Whether you are hoping to snap up an agent in your first few pages, or entice a reader in the first few lines – the opening chapter to your book is absolutely vital. So what makes a great opening chapter of a novel? In this edition of Expert Tips, we hear from author and Writing Coach, Jacqui Lofthouse, to find out more.
When you pick up a novel, what are you hoping the first page will offer you? Are there particular elements that entice you, make you want to remain with that novel and turn the page?
Whether you’re looking to traditionally publish and attract the attention of an agent or publisher, or simply to entice your audience to read on, it’s worth carefully considering how you will engage the reader from the moment they pick up your book.
1. An opening line or paragraph that grabs our attention and intrigues the reader.
2. A fascinating central character who reveals their individuality through their words, actions or inner thoughts. How will you convey your own fascination with this character to the reader?
3. Focus on consistency of style and narrative voice. Make sure that every word is there for a purpose.
4. Begin at an interesting point in the narrative. We need to have a sense that ‘something is about to happen’ or ‘something needs to be resolved’. It must not be static.
5. Conflict is key – it might be inner or outer conflict, overt or hidden, but it must be there in some form.
6. Use close, careful observation – notice what is unique about people/places/things. Are you using more senses than just the visual?
7. Your scene must have a sense of direction. In Joseph Heller’s words, ‘always make a character want something, even if it’s only a glass of water.’
8. It’s vital to think carefully about how your chapter will end. Will it be a cliff hanger? Or a suggestion that something is yet to be resolved, that intrigue lies ahead? Perhaps your final sentence will hint at what comes next…
Also consider the following ideas:
9. The suggestion of a mystery/danger/scandal ahead.
10. A leisured telling – this links to confidence and control. Contrary to the idea that pace is key, you might want to establish a narrator who is happy to reveal a story slowly, holding some elements of their story back.
11. An enigma regarding the central character: a sense that not all has been revealed, or very little has been revealed about this person.
12. A conjured mood – you might use setting or language to achieve this.
Why not take a look at the first chapters of books that you love and ask yourself how many of these elements are in place? You’ll learn a tremendous amount from the enquiry. Then, when you return to your own work, ask yourself what is working and what might be added to make your book impossible to resist.
Jacqui Lofthouse is founder of The Writing Coach, the longest established UK coaching organisation for writers. Her novels have been published by Penguin and Bloomsbury and have sold 100,000 copies. She has an MA in Creative Writing from the University of East Anglia and mentors writers internationally. You can find out more about Jacqui and get her free guide to productivity and confidence for writers here: www.thewritingcoach.co.uk.
More writing advice:
Manfred said he didn’t philadelphia phillies jersers know that new york mets jersers the Marlins’ new owners planned to tear it down
In the early moments of the interview, Le Batard asked Manfred whether he knew prior to the recent sale to the group fronted by Bruce Sherman and Jeter whether the new owners planned to slash payroll. After some prodding (and Le Batard’s saying that the commissioner was lying), Manfred answered, We do not get involved in operating-level decisions in chicago white sox jersers the ownership approval process.
We did not have chicago cubs jersers player-specific cleveland indians jersers plans from the Miami Marlins or any other team that has been in the ownership process. Those are decisions that the individual owners make, and they do not have to be cleared by us or approved by us. … Those are local decisions that really are not part of the approval process. Those are decisions that the individual owners make, and they do not have to be cleared with us or approved chicago white sox jersers by us.
Manfred went on to say that he didn’t receive a payroll plan from the Marlins until two days prior to his interview miami marlins jersers with Le Batard. cleveland indians jersers More: We don’t get into, are you going to trade ‘Player X’ or ‘Player Y’ at a particular point in time, nor do we ask them to make st. louis cardinals jersers a commitment to people before they even got in and made an evaluation of their talent level, their ability to win with the people that they have. That’s just not how the ownership process works.
wholesale baseball jersers
But some of that may not be true
Here’s a key excerpt from a must-read Barry Jackson piece in the Miami Herald:
A source directly involved in the Marlins sales process, after hearing the Le Batard interview, said, miami marlins jersers via text: Commissioner said was not aware of [Jeter] plan to slash payroll. Absolutely not true. They request and receive the operating plan from all bidders.
Project Wolverine [the name for Jeter’s plan] called on his group to reduce payroll to $85 million. This was vetted and approved by MLB prior to approval by MLB. Every [Jeter] investor and non investor has the Wolverine financial plan of slashing payroll to $85 million. Widely circulated.
First off, Project Wolverine is ludicrously self-important and sinister-sounding, as budget strategies go. That’s the name of a secret NSA laboratory deep under the Caballo Mountains in New Mexico, not a financial schematic. Do better, Jeets. Anyhow, there’s enough careful phrasing in Manfred’s comments (operating-level decisions, ‘Player X’ or ‘Player Y’) to give him some plausible deniability. However, the idea that he didn’t know about plans to engage in yet another demo job by Marlins owners strains credulity.