Tuesday, May 30, 2006
Typing those two words opens up Pandora's Box. They signify that a whole new adventure is about to begin. I'm excited about what's to come. I’m not afraid of the 200+ pages to go after Chapter One; I’m enough of a plotter to have a pretty good idea of what’s going to happen when (but too much of a pantser to actually go and outline the thing). Places to go; people to manipulate in god-like ways. Ahh, what a rush.
But that little blinking cursor waiting on the line below the words can terrify me as well. Chapter One is the first step on the journey, and it’s one heck of a doozie. Let’s consult the list of all we must do in the first chapter, shall we?
1). Hook the reader (preferably in the first few lines).
2). Introduce the main characters.
3). Give enough information to make the characters seem rounded and interesting while avoiding the dreaded “info dump.”
4). Give the reader an idea of the conflicts—internal and external—that will drive the story.
5) Make the reader care about what’s about to happen over the next 250+ pages.
Five things? That’s not much of a list! My to-do lists routinely run to multiple pages, so five measly things can’t be too hard. I can normally cross five things off my to-do list before lunch.
But those five things on the list are loaded…I might as well add “Create World Peace” and “Cure Cancer” to that list while I’m at it. Sheesh, who would’ve thought five little items could cause so much angst.
I feel sorry for what my CP is about to go through. It will take many, many trips through Chapter One to get it right. But Chapter One is where you make it or break it with a reader. Chapter One has to be good. Your reader will never see Chapter Two if it’s not. I’m about ten pages into Chapter One, and I’ve already re-written each of them. (Yes, I know I really should be farther along, but, hey, life happens.) At this pace, it may be a while before my CP gets to read it. It takes me a while to get to Chapter Two, but I know it will be a bit easier going from there.
For you writers out there, what’s the hardest part of Chapter One for you? But I’d really like to hear from the readers on this one as well—what makes it or breaks it for you in Chapter One?
(who really needs to be writing today, but will probably be packing for the upcoming Odessey…)