Author Topic: Chapter One  (Read 1864 times)

Offline writestuff56

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Chapter One
« on: March 11, 2011, 08:49:24 AM »
I've found Writer's Digest to be very useful over the past few days. I was reading up on tips for Chapter One. We all know that's a very tricky chapter--trying to hook the reader in with enough action and character appeal, yet also enough backstory.

Over the past several months, I've tried three approaches with my first chapter: 1) small bit of backround info for about a paragraph then launching into action 2) launching into action right away, with catchy dialogue--then backstory a few paragraphs into it 3) starting out with "real time action" (not background info.) but not using the dialogue on the first couple of sentences

The approach that I've included in my submissions to agents is Number 2. I feel it hooks the reader in right away. However, some articles on Writer's Digest say it's best not to start with dialogue. What do you all think? Or do you think it just depends?

The full I mentioned the other day came back as a pass. I have a partial out there that I'm hoping will have better results. It's nice to know my query letter is working. But of course that means nothing if the actual writing doesn't keep them interested. :emb:

Offline Magic_Seeker

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Re: Chapter One
« Reply #1 on: March 11, 2011, 09:15:33 AM »
:hug:  Hugs on the R.  I'll keep my fingers crossed for your partial.

Starting with dialogue is tricky.  You need to identify who is speaking, give a hint of character, setting, and even conflict, all in the first paragraph.  It can be done, and when it works, it often works brilliantly.

Donald Maass writes that you shouldn't have lumps of backstory until, oh, a third of the way into the book.  Of course you need to weave in backstory, a word here, a line there.

Then again, I just read a book where every time a new character came on stage, the writer stopped the story to give a few paragraphs of largely irrelevant backstory.  *I* wanted to throw the book across the room, but she's published several works in the series.  :crazy:
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Offline bodwen

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Re: Chapter One
« Reply #2 on: March 11, 2011, 09:20:15 AM »

Pick up a few of your favorite published novels and see how they do it.  Personally, I think the best books start with worldbuilding done in the form of a secondary conflict.

Offline writestuff56

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Re: Chapter One
« Reply #3 on: March 11, 2011, 09:51:38 AM »

Bowden--can you expand on secondary conflict? That's a good point, because the problem with having the main conflict right up front is that they also always say to let the main conflict build. I'll try to take a closer look at some of my favorite published authors to see how they do it.

Magic Seeker--A lot of what I've read echoes what you mentioned--character, conflict, setting, all in the first paragraph. Tricky, but in some ways (even with the dialogue) I think I've captured that. At least in my opinion...but I guess I started second guessing that after I got the rejection on the full. We'll see how this partial goes....wish some of the other agents I queried would get back to me too! One partial is better than none at all, but I'd welcome a few more!

Offline scox

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Re: Chapter One
« Reply #4 on: March 11, 2011, 11:34:03 AM »
sounds like you have a good start with some requests already. I agree with earlier advice about weaving in the backstory. I think you can do it so it keeps the reader reading to find out what's up with the character what's making he/she acts this way.

good luck
suzanne

Offline bodwen

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Re: Chapter One
« Reply #5 on: March 12, 2011, 12:13:31 PM »

Bowden--can you expand on secondary conflict?

Certainly.  Take for example "Twilight." (which might be a bad example since I haven't actually read it.) Its a lovestory between Edward and Bella, but it starts with Bella coming to live with her father in Forks so that her mother is free to travel with her boyfriend. 

An overzealous beta might have told the author that she has to start with Bella meeting Edward in biology class, since that's where the romance begins, but that would be a mistake.  Starting with Bella's abandonment issues and getting to know her as a person before Edward comes on the scene raises the stakes.  This isn't simply some airhead highschool girl who wants to find some arm-candy so that she'll be popular with the other girls.

The trick is to keep it interesting enough to where the reader isn't bored out of their mind waiting for the setup to end and the story to start.  That's why I say start with secondary conflict.  Put your protagonist in a situation where it is easy to root for her to succeed. 

Offline writestuff56

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Re: Chapter One
« Reply #6 on: March 18, 2011, 01:52:24 PM »
Thanks for expanding on the secondary conflict. And good example too, with Twilight. I have read that book, so I know exactly what you meant about Bella and her dad coming up,before the real story with Edward.

In my MS, I start with a secondary conflict as well. I feel it lays the groundwork for WHY my character reacts the way she does when the realy conflict begins. Whereas in my initial draft, when I plunged straight into the main conflict, a fellow writer who reviewed the draft advised that I needed "build-up" first. That it's not just the conflict that should hook the reader, but their motivations/background, etc. which help the reader know why the conflict is a big deal.

Thanks for all the tips! I'm trying to re-evaluate, revise where needed, as well as sit tight a bit and not pull my hair out!!!!   ;D

Offline Elizafaith13

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Re: Chapter One
« Reply #7 on: March 18, 2011, 04:42:35 PM »
I've been thinking about this all day. A few months ago, I posted my third chapter on critque circle and people loved it. They commented on the fact I started right with the conflict...with a pile of rejects, im debating if I should do some rearranging...
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