge info dump. Put MC in motion and sprinkle in just enough details to ground us so we can bond with the MC while he/she is in action.

* Make MC sympathetic, not pathetic, by showing him/her in action. 

* Inciting Incident has to occur in first chapter. If it doesn't, cut, cut, cut until it does.

* Shape the reader's expectations for the rest of the story. *** This is a big one I notice when doing beta reads. The first chapter will be great, but then in the next couple of chapters the story changes so drastically, I had no idea where we were going. If it's a thriller, give the expectation as such; sci-fi, add something to ground the reader. Usually with book covers and blurbs we get a better idea of this. Still, Mary did mention it.

* STORY PROMISE along the same lines as expectations. Make sure the first chapter tone relates to the rest of the story. Is the story promise funny, negative, suspensful, etc.

* Back story is okay. We shouldn't be afraid to use back story... just in moderation. Use only enough to let reader get comfortably nestled into the story and bond with the character. 

Hope these are helpful. Any questions regarding them, please leave in comments and I will gladly answer if I can.

Much more coming, so please check back here soon. Also, here is an excellent opportunity to help out a fellow writer. Please check this link for more details. Let's show the blogosphere how well writers support each other.

Any tips on crafting the first chapter that you'd like to share?

31 comments:

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Think I'm getting better at that stuff!

DL Hammons said...

We shouldn't be afraid to use back story I'm so glad you said this. It seems that recently everybody has been pooh-poohing this, and I don't see why.

Old Kitty said...

Awww thanks for sharing!! You're a STAR!!

I know I find myself concentrating and being so engrossed in getting that perfect first chapter that my subsequent ones suffer! LOL! Oh dear! I truly must do better! Take care
x

erica and christy said...

My first chapters change so much that when I'm reading them, I always feel thankful when I get to the second or third and feel comfortable again. Just a bad mind-set about the first one, I guess!
erica

Jess said...

Thanks so much for this! I'm finishing up a WIP, and then will be concentrating on really trying to make those first pages do their job :)

McKenzie McCann said...

I've read good books that don't do all of those things, but I agree with the overall idea: the first chapter is to make the reader care about the main character(s).

I like to save back story for moments when the character is acting completely ridiculous. Then the reader gets that one bit of information, and BAM. They get it. It's almost like a plot twist, more like an information twist.

Michael Offutt, Visitor from the Future said...

I wrote the first chapter of my book after I had finished the book. So it was the last chapter I ever did. Ass backwards eh? But it definitely relates to the rest of the book that way.

erica and christy said...

Wow. Inciting incident in chapter 1! And so glad you mentioned that backstory, in moderation, is a-okay! Christy

Donna Yates said...

Oh, this was very good info! Thanks, PK. I especially liked the first one, since I struggle with putting too much in the first chapter.

L.G.Smith said...

I've been thinking a lot about the "promise" made in a first chapter and how important it is to follow through and make good on it with the rest of the novel. Great info! Thanks.

Melissa Ann Goodwin said...

This is really great stuff. I'm starting the sequel to my first book, and I'm enjoying writing that first chapter so much more than I did with the first book. It really does set everything up. These are great reminders.

DeniseCovey_L'Aussie said...

This came at just the right time. Thank you. Also read your IWSG post. Yeah, we question, we doubt. I think the overall theme this week was self doubt.

Some agent articles I read say definitely keep back story out of chapter one as much as possible. Hard to do, but obviously we have to do it.

Denise

welcome to my world of poetry said...

Enjoyed the read, I'm beginning to learn much about writing.

Yvonne.

Christine Rains said...

Great tips! I've learned to put some big action in the first chapter. Something to make the reader gasp.

tfwalsh said...

Thanks for sharing the awesome tips... First chps are the hardest to write....

Misha Gericke said...

The best tip I ever got on writing a first chapter: Start JUST before things are about to change for your character. That way, the reader has a frame of reference to connect to before the abnormal events that create the story.

:-)

LTM said...

oh, these are AWESOME points. I was hoping I hadn't missed more of Mary's webinar. She's a great teacher, and this is the best breakdown of a winning first chapter I think I've ever seen. Thanks, girl! :o)<3

fOIS In The City said...

PK, yes the first chapter begs us to pull the reader into the main conflict of the story with as little "chatter" and background as possible :) I read that a writer once told an agent,"I think you'll love the story once you get to page 50 where things really start happening." Of course, the agent replied ... "Then start the book on page 51."

Hope Roberson said...

Thanks for the info and for signing up to do the Valentine's day bloghop! I'm looking forward to reading your scene :)

Margo Berendsen said...

I've wanted to take one of Mary's classes. Thanks for the tips!

Jenna Blake Morris said...

Thanks for passing on the tips! I'm working on honing my first pages, so this was really timely for me.

Donna Hole said...

My firs chapter needs so much work it almost impossible.

........dhole

Paul Tobin said...

This is solid gold, thanks. It has come when I am pondering my latest story, to read this makes me confident I can get somewhere with it.

K.W. Wares said...

I totally enjoyed this and found it extremely informative. I am a newbie to novel writing, so like a sponge I try and absorb all that I can. Thank you so much. I look for more posts like this.

Stacy Henrie said...

With my WiP I used the Save the Cat outline. Since I'm kind of a visual person, seeing my book and that first chapter like the opening of a movie helped alot.

E.J. Wesley said...

Great tips, looking forward to more insights from the workshop!

EJ

Ainsley Shay said...

just edited first chapter and used some of the things you listed! thanks for the tips - cant wait to hear more!

Leslie Rose said...

Tasty checklist. Thanks for sharing. Time for a Chapter One look see.

William Kendall said...

Guess I've already broken the cardinal rule of not introducing my main characters until chapter four...

twentysomethingfictionwriter said...

Very good tips. Thanks! New Follower :)

Twenty Something Fiction Writer

Kathryn Purdie said...

Love the tips! Another great tip I recently learned (regarding first chapters) is set up and payoff within the first chapter (this is great for all chapters, really, and of course the story as a whole). So, for example, in the Hunger Games first chapter, Katniss wakes up in her bed and reaches out for her sister Prim, who is gone. This is the set-up. Then at the end of chapter one Prim's name is drawn in the lottery for the Hunger Games. This is the payoff for that foreshadowing at the beginning of the chapter.

Thanks for sharing the great writing tips!!