Five Writing Turn-Offs Committed within the First Chapter

*This is completely my opinion and I am not trying to pass this off as factual.

One: Opening with a Mundane Action

There are very few novels out there that can start a story with: I woke up to... When I say 'mundane' I mean actions that are done everyday. There is a prominent difference between an opening like this: As I brushed my teeth, I cringed at my mother's shrieking, as she called me down for breakfast. and this: I scaled the side of the Minc and Co. Building, my nails bending back as my harness snapped and I desperately tried to find a loose brick to hold onto. Beginning a novel with a simple action, something a person does a normal basis doesn't pull a reader in. Any novel that begins with the act of waking up I immediately stop reading. I think, okay cool, you're waking up that's nice, bye!

My Point: If you start with an action, unless its something extraordinary that the average being doesn't do, its less likely to pull the reader in and keep them reading.

Two: Introducing Your Character with an actual Introduction

Do not, do not, do not, ever do this. In the first chapter, or the last, or anywhere in between that. Saying anything along the lines of: Mary Sue is an average teenager that lives an average life.... This not only takes away from the quality of the writing but it also discredits you as a writer. Characterization is the utmost most essential ingredient to a novel. Without it you've lost the reader. You have to make them empathize with them, reason with them, want to be them. I have to ask, what person in the whole entire world is average? What even is average at this point? You want your characters to be everything but average, otherwise the eccentric bunch of readers you have can all somehow relate. So do slowly introduce the ways of your characters throughout the novel and do not give a huge paragraph about how your character is and is not.

My Point: Intricately weave the description and life of your character throughout your novel, instead of giving us one long paragraph in the first chapter all about your 'average' character.

Three: No Real Point

Your first chapter, in my mind, has three real functions:
1. Capture the readers interest
2. Hold the readers interest
3. Bring the reader back
If you break it down into its simplest terms that's really the first Chapter is for. And if you can manage to write a perfect first line that really draws the reader than kudos to you, don't mess it up. If your first chapter has no real point to it, doesn't leave something to be desired, or the reader wondering then it did not do its purpose. If the first chapter is just another day in the character's life what's going to bring the reader back? Something has to happen, even if just a small something that is unusual that will make the reader wonder why it happened.

My Point: Your first chapter should have a point, whether it's to tell us your character does not normally feel like she's constantly being watched, or to show that's there's this new boy that stole her favorite purple pen and he's a total jerk.

Four: Beginning a Cliche with a Cliche just to be Cliche

Contrary to popular belief cliche's are not all bad! There are plenty of cliched novels out there. Ideas come from somewhere right? However, a cliche plot is wholly different from a cliched line, or a cliched character. First I'll start with a cliche line. That can range from dialogue to just plain narration. To say her eyes were blue like the sea is cliche. It is the epitome of cliche. Breaking past cliches is all about thinking outside of the box (pardon my own cliche there). This is what you should not do though: The red brick wall was the color of a brick-red crayola crayon. (credit) I've never heard this analogy before so it's safe to say its not cliche but its just plain horrible. If you can't think of a catchy and original way to describe something then don't get too wordy with it. It's as simple as that. Now characters. Cliche characters are just unacceptable. You meet so many people, how could you settle for the same old mary sue? Characters are ever important, and if you just stick to a cliched archetype there's nothing special to your story. I could go on and on about all the cliches character types there are but it really falls to this: quirks, vices, desires, hobbies, background, good qualities/bad qualities. These are essential to making a character. You have to balance your character, you can't make them too good or too bad, without reason.

My Point: You do not want that one cliched line or piece of dialogue, or a cliched character to spoil your plot and the bulk of your novel.

Five: Over-explaining or Giving Too Much

Sometimes words can run away with you and you can end up giving away the whole plot or the backstory of your character by the first chapter which is not what you want to do because as I said before the first chapter inherently is there to pull the reader in, hold them and keep them. If you give too much detail or information then there's no reason to continue. When you pick up a novel like say Harry Potter, which I've never read so bear with me here, the main goal of Harry Potter is to defeat Voldemort. And Harry Potter must first find out how to do this because you cannot just Avada Kedavra his behind. If we found it in the first chapter all Harry has to do is find his horcruxes to defeat him, well what would be the point in reading on. Although this is sort of a bad example because there is more to the Series than that, but still you get my point. My motto to live by for everything because it can usually apply to everything: Always leave wanting more. (If you can figure out where that quote is from kudos to you!)

My Point: Don't give too much away, figure out what the reader needs to know now and what they can wait for and try to give them new information every chapter so they can guess but they can't figure it out. You want them to start painting the picture without actually finishing it before you finished the story.

And so in conclusion I would have to say that if you can avoid these five trips you may have a winner on your hands. I'm sure there are other trip-ups out there that I couldn't think of. Hope this helped someone out there. There will probably be more to come! Au revoir.

June 18th, 2012 at 03:35am