Writing a great beginning for your story is crucial, especially for fiction writers. If the first chapter of your book doesn’t grab the attention of your readers, they will most likely not read any further.
Equally important, agents and editors often decide whether or not to take a chance on a book based on the first page or two. A weak opening can kill your hopes of getting your novel published. So here are some tips to help you ace the beginning to your story.
A great story starts with a great beginning
Here are some techniques you can use to make the beginning of your book more effective:
- Establish an intriguing narrative voice.
- Connect the reader to a sympathetic character in a predicament.
- Present an event that promises to ignite a chain of events with significant consequences.
- Create suspenseful or mysterious situation.
- Introduce an intriguing idea, situation, or proposition that welcomes exploration.
In a mystery, it’s a good idea to have the murder happen within the first chapter so the reader will be anxious to learn who the murderer is, their motive and how they committed the murder.
In a suspense story the reader should be anxious to find out what is going to happen next, which is why you want to have something really exciting happen in the first couple of chapters. Make the first chapter a cliffhanger to force the reader to move on to the next chapter, and so on.
Keep your readers intrigued and interested throughout your book, but mainly during the first chapter. In most cases this will be the determining factor on whether or not they go any further.
What can a great opening achieve?
A great beginning to your story can achieve several things, including:
- Make a promise to the reader by showing what type of story they are in for.
- Establish the genre tone, narrative voice.
- Introduce at least one character.
- Establish an important setting.
- Establish a problematic relationship.
- Introduce an intriguing story world.
- Introduce a theme or philosophical perspective.
Your story doesn’t have to do all of these things, or even most of them, the important thing is to hook the reader with the beginning of your story.
The beginning of your story will be much more effective if it includes an event. An event is an irreversible change in the story that sends the characters in a new direction and makes the reader wonder what will happen next.
Immediately start things happening, don’t give your readers a chance to wonder if anything is ever going to start happening in your book because of preamble. One way to avoid preamble is to begin in the middle of the action. Start with the event already in progress.
Another point to make is that you don’t have to start writing your story at the beginning. Sometimes, if the start of your story is a little weak or difficult to write, you can cure this by starting at a more interesting point in the story, with a flash forward, and then go back and tell the beginning later.
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