Recently I received four critiques of a first chapter of a romance and each critiquer had something different to say. What became clear is the beginning of the story is very important. Below are some of the elements they said make a beginning compelling.
- Start with the character whose story it is. I have two characters with both male and female points of view shown in the first chapter. One author recommended starting with the female character point of view, because most romances are about women and readers want the female point of view. Another author said it didn’t make any difference if the reader could identify with the male character and the female character.
- Start with action where something is already happening, but first introduce the character and show him in everyday life before throwing him into conflict.
- Create a sympathetic character that a reader can bond with and care about. If they have negative traits show them doing something good by creating some “save the baby moments.”
- Create an opening filled with tension and conflict which prevents the main character from getting what he wants.
- Create a tone for the story. If you start with a funny first line, then don’t have the character at a funeral or watching a loved one die.
- Avoid back story dumps. Avoid giving everything away in the first paragraphs by adding a few sentences here and there throughout the book.
What can you add to this list? What makes you stop reading a chapter?