First thing’s first: Chapter 1…
Beginning a novel is, well…absolutely terrifying. But you need to have a good start, because if it’s bad, your readers won’t come back for more. You don’t want them putting down your book without even finishing Chapter 1, do you?
Didn’t think so. If you’re lost about how to begin your novel, here’s the top 5 ways to start!
The Ambiguous Beginning
But not too ambiguous. Don’t confuse readers. By “ambiguous,” I mean hook your readers without giving them much to go on. Give them just enough to reel them in. For example, begin with a drive to someplace that you don’t mention. Perhaps your character is angry, driving to that place, making readers wonder “What the heck is he so angry about, and where is he driving? I must find out.” With that being said, you will pull the reader into your story through the ambiguity of what’s happening. Therefore, the reader will remain in the pages of your book due to their intense curiosity.
The Robust Way
Action is never a bad idea. Writers, remember this. The robust way of beginning a novel is the perfect way to hook readers, to intrigue them, to subconsciously force them to keep flipping pages. However, this method doesn’t work for all writers or novels. If you begin with action, don’t drop it after the first chapter. You have to follow through with the action only if your novel involves something that calls for more. Most of the time, action happens in fantasy stories or Si-Fi which are stories that generally include fights or chases or escapes.
On the other hand, action can be a good start to a YA novel, or contemporary romance if it’s done the right way. Action doesn’t always have to be about fight scenes. It can be about sneaking out of the house at midnight, or about a spontaneous argument between two lovers.
The Emotional Narrative
This one is a YA favorite, often used by John Green. Here, you have a few pages or paragraphs of the speaker explaining something–a person, a place, a situation. For example, I began my novel by using a quote from Song of Myself and then focused on the theme of that quote and how it syncs with the girl who my narrator falls in love with. The whole basis of this method is to hook readers through the speaker’s emotion over what he is discussing. Sometimes, you can use the emotional narrative as an introduction to your Chapter 1. If you’re writing YA, this is a winner.
This style is sometimes frowned upon, but they are an obvious success. Some people skip over this part, but in a lot of stories, a prologue is almost necessary. They often are a flashback to the past in order to give context to the current state of the novel. Also, a prologue sometimes begins the theme that carries on throughout the novel. They can be useful, but if it’s not necessary for your novel, it might be best to skip over it. If you’re writing YA, prologues aren’t very popular, mostly because teenagers probably won’t take the time to read over it. For books meant for an older audience, this might be the perfect intro.
The Flash Forward
The flash forward beginning isn’t for every novel. Some readers might recognize this method from Twilight when Bella, the main character, contemplates life and death during a time later in the novel when she thought she might die. It’s a good incentive for your audience to continue reading, because the flash forward normally is an excerpt from the climax of the story. There’s hardly any rules to this: make it ambiguous; don’t give away how the flash forward (climax) resolves; make it short. Easy, right?