First Chapter

Question: I've written a first chapter for my story but I'm not satisfied with it. I want to rewrite it to see if I can get a better idea but I'm having a hard time coming up with one. Is there any techniques I can use to start a first chapter?


Answer: The important thing is that you get your readers emotionally involved as quickly as possible so they'll decide to keep reading. If you've read the article on "in medias res" you'll know this means starting with an event - some action or change that gets the reader wondering what will happen next.

There are various ways to do this. You can start with an event from the overall throughline. To take an example most people know, the first Star Wars film starts with the theft of the Death Star Plans (and the droids escape to Tatooine).

If the main character is a special person, you could start with an event that shows this. For instance, most James Bond films begin with an action sequence that demonstrates Bond's unique talents.

If the impact character is the special one, you could start with an event where the main character sees the impact character do something extraordinary. Forgive me for sticking with genre fiction, but consider the first time Amy Pond meets Dr. Who in the TV series by that name. The story starts with the Doctor crash landing his time machine in her backyard and demanding weird food combinations (demonstrating his abilities and eccentricities).

You should try to establish some kind of conflict, either internal or external, that will get the reader interested in the story or the main character. And you might begin with an extraordinary opportunity or invitation.

Above all, don't begin with nothing happening. Don't start with long passages of exposition or description. Don't start with an ordinary day. Make it extraordinary.

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