I wanted to know, what most of us wanted to know: What do all the best sellers have in common? What makes a winning first chapter? and Where do I start? These answers, however, are not found on google, nor any other search engine site. They are found by reading. (I know, I know, heard that one before!) But it is true.
Well, here, I have pieced together how the first chapter typically plays out. There is a trend amongst the best seller list, I will share with you, if you haven’t already figured it out.
Now, by no means, should this be used as a definite guide. Your true guide, which should be followed to the core, is your gut and instincts. They will guide you to wherever you need to be, and will tell you what is right and what is wrong, or what works, and what doesn’t. This is only meant to show you what I have noticed.
For example, here are two stories that use this format, that I have just recently read last week: Betrayal in Death by Nora Roberts Writing as J.D. Robb, and Colourless by Elena Salvatore.
This can be broken up, or rearranged however you see fit.
Tip: Writing with simplicity reaches a more broad range of audience, and increases audience readability and retention. If people wanted to read technical, or complex, jargon they would have picked up a textbook, not a novel.
Let’s start with the first paragraph. The most important part when it comes to gaining the much needed attention you deserve as an artist. I recommend How To Be A Better Hooker and 6 Ways To Hook Your Reader to better understand what is expected when using hooks to reel in potential fans.
Keep in mind that each numbered point I make will closely represent 1-2 paragraphs each, or more if you desire.
- In this section/paragraph we will start with a hook, statement, or a vague description of what M.C.(Main Character) does, is going through, or irritated by, but either hopeless, or hopeful about changing her situation.
- Should be succinct, yet vivid, that provokes imagery an can be questionable in a way.
- Opening with time, dialogue, overuse of adjectives, or weather tends to be greatly ignored by all.
- Take something old, then put a new spin on it.
- Starting with a dramatic feel is a sure-fire way of being gripping and exciting.
- Or, have it where there is a juxtaposition between normal life and the horrific.
- Or, underline a fact then vaguely show the truth of a lie.
- In this section/paragraph we will begin with a subtle occupational goal, a desire, a belief, or some form of a trigger that provoked the above section/paragraph.
- In this section/paragraph we will begin with a small intro about what she is missing, what she might be doing, what is going on, where she is, and if she is alone or not. (Typically the M.C. will have a sidekick).
- In this section/paragraph this is when something new, out of the norm, or special occurs, or will occur that will eventually lead into the major turning point of her life. Sometimes this section/paragraph includes a reoccurring annoyance, date, or time and is typically intended for naming a goal/destination/change M.C. either wants or does not want to happen. This is when her humdrum life is thwarted into action before the real action.
- In this section/paragraph we will mention a person(new or known), small detail, idea, or object the M.C. either absolutely desires or despises about, or as the result of, #4. Sometimes the mention of another character here will typically result in that person being M.C.’s lover/foe/friend later in the story.
- In this section/paragraph we will show how despite how she appears/plays out M.C. is truly something(or someone) else, or feels/thinks/knows that she is something completely different than from what others may think/view/assume her as. Sometimes its not always obvious to M.C. but something deep inside her will echo her darkest truths she has yet to realize.
- In this section/paragraph we will describe the current area and what all is happening(like if people are all doing the same thing such as awaiting for a child to rip open presents, or everyone standing in a line for something), and what M.C. knows about this situation outsiders, otherwise, would know nothing about, and her working theory on what might happen next, or what will definitely occur after her destination is reached.
- In this section/paragraph we will evaluate/explain what brought her here in the first place, and/or what lead up to her being here. Was it a promise? Was it part of her plan? Or, did it happen all by chance?
- In this section/paragraph we will evaluate/explain her motive/happenings as to why she is headed to her #4’s planned destination/goal and if M.C. was expected to be in that spot(or hold up her end of the bargain) or if it was a place/goal she was never supposed to be in, or have in the first place.
- In this section/paragraph we will describe an oddity, person(if no person in particular, or important, was mentioned in #5 this person would be considered particularly important), in the M.C.’s viewpoint and her assumptions on it/the person, and what would happen if something were to occur right there, or not occur and why it wouldn’t happen.
- In this section/paragraph we will discuss how M.C. feels about this situation/place and triggering an extremely short descriptions/self-evaluation about herself.
- In this section/paragraph we will introduce the 2nd M.C. if there was no sidekick in the beginning. or 3rd M.C. if there was. And if the 2nd M.C. was presented in the beginning and found to be the antagonist, then this character will be “friend”. If the 2nd M.C. was found to be the “friend/family” then this character would be the “enemy” or “lover”. Then, filter through the M.C.’s senses and generalized vague assumptions about the person and probably their scent and her physical reaction to said scent. (M.C. 2)
- In this section/paragraph we will describe in a short, concise, way about the 2nd/3rd M.C.’s eyes and mouth, and if that person’s scent triggers the M.C.’s hatred or desire towards them. A lot of times its desire, if he becomes “lover”, hatred if he becomes “enemy” or was a past “enemy” if they knew each other in the past and still holds resentment towards one another, or no mention of scent again if he becomes “friend”.
- In this section/paragraph we will describe/show the relationship between M.C. and #12’s M.C., if they even have a past together, or if placed under the same category by some force or compatible attributes.
- In this section/paragraph M.C. and #12’s M.C. exchange short pleasantries(or criticisms). Depends on if they can tolerate each other, or if they love each other, or absolutely hate each other even if they have never met before this.
- In this section/paragraph we will describe, subtly, the hair/body/clothes about #12’s M.C. in a way that reflects your M.C.’s lifestyle or attitude towards this whole ideal. Then, subtly slip in a rhetorical “What If?” after a more direct assumption about this new character.
- In this section/paragraph M.C. and #12’s M.C. are exchanging words pertaining to the other side of #2. Such as, their hopes, dreams, or aspirations about their desirous outcome after it is all over and done with.
- In this section/paragraph we will write a short description of this new M.C., copying #10’s style in 1/3 the amount of words in a more refined, physical, concise, filter through your M.C..
- In this section/paragraph M.C. 1 and M.C. 2 will continue their conversation, this time pertaining to their opinions about #4 (whether its the destination, or current place they are in) and its potential outcome. Such as, their fears, dislikes, and short comings. And M.C. 1(or 2)will divulge something menial about what she/he hated/feared the most way before #4 came into play.
- In this section/paragraph this part is the end. The false hope, or “obvious” demise/outcome. This is where intended destinations go awry, or unintended destinations become even more unexpected than usual. Where good things go bad, and bad things get worse. This is the turning point where anything could happen. This is the commencement of #4.
If you liked this post, I strongly encourage you to hop on over and take a quick peek on my post of Notable Sites For Writers. These may help feed that hangry muse that pouts sullenly inside your striving soul.