You Had Me at Chapter One


If you’ve ever written online fiction – or fiction in general – you know what it feels like to be a small fish in a vast ocean. Trying to snag readers can be tough, but it’s not impossible. The key is writing a first chapter that will have them hook, line and sinker.

1)      Annnnndd….ACTION!
                No matter what genre you’re writing (mystery, fantasy, romance, etc), make it exciting! Start with a conflict or an action and build on it. Aim to pull your readers in within the first few lines. Avoid being too wordy. Instead, focus on keeping your descriptions vivid and concise so that you bring out the essence of what’s happening. If you need to include some backstory, try revealing it through dialogue between characters, or piece by piece instead of writing a summary. Too much detail right away will bog down most readers and they’ll lose interest quickly. But if you begin with an intense scene or intriguing conversation, you’re bound to hold their attention longer.

2)      Give it CHARACTER
                This is your main character’s chance to make a grand first impression. Think about his or her personality. How can you expose their distinguishing characteristics without saying it flat out? A great way to reveal a character is to let their actions do the talking. Utilize body language. This not only gives the reader a better visual of what’s going on, but gives them a feel for who your character is. Be creative.

3)      Leave a little SUSPENSE
                Finally, a great way to get someone to stick around for chapter two is by leaving them something to look forward to. Maybe there’s a stranger whose identity they won’t know until chapter two, or the main character falls into a bind and the only way to find out what happens is to proceed to chapter two. Whatever the scenario, make it so that your audience has a reason to keep reading.

Lastly, do your research. Pick up some of your favorite novels and reread the first chapters. What drew you in? Take these thoughts into consideration when you sit down to write. A lot rides on a first chapter, but don’t let that overwhelm you. Look at this as the opportunity to be illustrative and creative. If you feel stuck, just sit down and start writing. Who knows, perhaps that random scene will end up being your first?

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2 thoughts on “You Had Me at Chapter One

  1. Nice. Brian Jacques of the “Redwall” series died today. I was reading about him and discovered he was a truck driver at one point to a school for the blind. At the same time, he began writing the “Redwall” series and creating each character for the series that eventually include over 20 books. His goal: to describe each character so distinctly that even the blind children could picture them.

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