Thank you to Ryan Lanz of A Writer’s Path for this excellent article on your novel’s opening chapter.
You’ve got your idea. Your characters are fleshed out. The setting is crystallized in your mind.
You power up the laptop, and you place your fingers on the keys. Chapter one.
There’s a magic in that. You can practically feel the readers forming an orderly line to purchase your book, even before you finish the first paragraph. But what do you want to accomplish? What are the things to avoid in your first chapter? In this post, we’ll look at the nitty-gritty of a novel’s first chapter.
What are you looking to accomplish?
In a first chapter, you have several things that you want to accomplish and clue the reader on. This is not an exhaustive list, but let’s look at some common items.
- Identify a protagonist
- Establish something the protagonist wants
- Set the tone for the book
- Make a few promises
- Indicate what time/place in history
- Present an immediate conflict/issue
Let’s take a look at each.