The rule of incredible openings is to hook your reader, by proving that your book is worth their time. Lay out the breadcrumbs and get your reader emotionally involved.
First impressions matter and readers need to be convinced that they will rewarded by their investment.
But it is not just your readers you are trying to impress. Agents have a limited amount of time in which to make a snap judgement about your story. Get it right by making the beginning the seed for the end. Create mystery and intrigue without leaving the reader confused.
Readers pick up a book because they want to get lost in it immediately. They want to become attached to their characters and invest in them.
There are always exceptions to the rule. Not all books begin by:
- sending tears rolling down your cheeks,
- making your heart go pitter-patter, or
- trembling in fear.
5 steps to creating an opening chapter
1. Grab the reader’s attention:
Make the reader do a double-take, within the first few sentences, and raise questions in their mind. If you’ve done that you’re off to a good start.
2. Establish the setting
In the first chapter. Time and place can be established through description of surroundings (sports field, bordello, mansion). Set the tone and genre. Is it quirky, serious, depressing, gloomy,scary?
3. Give the reader reason to care about the character
Show suffering from undeserved misfortune. Place a character under threat. Display a valued trait – humour, skill, or power.
4. Raise gripping questions in the reader’s mind
But don’t mistake curiosity for confusion. Curiosity arises from wondering what’s going to happen. Confusion arises from not understanding what’s happening.
5. Introduce conflict
You have already created a bond between the reader and the character, now introduce conflict or threat. It keeps readers turning pages – if your reader truly cares about the character.
Prologues: be wary of prologues as they can delay the story. But don’t rule them out because prologues have their time and place.