What goes in the first chapter?
Setting. Introductions. Main character. Set up to story. Hinting at what could be the conflict.
You know what else goes into the first chapter?
The first chapter is the chapter that tells the reader what the story is going to be like. Sometimes it’s even the first sentence… but don’t freak out if your first sentence is nothing like the opener to Tale of Two Cities.
It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way – in short, the period was so far like the present period, that some of its noisiest authorities insisted on its being received, for good or for evil, in the superlative degree of comparison only.
The first chapter is as important as the last word of the story. It’s like a little summary of what the life was like for the main character right before the tipping point that puts them on course for a hell of a rollercoaster ride.
You don’t want to put too much backstory, but you also don’t want to leave the readers with more questions than answers throughout the story. There have been a few times were I find myself flipping to the beginning of the book to see if I missed any information when something new is introduced. What caused me to do this were the thoughts of “I thought that so-and-so said they worked at XYZ,” or “Wait didn’t they say this?”
I’m a bit nit picky when it comes to continuity. I constantly find the errors whenever I watch movies or read. It’s a terrible ability to have, especially when you’re a writer. I’m constantly checking myself and making sure things make sense throughout. Especially when as I’m writing, I decide to add new information that probably needed to be addressed earlier.
I just wrote my first chapter to my new WIP and boy, is it TRASH! I’m hoping after several edits, it’ll become a gem.
I’d like to know how your first chapters go. Do you always get it right on the first draft? Does it take you a while to write?
Thanks for reading!