In the process of writing a book, it’s usually the task of tackling the first chapter that will challenge you the most. Aside from the synopsis, these first few pages are solely responsible for introducing your book to the world. The first chapter can draw in agents, publishers and readers alike so it is by far the most crucial part of your book.
6 Key Elements to Include in the First Chapter When Writing a Book
ChatEbooks believes are no shortcuts to writing the perfect first chapter and virtually no one can do it flawlessly on their first attempt. However, there are some standards to writing a first chapter that can make the process a bit smoother. You may still have to endure several rewrites before you’re able to produce an opening chapter that you’re truly satisfied with. But considering these elements will give you a good starting point and a roadmap for eventually writing one that begs attention.
The Opening Paragraph
When writing a book, the first few lines of the opening paragraph can make or break a reader’s first impression. If you can succeed in producing a killer first paragraph, you are well on your way to writing a killer first chapter. The key is to write a first paragraph (and a first sentence) that immediately transfixes your readers. Your audience should swiftly be thrown into the world that you’ve created for them. So include a shocking opening line like “I glanced in the casket and what I saw made my body shake uncontrollably”, or “I could barely feel my fingers as I fought desperately to hang onto the edge of the cliff”. Just use a fresh perspective that’s likely to hook your audience. Once you’ve nailed your opening line, take your readers by the hand and guide them through the door to your story.
The Compelling Character
More than merely hooking them with a great first paragraph, your first chapter must immediately introduce a compelling and important character. The character you choose to introduce here must be critical to your story in order for readers to decide whether they care enough to keep reading. So make sure you have a keen idea of the intricate characteristics of your protagonist and the part he/she will play in the overall direction of your story. That way you can introduce him/her in a way that will spark your readers’ curiosity in the character’s future well-being or demise. Fail to successfully introduce your protagonist here and you will fail to keep readers interested.
The Strong Voice
Your first chapter must also feature a strong voice when writing a book. The narrative voice is a crucial element of a novel, but it’s also one of the hardest to define and perfect. Every author has a unique voice and, not only must they find it, but they must use the first chapter to define it. Manifest that voice in the first chapter so that it resonates with your target audience.
The Escalating Conflict
Your opening chapter, when writing a book, must introduce the core conflict. Expose your readers directly into all the physical, emotional or mental contentions of your story. Sprinkle clues of plot-threatening challenges – barriers that present as obstacles to your protagonist. Let your readers in on the high stakes associated with the decisions, actions or inactions taken by your protagonist. Introducing conflict from the very beginning will make readers keep turning the page in search of a final resolution.
Some aspiring authors often struggle with this part of writing a book because they are unsure of the direction in which they want their story to go. Nonetheless, your first chapter cannot succeed if you do not have intrigue. So whether you are thrusting readers right into the thick of your story or simply introducing a mystery, there must be something in the first chapter that makes readers want to know more. Your main character could possess a secret that if revealed could ruin the lives of everyone he/she cares about. Or you could introduce an unsolved mystery that has the potential to endanger the lives of millions if left unresolved (e.g. a serial killer). Whatever your approach, make sure to continuously drip-feed elements of intrigue throughout your story so that your readers remain invested and compelled to read until the very end.
What will draw your readers into your story? What will make them want to keep reading? What makes your story unique and distinguishable from all other books in your genre? If you can answer these questions then congratulations, you’ve discovered your story’s hook. Now you must figure out a way to introduce your hook in the first chapter. Hone in on the unique set of details that will make your story memorable. Expound on the characteristics of your hero/heroine that highlight his/her distinctiveness. Give a different and fresh perspective to a familiar idea or a common struggle. When writing a book, the goal is to differentiate your story enough in the beginning so that readers will desire to read further.
Writing a book is like assembling a puzzle. You must accurately position that first piece on the board in order for all of the other pieces to fit properly in their places. Similarly, your fist chapter is the cornerstone that lays the foundation for the rest of your story. If your intro can provide the promise of conflict or create an underlying sense of danger, your readers will have more than enough impetus to keep reading.