The opening of a story has many jobs. It should
connect the reader with the protagonist, establish setting, set the tone of the
story, and pique the reader’s curiosity.
Of all those jobs, the one I enjoy most is piquing the
reader’s curiosity. When most beginners are starting out, they tend to pour all the information they know into the first chapter—that was me 15 years ago. This is a sure way to kill your story from the get go.
Instead of dumping out everything you think your readers need to know, dole it out slowly, sprinkling in just enough to make them
curious. This is what will keep them reading. If there’s a past event
that's causing your protagonist to behave oddly in the first chapter, your reader
doesn’t need to know every detail of that event—yet. Hint at it with a
line or two here and there, each time giving another clue. Save the full reveal for later in the
book when the reader is invested and dying to know to whole story.
This takes some practice. How much do you hold back? How
much do you tell and when? The best way to get a feel for this is to be aware
of it when you’re reading others’ books. When your opening is finished, find a critique partner and see if you got it right or if it needs some tweaking.
Below is first chapter of
“The Accidental Bride” which releases on Tuesday (YAY!). See if you can spot the lines
that pique your curiosity.
Labels: story, writing