Friday, October 15, 2010

Writing Tip - The First Chapter

What needs to go in the first chapter? The writer wants to enchant the reader and make their book interesting enough for them to continue writing. I know I've started some books and was so bored by the first chapter I've wanted to give them a pass. Some I continued forward and the story became more interesting. There's a lot of things I've learned about writing from reading books both fiction and non-fiction. In Structuring your novel, I found a number of things that should be in the first chapter. In honor of a book I wrote years ago that's not on Kindle, Nook and other places with a new cover, I thought I'd look at the list of ten things and see if I managed to get them all in the first chapter.

1. The event outside that triggers the story. In Shortcut To Love, this was the return of Michael, not a surgeon to his hometown and home hospital. This sets off things in both his and the heroine's life.

2. The setting. Here, the hospital, the condo complex where they both live and the town where they grew up are shown in brief sketches to show the setting.

3. One big scene where the conflict is shown. Here the big scene is the meeting between Zelda and Michael at the hospital, her determination to snare this man and his determination not to be snared.

4. One or two small scenes to show the nature of the characters. The first shows Michael's arrival at the hospital. The second with Zelda's reaction to the other female staff's reaction to him.

5.Show at least one of the main characters including approximate age and physical description. Here both Michael and Zelda are shown through each other's eyes.

6.Let the reader know who is narrating the first chapter and if restricted or unrestricted viewpoint. In my story, there is a scene from his point of view and one from hers.

7. For exposition, narration and description depends on how much information the writer wants to give out. Because Shortcut To Love is a comedic story, these things are woven through out each of the scenes.

8. Give a clue about the time limit. Not sure I did this. For Zelda, the time wanted to gain her goal was short and for Michael the time might seem like forever.

9. Catch the reader's attention by showing major complication. Here it's Zelda's desire to find a shortcut to the love of her life since Michael seems to be going through the alphabet while dating women. Small scenes showing a minor complication that relates to the major one. Michael's interest in a woman with the letter D.

10. Establish the type of novel. Here one has to remember what genre they're writing on. In Shortcut To Love this is done by using a sly bit of humor, some tongue in cheek and making the scenes light.

What does this tell you. I think I once succeeded in following all the guidelines for developing one story. This book has sold steadily since it was first published and with the new cover, I hope it will continue.


Liz said...

Love the check list - also love the all the check lists in your and Jane's book - I just have to use them!

Taryn Kincaid said...

Decided I must write a prologue.

I. Just. Really. Must.

Don't try to talk me out of it.