Components of a Solid First Chapter
|S. Dionne Moore|
When I judge contests the one element I want to see in an entry is that hint of the character’s goal. I want to have evidence that we have a destination. Whether that destination changes and shifts along the way is not of concern, just let me know where the character is headed, and give a hint of the conflict they’ll have to endure along the way, and I’ll pack my bags and climb on board for the ride. But what I often find in my judging is that the writer introduces a character and describes some surrounding, then the first chapter is complete.
When writing that all-important first chapter, there are elements you want to include. You want to show the pull of emotions drawing the character into a journey of self-discovery. A well prepared first chapter puts the reader right into the head of the protagonist so that they can see what the character sees, know what the character is thinking (intuitively), and want what is best for them.
Expectation is foremost when a reader begins a book and the journey to motive begins in chapter one. A character should not know exactly what is wrong with them by the end of the first chapter, otherwise their journey toward epiphany is greatly shortened and the reader has nothing to look forward to. No expectations. Readers want to move with the character through a fictitious journey full of hope, hurdles and, if romance, love, that will ultimately end satisfactorily.
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Writing a solid first chapter is not for the faint of heart. It’s tough work. You need to have a strong idea of where the story and the characters are heading and convey that to your readership in such a manner that is both engaging and sympathetic. Not easy, I know. But work on it by planning ahead. Know your characters before you start. Understand who they are and what they want--give them a personality!--then take it from there. Most of all, don’t be shy to ask someone to read your chapter for you, or better yet, read it out loud to yourself! You’ll be amazed at what you’ll catch, and hearing your story will tell you whether the words and those clever turns-of-phrase you used really worked or just muddled things up.
Whatever you do, don’t stop writing. Don’t freeze up. Stop and think. Get to know your character. Pound out a synopsis. It doesn’t have to be detailed or long, but it should be a general idea of where the story is going. Couple that synopsis with knowing your character as if they were a friend and you will be well on your way to writing an exceptional first chapter that will knock the socks off any judge!
A Heartbeat Away
by S. Dionne Moore
When a band of runaway slaves brings Union-loyal Elizabeth "Beth" Bumgartner a wounded Confederate soldier named "Joe", it is the catalyst that pushes her to defy her pacifist parents and become a nurse during the Battle of Antietam.
Her mother's mysterious good-bye gift is filled with quilt blocks that bring comfort to Beth during the hard days and lonely nights, but as she sews each block, she realizes there is a hidden message of faith within the pattern that encourages and sustains her. Reunited with Joe, Beth learns his secret and puts the quilt's message to its greatest test--but can betrayal be forgiven?
~~~~~~~~~S. Dionne Moore resides in South Central PA with her family. She is a weekly contributor to The Borrowed Book (http://www.theborrowedbook.blogspot.com) where she posts tips on the writing life, recipes, and teaches on various writing-related subjects. In addition to writing cozy mysteries, she pens historical romances that bring strong focus to locales within her region of Pennsylvania as a way of indulging her passion for history.
The Borrowed Book: http://www.theborrowedbook.blogspot.com
Cozy Mystery Magazine: http://www.cozymysterymagazine.blogspot.com