Is little information at first ok

by john montes

Question: My story has to do with an assassin. The story starts out as the main character is after someone within a building and from there the audience learns who the assassin is to an extent, who the victim is, a bit about the cryptic relationship with the victims and that the assassin is after others in another city and the boss is revealed. A bit right after the chapter the readers learn that an assassin organization is also that same said assassin abandoned the organization and that same organization is after her. A bit about her intent and a cryptic reason why she's after her victims as for the organization the readers learn they don't want to kill her an they wish for the main protagonist to return but they betrayed her somehow and to an extent that is revealed. Quickly after the kill scene we find one is attempting to kill her immediately after and they go at it. The readers learn for the first time that's a member of the organization she left and is being hunted.

The next segment of the chapter we get a little in depth about her, the organization and the victims that did her wrong from dialogue between her and a private investigator. The victims years ago victimized the assassin and another that is close to her a long time ago. she left the organization due to some sort of mistrust and she is too withdrawn to say more so I plan on doing past sequences that explain a little more and more about what's going on with her, her mindset, why she is the way she is, how she interacts wit those that are around her and about those that were close to her

You probably notice
there is a lot of bouncing around and few tings being revealed gradually as the story progresses weather by dialogue, flashback or something that she thinks are relates too. Can I write this way to attempt to draw the readers in her story or is it too confusing and I should change it up like reveal a bit more sooner then later so people don't get put off by the lack of gradual information on what's going on

so this is a revenge, action, mystery, road trip dark story that takes in the present day. thanks I appreciate the help respond when you can.

Answer: You have to trust your own instincts regarding what point you reveal information. When you read over the chapter, do you find yourself responding emotionally the way you want your reader to?

There's nothing wrong with creating a little suspense by revealing the backstory gradually as when reader needs to know it. Readers of thrillers like the mental exercise of trying to figure out what's going on and later seeing if they are right. Just make sure the action in the present makes sense and that the backstory will make sense once it is all revealed.

It is also a good idea in an action-oriented story like this to begin with an event that involves action, rather than a lengthy info dump.

The most important thing in a first chapter is to engage the reader. You want to show the reader that the story he's getting into is exactly the type of story he likes to read. You want to give him a taste of the what the story is about. So, in a thriller, a little thrill is entirely appropriate. You can always provide more exposition in the lulls between action events.

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beginning at the end

by Shayne

As many others have stated, this site has been an absolute blessing to find. I`ve been able to organize all my thoughts into a comprehensive outline and have been super excited to start writing. I intended to start at the beginning, but when I sat down to write, what came out was something entirely different. Right now I`m labeling it as a prologue, but actually its a snippet of dialogue and content from the near-end of the story (not the actual end, there`d probably be about a chapter left at least).

I`ve since moved on to start where I meant to - at the beginning, but have been going back and forth on whether to keep this "prologue" or not. I`m really drawn to it, and I want to keep it because it really sets the tone for the story, plus it gives the reader some important information/clues that will be helpful for them to know going in to Chapter 1.

This bit of prologue is written in first person present by the character who will be recording the story...she has lived through everything and is going to sit down and write it, only she`ll be writing from third person. By including the prologue, it establishes that this story is actually being told by this particular character/main character.

The main con to this is that the reader also knows from the start that at least this particular character and the one she`s interacting with will make it through the story. (throughout the story there are times when it seems very possible one of them will be killed).

I wanted to know what your thoughts or advice on this are? And I apologize for the length of this post. Thank you for all your help!

Answer: Many people dislike prologues, but that's usually because prologues often show the beginning of the overall story, whereas most readers want to get straight to the main character's story.

In this case, since you're starting with (I presume) the end of the main character's arc, you are giving the reader a chance to connect with that character. (It does make me wonder why you don't write the whole book in first person.)

As for telling the story in a non-chronological way, this is often done in cases where perhaps the beginning of the story is a little weak and needs a hook to get the reader interested. Starting at the end can accomplish this by establishing a little mystery. The reader wonders how the main character ended up the way she is at the end. So as long as the character's voice is engaging and your prologue evokes curiosity in the reader, it should work.

Of course, once you have finished a draft, you may want to reevaluate this just to make sure you are starting at the most engaging point in the story.

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thank you!
by: Shayne

You input gives me more confidence in going forward with the prologue as it is. As for the tense...I suppose I`m not writing it entirely in 1st person simply becuase I prefer 3rd. However, I`m still playing with that a little as I begin chapter 2, so guess I`ll have see what seems to work best for the story!

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What to write first

Question: I have followed your 10 step guide on how to start writing a novel, and now have a fully planned novel. Now where do I start writing? Should I start with the first chapter and go from there, or write the most important chapters first?

Answer: Most people find that it works best to start at the beginning of the story and work towards the end in chronological sequence. This mirrors how the reader will eventually experience the story and the way events and information build upon each other.

For instance, if you write a later chapter first, you may feel the need to put in information (to make the sense of the events and characters) that might actually be better established in an earlier chapter. Later, when you write the earlier chapter, you may find yourself duplicating information.

Writing in chronological order (but with an outline) makes it easier to see how tension is building. whether the story flows well, and how well you are preparing the reader for what is coming.

That said, there are other approaches you can choose other than writing in chronological order.

For instance, often a story begins after the inciting incident. The reader learns about the inciting incident later on, through flashback or some other device.

If the manuscript will present the events of the story in a non-chronological order, you may find it helpful to write it all chronologically first, and then move parts around later.

Sometimes writers will write the climax or the end of the story first, because they want a clear idea what they are working towards, or simply because that's what calls to them.

You are, of course, free to find your own preferred way of working, and you may have a different approach for every book. The important thing is to follow whatever route feels clearest and easiest, and evokes the most passion. Writing a novel is a long haul, and there is no need to make the process harder.

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Start at the begnning or go back in flashbacks?

by William

Question: My story is set in a dystopian society where mythological Titans rule the world. The main character is a slave but before the Titans took over he was a regular teenage boy. Should I start out with him when the world was normal or should I start out in the dystopian society and flashback to him when he was normal?

Answer: I think it depends on what story you want to tell.

If you want to tell the story of how the Titans took over, then you should probably start before it happens.

If you want to tell a story of how the Titans lose power, or a story that simply uses the Titans' kingdom as a backdrop, then you might not need to mention the time before their coming at all. If it's not an essential part of the story arc, then cut it.

What would be a reason for showing the time before the Titans came? Maybe to illustrate events that play a key role in shaping the main character's personality and motivations in the present, or those of another major character? Perhaps these events set in motion something that will affect the main character in the present?

In other words, think in terms of a 4-part structure where the first part establishes the character (the setup), the second part challenges or complicates things for the character, the third part forces the character to make a choice, and the fourth part shows the resolution. Is the time of enslavement the complication or the setup? If it's the setup or neither, then consider cutting it. If it's the complication, then you need to show the setup at some point.

Sometimes it makes more sense to present the reader with the complication and then tell the setup later in flashback. Other times it works better to tell the setup first. It all depends what will hook the reader better in those opening pages.

See, I can't give you an easy answer, because it depends on so many factors in your story that only you know. I can only give you something to think about.

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First chapter

Question: In the novel I am writing, I would like to know how to get the reader actually hooked into my book. I have read the other answers to along the same question... :( I want to start the story out gradually, and then leave the main character in a "pickle", as a cliffhanger. Where she opens the door and it isn't what she is expecting. Is that WAY too boring? Honest opinion, and advice please. I really don't want to bore my reader to death because I am taking too long to get to the plot, I have read those type of books and many of those were put down and not read past the first fifty pages...
Thank you!

Answer: You must realize there's a bit of a contradiction between wanting to "start the story gradually" and not wanting to "take to long to get to the plot." The cardinal rule is to never, ever bore a reader.

Sometimes, it's a question of which throughline you want to begin with. For instance, the classic way to start a story in medias res would be to begin with the main character opening the door and realizing it isn't what she expected. That would be starting with the first event, the inciting incident, of the overall plot.

An alternative would be to begin with one of the other throughlines - for instance, the first event in the main character's throughline. This would be an event that shows the reader what kind of person the main character is at the start of the story. Or you could begin with the first time the main character encounters the impact character. Or you could have an event which shows what their relationship is like at the beginning.

It is important that you start with an event rather than preamble, backstory, or (dare I say) philosophical musings, because it is the event that will grab a reader's interest. The event will be a change. It may contain conflict, internal or external. It will send the characters in a new direction. And nothing will be quite the same afterwards.

The other advantage to starting with the main character's throughline is that it gives the reader time to develop empathy and fondness for the main character before you plunge her into the overall story conflict. But this is best done by showing the character in action, coping with a dilemma.

The other thing that can grab a reader's interest is to give your main character or narrator an interesting voice - an idiosyncratic way of expressing herself that charms and intrigues the reader. Couple that with an interesting situation/event, and most readers will feel compelled to keep reading.

A little bit of mystery on the first page doesn't hurt either. For example, you could start with a sentence like, "The moment I opened the absurd looking door, I knew I was in the wrong place." Then you could proceed to tell the events leading up to the door opening, while keeping the reader wondering just what was behind the door. Just a thought.

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by: Anonymous

Thank you so much!Maybe I can actually get started now... :D

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first chapter

by Shenidene

Hi, My name is Shenidene and I'm writing a book well I'm starting a chapter of a book I call snow falling it's a romance/ crime/investigation and well I don't know where to start how to start and I have a lot of ideas in my head and it just float right in the paper so I guess my question is in what way can I start this chapter?


Not knowing much about your story, I can't give you a specific answer, but here are some general ideas.

Mysteries generally start in one of the following places...

1. The inciting incident or initial driver, which us usually either...
a) the murder
b) the event which causes the murderer to commit the murder (though it may not be obvious that this event triggers the murder).

2. The beginning of the investigation, which could be the discovery of the body or the detective being called to investigate.

Romances, on the other hand, typically start when the two lovers first meet or, in the case of people who have met before, with an event that shows how their relationship stands before it turns romantic.

Another option, which can work for both genres, is to begin with an event in which the main character must cope with a problem unrelated to the main plot, but which demonstrates his/her character and makes the reader like him/her enough to want to keep reading.

Finally, you might consider beginning with the main character seeing the impact character for the first time doing something in a way very different from how the main character would do it.

If you can find an event for your first chapter that draws from both both genres, so much the better. For example, the detective is called to a crime scene, but the person who will become the love interest (maybe a consultant or witness) is there causing trouble when the detective arrives.

In any event, the golden rule is to begin with an event in which something happens that promises to ignite a significant chain of events so the reader will want to keep reading to find out what happens next.

Best of luck.

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Which Beginning Should I Use???

by Arianna
(Baltimore, MD - USA)

I have two beginnings I could potentially use for my book. I asked a question here earlier about it and I know I seem desperate but I'm just very confused about which direction to take this whole thing! <:)
Here are the two beginnings I'm considering. I like the description in the first one and I like the info it gives the reader, BUT the second one is fast-paced and keeps me reading longer, even though there isn't any description. HELP me find a way to get the best of both worlds!!!

She lived in the part of town where trigger-happy delinquents crept around the corners of crumbling buildings. That one avenue in town where the only cars that drove through it were police cars, the ones that suspiciously peered through alleyways with the windows rolled up and the doors locked. That little back road that parents warned their children to avoid.
At every turn in her neighborhood there seemed to be some sort of argument going on, and at night the fighting grew violent and noisy. The inhabitants of the neighborhood cowered in fear of one another during those sleepless nights, quaking beneath their cheap bed sheets and listening to the men outside holler at one another. There was always a conflicting aura surrounding the street, an unsettling cross between fear and aggression. It was a bad place.
Seven-year-old Marley sat up straight in bed, eyes wide with curiosity. Her thin arms hugged a raggedy stuffed turtle to her chest. The half-deflated air mattress upon which she perched rumbled beneath her as she crept slowly out of bed. Her bare feet tapped a squeaky hardwood floor.
Tiptoeing across the cold floor in her bare feet, she blinked a few times in confusion, and tried to adapt her vision to the night’s vast lightlessness. She could hear some familiar voices yelling at each other from outside. Shivering from a chilly November wind, she wrapped her arms around each other to warm herself up. She wore only a hand-me-down tank top that Shemar had given her and a pair of hand-sewn shorts her mother had stitched together for her years ago. They were too small for her now, and they pinched her in all the wrong places, clinging like leeches to her hips and choking her knees where the fabric ended. But they were all that she had. What few clothes she owned and that tattered stuffed turtle were her only real possessions, and she’d grown used to living that way. She never looked at anything and saw it as hers; everything always belonged to someone else.
As she entered the tiny, cramped kitchen of Wilson’s apartment complex, she listened with patient ears to the racket outside. The familiar voices were easily heard now. She came to a dead halt in the middle of the kitchen, and Marley’s breath grew faint.


“Al, ya shouldn't smoke around the kid. Put that out.” Shemar sighed and set some grocery bags on the table. As soon as Marley heard his familiar voice echoing through the apartment, her head shot up at him.
Big Al sat on the floor beside Marley. A thin, white bar hung from his mouth, and in his right hand he clutched a sheeny knife with a black handle. He pried the white bar from his lips and smashed it against the coffee table. A trail of wispy, white smoke drifted up into the air. Its bitter scent wrapped its arms around Marley's neck. She coughed and gave her stuffed turtle, Kipper, a quick hug as she gasped for breath.
“Did you hear me, man?” Shemar hollered at him from across the room. “I said put out your cigarette. You shouldn't be smokin' around the kid.”
“Ah, I can do whateva the hell I want,” said Big Al.
Shemar shook his head. “I just don't want ya smokin' around the kid, Big Al. I thought you were gonna quit that stuff, anyway.”
Big Al shrugged and let out a weary sigh. “I dunno.”
Marley tapped Big Al on the shoulder. “Hey Big Al?”
He turned to her. “Yeah? What?”
“S'that a butterfly knife?”
Big Al's eyes darted toward the blank-handled knife that sat in the palm of his hand. “Yeah,” he said. “Watch this.” “Yeah,” said Big Al, taking a thin, white bar out of his mouth and smashing it against the living room coffee table. A thin trail of smoke drifted up into the air as the white bar was crushed. “All ya gotta do's flip the thing an' it kind'all snaps a blade out all like dis right here, see.” He tucked the blade back into the shell, then flicked his wrist. Once again, the silvery knife showed its face. Marley cocked her head to the side, her eyes glittering with amusement.
“How's it work on the inside?” she asked.
“Whaddaya mean? S'a knife. Jus' cuts stuff.”
But how's the sharp part come out all quick like that?”
“Oh, I dunno, ask Wilson.”
Marley shrank back and her eyes went wide. A shudder passed through her. “Um, never mind, that's okay. Hey, Big Al, could ya do it again, though? Please?” She bit her lip, hoping he'd agree to show her the knife trick just once more.
“Nah, I got a bettah idea, lemme show you howta do dis trick, an maybe you can use it someday, jus' in case, y'know.”
“In case what?”
“I dunno, we live on Frog Street. Most dangerous place in Baltimore, y'know. Everyone here knows howta use a knife.”
“Yeah, I know. Shemar told me.”
“All right, now watch real close, Imma do it again, then you can try. Okay? Watch real good.”
He flipped the knife again, and once more the blade popped right out of its shell. Marley's eyes shined much like the sheeny metal reflected in them. “Here,” said Big Al, handing her the knife. “You try. See if ya can get it ta come outta da shell.”
Marley took the knife from Big Al and let her eyes walk along the image of the weapon in her hand. She wondered how something so beautiful could ever be so dangerous.
“Hey, tell the kid ta be careful over there. She's seven years old an' I don't want a knife in my throat.” The voice belonged to Wilson. He threw a sharp glare in Marley's direction, which sent an icy chill down her spine. His stare burned into her eyes, and she quickly lowered her head just so that wouldn't have to look at him. She hated those eyes. Always so dark and lonely.
“She'll be fine,” said Big Al. “I'm watchin' her.”
Marley's eyes narrowed as she tried to hold the knife just as Big Al had. Once she'd gotten the perfect grip, she tried to swing the weapon off to the side. There was a clicking sound, but the blade hadn't popped out yet. She stared at the butterfly knife for a few seconds. “Hey, Big Al, I don't think I did it right-”
There was another click. In an instant, the knife's blade swung out of its shell, sliced through the skin on Marley's caramel-colored palm, and flew across the room. Marley squealed as blood spread across her hand. Hillary shrieked and Shemar gasped, and the butterfly knife's silvery blade punctured the wall across the room. It quivered, making a faint ringing sound. The apartment fell silent as everyone stared at it, just watching it hang there.

I stopped them both just before they got good, so PLEASE help me find a way to get the best of both worlds here. THANK YOU! Also, any other tips for my writing would be amazing. Thanks. :D

Answer: I don't generally give critiques of specific chapters on this site.

However, I'll say a couple of things.

Regarding the first example, it might be better to start with the little girl entering the hall (perhaps in response to some noise) and describe the neighbourhood later, when she encounters it. In other words, tell the story from her point of view rather than that of an omniscient narrator.

Along the same line, consider if, from her perspective, is she entering "the kitchen of Wilson's apartment complex" or "her kitchen."

Also, bear in mind that it's a cliche to begin with the character waking up.

Regarding the second example, you are correct that it moves better and engages the reader. Perhaps look for opportunities to insert a sentence or so of description or exposition to flesh out the situation.

Be careful about using too much phonetic spelling in dialogue. It can be a little distracting, especially if you want to maintain it for the entire book. However, perhaps you are planning to contrast the speech of these characters with others later?

I suspect you could combine both these openings, keeping in mind the points I mention above.

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First chapters

by Oscar

Hi, I'm trying to write a story of an alternate universe of a world revolved around nature (Four regions known as the Springlands, Summerlands, Autumnlands, and the Winterlands), and I planned to have one character from each season to be a part of subplots-interconnected plot, but the first few chapters gets annoying, and I seem to be dumping too much information and it just gets boring, what do I write in the first few chapters?

Answer: Aspiring fantasy writers often make the mistake of thinking they have to use the opening chapters to introduce the reader to the fantasy world -- a world which they have put a lot of time and thought into devising

In fact, the "infodump" is something you want to avoid

Your primary goal in the opening chapters is to hook the reader, to get them invested in the story so they will keep reading.

How do you do that? There are two main methods. I suggest you use both.

1. Give the reader a main character they can get emotionally connected to. Make sure the reader feels something for the character, such as empathy or sympathy. Make the character interesting, likeable, or admirable. You can even make the main character dislikable -- someone the reader will love to hate -- as long as the character is interesting enough that the reader wants to see how that character's story unfolds.

In your case, you could use the opening chapters to introduce each of your central characters, one at a time.

2. Make something important happen in each chapter, something that promises to ignite a chain of events so the reader will want to keep reading to find out what happens next. You could show the event that begins the main plot (the initial driver or inciting incident) or you could begin the main character's inner conflict by show them main character cope with a challenge in their usual way, but also have an outcome that suggests their usual way might not be adequate going forward. You could have a new threat or opportunity appear. Or you could have the main character begin a relationship with a strange or interesting person. Regardless, something must happen, a change must take place that causes characters to make decisions. Make the reader wonder what will happen as a result.

Two other techniques are very useful in opening chapters:

1. Suspense. Make the reader wonder what will happen next (as the result of what just happened).

2. Mystery. Make the reader wonder what is going on, what just happened, or why it happened. You can even make them curious about the story world, if it makes them keep reading to find out more.

As for all the details about your story world, only drop them in when they are necessary for the reader to understand the action that is unfolding. Avoid telling too much all at once. Space it out.

Another useful technique:

If your main character is going to go on a journey through the story world, you can have the reader gradually learn about the story world as the main character discovers it or visits it. This is more effective than giving an overview in the opening chapters.

Best of luck.

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How to start your first chapter

by Trinity

Question: How should I begin the first chapter? What techniques are there?

Answer: Obviously, the challenge with first chapters is to convince the reader that the story which follows will be worth reading. It's a tough assignment because you have to present at least one character your reader will take an interest in (probably your main character), get your plot rolling, and establish an appealing style and voice for your narrator.

Regarding plot, I suggest you begin by checking out the article "Beginning in medias res" ( in which I discuss one of the key techniques for your first chapter, and four particular options dramatica theory offers you.

Essentially, you want your first chapter to be about an event. It is about something that happens that sets the plot in motion and gives the characters a new purpose. It may be a decision or an action, but either way it is something that cannot be undone.

Whatever this event is, it will also reveal something about the characters involved, such as their way of handling situations and their conflicts (internal and/or external). In the case of your main character, you may want to give the reader a reason to like him/her or at least relate to him/her.

You don't want a lot of description or background, and definitely no preamble (you can fill this in later). Give just enough specific details to establish the basic who, what, when, and where so the reader isn't lost.

At the end of the chapter, leave your reader wondering what will happen next - what the fallout of your opening event will be.

The other thing you want is a great opening line - something that is not a cliche and which grabs the readers interest. Not an easy task, so you may want to have several tries at it.

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Story goal in first scene?
by: DL Morrese

Should the story goal be made evident in the first scene/first chapter? The way I have laid out my scenes, the main character does not discover the story goal until the second chapter. In the first chapter, he puts himself in a dangerous situation not related to the story goal but which does serve to introduce him to one of the major impact characters.

Up to you.
by: Glen

The Story Goal doesn't have to be established in the first chapter, though it could be. However, it does have to be established by the end of Act 1 (if you think in terms of a 4-act structure), otherwise the reader may start feeling dissatisfied and wonder just what the story is about. It also helps to remind the reader what the goal is, or re-establish it, now and then (Dramatica suggests once per act).

I may be a bit late
by: Anonymous

My main character doesn't actually get to where the whole story takes place -(in another world) until the fourth or fifth chapter. The very first chapters do, however give something very important, but you don't know that for a while. I just used most of the first chapter to give my main character a typical day, to show just how much her life is going to change. I'm not sure if that's how to do though.

Typical day?
by: Glen

Again, I'd suggest you start with an event. If you start with "typical" day, you risk not grabbing your reader's attention. Better to start with something atypical. Something interesting. You can always give a glimpse of the character's normal life in chapter 2.

That doesn't mean you have to send her to the other planet in Chapter 1. You can start with events that illustrate her personal difficulties or inner conflicts on earth. Just don't write an opening in which nothing important happens.

Character Names
by: Anonymous

I have trouble giving my main character the appropriate name. I have a whole list, but none of them seem right for my main character. Any advice? The main character is a girl, and here are the options;





re: names
by: Glen

If nothing grabs you yet, try scrolling through baby names websites. They often tell you what names mean, which names were popular in certain years, and other helpful information.

How long should the first chapter be
by: Bre

I started my first chapter out appropriately. It starts with a tiny bit of background, I gave a little detail and went into depth a bit about a certain character (the story line of my book is a little complex so adding that detail was necessary.) Then bam I jumped strait into the event. The event how ever isn't starting to happen until about page 5. I would like to go with this event until I could leave a really good cliff hanger to make my readers want to read further. I am just a little afraid of making my first chapter a little too long. Is there such thing? Thanks.

by: Glen

Hi Bre:

Readers often look for a chapter break to take a break in their reading. So breaks should occur at comfortable intervals.

One option, if you think your chapter is getting long, is to take your event and see if it divides into its own 3-4 part structure. How does it begin? How does it get more complicated? Where does it reach a crisis? How does it get resolved?

You may be able to insert a chapter break between the sub-events. For instance, could the chapter end just when a complication is revealed, or when the crisis of this event arises? Think of this as a mini-cliff hanger.

Writing the first chapter after the prologue
by: Matt L.

Thanks for the article! Great advice.

So here's a dilemma I'm in. I'm writing a sci-fi novel, and I've started it off with a prologue that is written in-scene several years before the main story takes place. The scene pretty much jumps right into some action, and reveals some details that will be relevant later in the story. In this scene, there is an important character who gets killed, and whose death has several far-reaching consequences that will affect the lead protagonist (who is not yet born at this time).

The "first chapter" (though I don't label them as chapters) then skips 23 years later to my main protagonist, but I'm at a loss as to where I should go from there. I've established in my own notes who my main protagonist is, what he does for a job (basically a mercenary), and what his personal struggles are, but I'm unsure how best to introduce him and the world he lives in. Originally I thought of dropping the reader into the middle of one of his jobs, with lots of gunfire and explosions, but then I thought maybe that's a bit too sudden, since the prologue was already pretty action-packed. So, with this being where the main story begins, is it best to start it with a big event involving the protagonist, or have I already accomplished that with the prologue? And since I've already possibly done that with the prologue, do I take some time now to introduce the world that my character lives in?

by: Glen

Your instinct to vary the pace is a good one. Certainly, you want the first appearance of the main character to be an event - a change - that both shows the reader who he is and propels the plot forward.

However, not every change has to be an external action. Making a decision is also a change.

For instance, you could start the main character's story immediately after he's finished a job - but it's a job that has had a profound impact on him, causing him to make a decision that will change his life from then on.

Just a thought.

P.S. The best way to introduce the story world is to follow the main character through it, adding details as he perceives them, but avoiding an info dump.

by: Rebecca R.

Hi Glen!

I am in the middle of editing a book, and am a little concerned for the first chapter. It starts off at a slower pace, but by two pages in quickens up. It seems those two pages are very essential, but I don't know if a reader will continue to read a book that isn't - bam - action.
Also, my main story plot doesn't come about to the second chapter. Instead the first focuses on meeting other characters, and the sub plot. Is that all right if done well, or should I jump head on into what the book is about?

Response to Unsure
by: Glen

The first page should grab the reader's interest, but you don't have to start with action. An interesting voice is just as, if not more, effective. Also, bear in mind that a decision counts as an event as much as an action, if it propels the story forward.

Also, as I've said elsewhere, the first event doesn't have to be part of the overall plot. It could be an event that establishes the main character's inner conflict, the impact character's influence, or their relationship.

It could even be the first event in a subplot, as long as it makes the reader want to keep reading.

First time
by: Latasha

Hi this is my first time on doing this and just want some help and I been want go do this a long time but never had a chances to do it help

Writer's block?
by: Anonymous

I'm having a bit of trouble starting off the first chapter. I have my prologue finished and I'm extremely happy with that! I just can't seem to think of a catchy sentence to start it off with. Thank you, I greatly appreciate it:)

Which character to use?
by: Joset

I am starting to write my first chapter, and I'm not sure which of my four main character's POV to use. They all equally contribute to the plot in different ways, and they all have extremely different voices and stories as far as how they all meet each other. Help?

To: Josef
by: Glen

Does one of the four characters make a crucial decision at the climax that determines the outcome? If so, that is probably your true main character. If not, then all I can suggest is that you write the start of all four of their stories and see which one seems to grab the reader's interest more. (You may want to show all four openings to some people and get their feedback.)

How to make conflict story?
by: Anna

This is my first time make story, and I like to begin the story with family conflict.

Do you have any advice how to make a conflict story in first chapter?

Thank you.

by: Dani

Well, I've been writing for a few years but I've never written a novel the way I'm writing this one.

I'm wanting to almost tell two stories in one. Well, a story and a part of that story. If I wrote the events in chronological order, it'd be boring in the beginning. I thought, since I'm writing in multiple POVs, I could use one section to go back and explain how they got from section one to section two, in section three. I'm not sure how to do this without leaving readers confused.

I've read a few books that do the same thing to see how to do it, but it seems like they just write and then it happens. Any advice?

To Dani, re: non-chronological beginnings
by: Glen

There is a sort of rule of thumb that says you should begin where the story gets interesting, and cut any preamble. Apart from making a more effective beginning, you can use this technique to create a little mystery -- make the readers wonder what's going on and then fill them in later, after they're hooked on the story.

Of course, when you go back and tell the beginning of the story from the second character's POV, it would be even better if you can find a way to make that opening event more interesting. For instance, now that the reader knows what's coming, can you work in some dramatic irony? Can you make something that was innocuous from the main character's POV be very significant from the second POV?

For example, might something the main character did without a thought unknowingly change the course of events for someone else?

First Chapter
by: Anonymous

Hey. So I've written many stories for a few years now, and I always end up deleting or throwing them away due to my thinling the first chapter is horrible. Now, I'm trying to start a new story that I have amazing ideas for - something I've never read or heard about - and have no exact clue how to start my story. I definitely don't want to end up deleting it. I know that the first chapter should have a big event in it, but everytime I try to write I feel that I rush the story because I get bored of it. And from my understanding, it's incredibly horrid for an author to get bored of his/her own story, epically in the first chapter. Advice? Tips? Help?

to Anonymous
by: Glen

When writing a first draft, don't be so hard on yourself. It's okay if the first version of your first chapter isn't perfect. Sometimes you only find your stride part-way through the story.

You can always go back and revise or tighten the opening.

Some writers treat those first few pages as a warm-up, knowing that they will go back later and cut everything up to the point where the story gets interesting.

And sometimes, if your opening is weak, you may find you can play with the chronology. Perhaps start at a more intriguing moment in the story and then jump back and tell the events leading up to it.

Sometimes too, just giving yourself permission to write a bad first draft takes the pressure off and lets you have more fun and be more creative.

by: Shania A.

Hello. So I'm writing a new time travel novel in 3rd person and I already have all my 3 books layered out. But for my first book (the introduction) I'm having a hard time creating the chapters and what scenes should go where. I know that the beginning of the book I should intro the character, then dive into the rising action, linger there for a bit, then around the middle-end go to the climax, then quickly finish off with the resolution. So my point is that I have no clue how to chop my novel into chapters and parts. Help is much appreciated Thank you:D

To Shania
by: Glen

I see you have some understanding of structure. You might check out this article for more help...

So you know that the basic pattern is...

setup -> complication -> crisis -> resolution

And if each of these four parts is an act, you can ask yourself questions like...

What happens in the setup that sends the characters in a new direction?

As a result of the setup, what complications arise in act 2?

What happens as a result of the complications that force the situation to a crisis in act 3?

As a result of choices/actions made at the crisis, how is the story resolved in act 4?

That's the overall story. At the same time, the main character's arc will unfold in the same way...

initial approach -> pressure to change -> resolve (change or no) -> judgement (happier or not)

And the impact character will have his her/own arc, and their relationship will have its own arc.

That gives you 16 steps or signposts (4 per act). Each step can be a single event, or it can be broken down into a sequence. And each sequence has its own 4-part structure. You may not want to get that detailed, but if you do that would give you 64 events or 16 per act -- which should be plenty. Roughly speaking, each act should begin and end with a major turning point or driver (the first driver being the inciting incident and the last driver being the climax).

Within each act, you are free to put the events in the order that makes sense to you. Just make sure the setups for all the arcs are complete by the end of act one, all the complications go in act two, the crises of each arc arise in act three, and all the resolutions occur in act four.

You may want to write each event on an index card and experiment with different arrangements until you find the most effective one.

Re: Shanita
by: Hi ya

Sounds like you have plenty of ideas but have no idea how to order them.

What I like to do in your situation is write a dot point list of every idea or scene that comes to mind. It does not matter what the order is just compile all of your ideas.

Next, you need to rewrite this list in Chronological order. It does not matter how you work through this order whether you start from the start, work backwards. You can also order the scenes you do know then fill in the gaps in between with the rest of your ideas. Probably best to do this in a word document where it is easy to re-order your ideas. Which you will do A LOT.

Also don't worry if it's not perfect, you will probably change things as you write but it's only there for a guide and help clear your mind for the actual writing.

Hope this helps.

Thank you
by: Shania A.

Thank you for the information and advice. I will certainly use it. I see much work ahead and progress so no worries lol. Thank you again, so much :)

by: Anonymous

I'm writing a book "miracle" there is a lot of sadness there do I need a dialogue ?

What should I do
by: Tommy

I'm starting to wright a book but I don't know what the first sentence should be. Like people talking or just straight to the chase. I'm writing my first book so I don't know.

re: dialogue
by: Glen

For a first draft, it doesn't matter where you start. Just start. Later, you may realize you began with some unnecessary preamble and you may cut to the point where things get interesting. Or you may decide to start with a different scene. But you'll have a better sense of this once you've finished a first draft.

Fantasy Chapter
by: Alyssa

This is my first chapter and whenever I start something, I just feel like my story isn't going to go on. I have nothing to add.

to Alyssa
by: Glen

You might try writing an outline before you start, so you know where your story is going.

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How long before the plot can begin?

by Thomas
(United Kingdom)


I'm planning a novel for 2012's NaNoWriMo, and I have the basic premise and synopsis in place. The novel's prologue will be the hook for the reader, but my question is this: how much can I write before I introduce my 'first plot point'? I have quite a few things to say before a certain event happens (such as the culture, events leading up to that point, etc.) and I'm wondering how long it will take before readers will become bored? Or is it a matter of how well it is written?

Also, once the event occurs, my protagonist has a dilemma of whether to go on a journey or not. Does this count as introducing the first plot point and, pardon the expression, 'get the ball rolling'? Any help on this would be greatly appreciated.

Answer: If possible, start the plot on the first page.

By that I mean, start with an event. It doesn't have to be the big inciting event of the overall plot. It could be an event that shows who the main character is and how he/she copes with problems. It could be a similar event depicting the impact character, or an event establishing their relationship. But it should be an irreversible change that gives your character(s) a new purpose or sends them in a new direction. In other words, something to engage the reader right away as well as get the ball rolling.

Preferably, it should be an event with a lot of emotion, a sympathetic or charming point-of-view character, and a little mystery.

Ditto for your prologue, which should also be an event (usually it's the first event of the overall throughline, in which case your first chapter should probably introduce the main character).

All the events and pages that lead up to your first big event are important for getting the reader to commit to reading the rest of the book.

The cultural background should be presented a little bit at a time, and only as needed.

Try to avoid long stretches of material that the readers are likely to skip over - the "boring" bits such as background, description, technical details, etc. Your cultural material may be in this category.

If you lead with this exposition, the reader may decide the book is boring and toss it aside. If you give more than a paragraph or two of this material at a time, the reader may decide the book is boring and toss it aside.

Of course, this varies a little with different genres (some fantasy readers like a lot of background) but not too much.

Also, keep in mind these are not hard and fast rules, just guidelines that have proven effective for many other writers.

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by Bb

Question: I am trying to write an opening for my story. I have two very different versions going and cannot decide which one is better. One starts with the appearance of a woman who spots a wanted poster that is pinned down by a knife in front of her house. Another version begins with a group of police. A ship came to the town and the policemen are making a scene while posting the wanted poster. I try to give a vibe of mystery and suspense in my first version of the opening while I use lots noise and tension building for my second version of the opening.

Now my question is which opening usually draws the reader more? An opening with action and noise or an opening without much actions but that fills the air with suspense?

In addition, do you want to introduce many impact characters very swiftly in your opening or focus on only a few ?


Answer: I had to edit your question a little, so forgive me if I misread anything.

First, what matters about the opening scene is that it presents an irreversible change that has meaning and significance for the characters (especially the main character) and that it gives them new purposes. It launches them on the journey, so to speak.

It really doesn't matter whether the scene is loud or subdued. What matters is that it prompts an important response from the characters. Does finding the wanted poster provoke an important decision or reaction from the woman? What is the scene with the policemen about? What happens because of it? It is the reaction, the change, that is the core of the scene. And that's what hooks the reader, because the reader wants to know what this change will lead to.

I can't tell you which scene is better, because only you know what happens next as a result. The opening scene should be the beginning of one of the four throughlines of the story - either the overall plot, the main character's arc, the impact character's arc, or the arc of their relationship.

As for your second question, most stories only have one impact character. The reason is that the main character generally has only one dilemma he/she is facing. The main character must decide whether to try to solve the story problem in his usual way or use a different approach. The impact character gives an example of someone who uses a different approach.

Of course, there will be many characters in the novel, but generally only one will be the impact character.

(The exception is if the main character has no established way of approaching problems, in which case you can provide two impact characters with opposite approaches that the main character must choose between. But this is not the norm for stories.)

Best of luck.

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