Writing is easier said than done. As an aspiring writer embarking on your writer’s journey, you might already be familiar with the dread and anxiety of staring at that first page.
You already know that writing your first page of the book is a critical moment – the first page will either make or break your book. Your first page of the book will be the first impression your potential readers will get about your writing.
It will all come down to what the readers will see on the first page, determining whether they will want to continue reading the story.
There are more picky writers out there than you might actually think. Most readers spend their time deciding upon the book they want to read. Sometimes, if a cover jumps out at them, they will pick up the book, see what it is about, read the description, and if they are intrigued, they will start to read the book.
Of course, if potential readers shop for books online, they will click on the “look inside preview” to better understand the book there.
Nonetheless – it all comes down to the simple rule: if the book fails to grab the reader’s attention in the first five minutes, they will close the book and move on.
So, as an aspiring writer, you will want to understand what literary fiction is all about; if you cannot make the readers care about the characters, and the overall story within the first few minutes, you have definitely lost them.
You will want to assume that you have less than five minutes to capture a potential reader’s attention and pull them in, which leads us to the important question – how do you write a captivating chapter one?
There are some common clichés and pitfalls that you will want to avoid while writing your story, which we will discuss below.
Don’t Start with a Description of the World
You already know that you have chapter one to make a captivating impression on the readers and to reel them into the story, which is why you will want to avoid starting the book with a description of the world, the magic system, and society.
By doing so, you might overwhelm the readers. You will also be making the first chapter lack the integration of an internal conflict.
You will want to look at chapter one from the reader’s perspective. Mostly, readers are already disoriented when they start a new story. Now, instead of thinking that this aspect is enough reason for you to explain things, you will want to understand that the reader might be more interested in seeing the main character and what they are up to.
The readers will want to assess the main character’s place in the world instead of world-building itself.
Nonetheless, suppose you have loads of world-building to do in the story, and you feel that the readers will be lost without a comprehensive understanding of the world. In that case, you will want to explore different ways to show exposition through the character’s actions rather than an exposition of the world itself.
Don’t Save the Good Things for Later
Another potential mistake you will want to avoid is saving the good stuff for later – only – to make your main character mysterious.
The mysterious narrator can be awesome – but – it is a fine line. It is quite impossible to save so much of the good things or the internal conflict that later on, the readers won’t even know what the character cares about.
While writing the first chapter, you will want to give your readers a taste of the good things by showing them a glimpse of what the character is struggling with internally. This way, the readers will connect with the main character and care about them enough to empathize with them.
At this point, the readers won’t know much about what happened to the main character and their potential backstory. But as a writer, you would integrate some of the good things to get the reader’s attention, and they start to empathize with the main character.
Don’t Start with a POV of a Mystery Narrator
You would lose your reader’s interest if you were to start your book with a point-of-view of a character that the readers are less likely to see again. You will also want to avoid starting your plot with a spooky prologue from a mystery narrator, as it will throw off your readers from the bandwagon of interest.
Just remember the simple rule that you have the initial few minutes to make the readers care about your book, and you simply cannot afford to lose those minutes to a mystery narrator. At this point, you will want your readers to care about at least one of the characters in the story.
Who is it going to be? The last thing that you will want it to be is an unnamed mystery narrator that they will never see again.
If the readers cannot see the point of why and how the character in the first chapter matters to the story, it will do nothing but boggle their minds, which will further make them put down the book and hunt for another better book.
The worst case scenario could be where the readers start to care about the character narrating the first chapter, and after getting to know them, the readers see the character being cut out of the story to the point that they never see them again.
Don’t Dump Too Much Information
Another mistake you will want to avoid in your first chapter is to overwhelm the readers with excessive information, including names and characters on the first page.
Many times, readers will pick up a book with an amazing cover but not get past the first page because there are just too many characters, names, places, world-building, and just too much information on the first page.
Remember that your reader knows nothing about the world when they open your first page. They are already disoriented when they start reading your book. You will want to see your readers as blindfolded people dropped in the middle of your story.
Now, you take their blindfold off and show them things they can handle by introducing them to no more than two names on the first page. If you have to introduce more than one character, you might want to avoid their names and refer to them as mother, father, bully, neighbor, etc.
Just don’t dump too much information to scare your readers away.