Over the past ten years, we’ve been inundated with a number of talent and reality shows. While I don’t particularly indulge in any, (personal preference & time) one that has caught my attention over the years is NBC’s The Voice.
Now if you’re like me and is always late to the party, The Voice is a singing competition where the contestant sings to a group of 4 judges who while they are singing cant see them. Simply put, blind auditions. The only thing the judge has to go on is…The Voice( brilliant naming right?) any ways. What I’m trying to say is that they accept or decline a person based on what they hear ONLY.
When I first started writing, it was drummed into my by the internet and a host of my wonderful mentors that the first page, in fact the first sentence of your manuscript is EXTREMELY important. It is all you have to hook your reader. At first I was like huh? why? but then as I have come to understand that the competition for the attention span of readers is being stretched by so many other means of entertainment or other authors. A new reader only has so much time to give you to prove yourself.
Just like with THE VOICE, the reader is more than likely judging the rest of your book by those couple of pages. Will they stick around? While I don’t really stress about the first line, I should, but hey I am picking my battles…I try to do justice to the first chapter. Here are some tips that can help.
- Avoid too much detail: the setting and larger problem can be weaved into the story later but in those first couple of pages…less is more.
- Tension: The lack of tension is a fatal mistake. This is what will make the reader turn to the next page. If after 2 pages, they have no immediate question that they are just dying to find out the answer to, they will put the book down. Now here is where established authors have an advantage because readers already know to expect with their stories. But for fairly new( like me) or new authors there is no such luxury. The flip side of this is not to create mayhem that will more than likely confuse the reader.
- Boring characters: While we shouldn’t know the character’s life story just there and then but there has to be something that makes the reader want to know more about them. Some amount of their identity should be revealed.
- Core Plot: Okay, since I’m an avid reader this is so important for me to…I cannot stress how important it is for me to read the first chapter of a book and know what the core of the plot is trying to answer…Give me something…
- Where : Am I in the 21st Century or the 18th? Is it Winter or Spring? Am I in America, Europe or Africa…I gotta know where.
Now this is a freebie. There is some arguments on the importance of the prologue in a story. A lot of people claim it shows laziness in the author. I think not. 2 of my books have prologues and they were short but needed. So if it’s needed…knock yourself out but don’t make it too long.
Readers any advice to authors on crafting the perfect first chapter?
Writers add the tips you use below.
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