Opening chapters problem

by Peter Hill

Question: I am struggling with coming up with a solid first chapter because I really want to throw the readers into the action.

My initial idea was to trick a lead character into joining a secret black ops unit for mythical characters and then doing the same with my other lead protagonists? Is this repetitive and do you think the reader will get bored?

If so how can I make it so they will not get bored, any advice?

Answer: It could feel repetitive if you introduce all the characters in the same way, one after the other. I don't think you should. The main character's recruitment might be the standard procedure, but after that each recruitment should be a variation on the pattern. The focus should be on what goes wrong or what's different about each succeeding introduction. I especially think your impact character needs a special introduction. (Often, the impact character is the recruiter, as in the film Men in Black.)

Apart from making the introductions more interesting, having each character recruited in a different way gives you a chance to illustrate their unique personalities. In other words, make the recruitment fit the person recruited.

Also, consider that not all the principle characters must be recruited in the beginning. Some characters might already be on the team before the story begins. (You might present someone's recruitment later as a flashback, because it has a bearing on the plot.) Other recruitments might happen after the inciting incident of the overall plot. Special circumstances might bring a character onto the team much later on - by necessity or chance perhaps.

It also makes a difference whether the book is about the formation of the team (similar to classic films like Seven Samurai or The Guns of the Magnificent Seven) with a quick resolution of the plot once the team is together, or whether you want to get the team together quickly so they can spend most of the book pursuing the main goal as a team.

Either way, it only takes one instance to establish a pattern (i.e. show how a typical recruitment works). Each instance after that should be a variation that adds to the plot. Be creative when it comes to finding variations.

To take an example of another kind of pattern, consider how, in the Harry Potter series, each book has Harry going to Hogwarts. But it's never the same trip. The first time sets the pattern - taking the train. The second time, he follows the train in a flying car. In the next book, the train is waylaid by Dementors, etc. In the last book, he doesn't take the train at all.

It's important to have these variations, because if each instance were essentially the same, there would be no need to show more than the first one. And yet, having the pattern in place provides a valuable sense of structure to the story.

Comments for Opening chapters problem

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Feb 28, 2012
Thank you so much!
by: Peter Hill

I am glad to have found this site and am very grateful for the detail. I will be using this site much more and if I do get published will thank you for the help. But do not be surprised if I ask other questions also.

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