How To Write A Compelling Beginning

edited-pageRecently 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.

  1. 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.
  2. Start with action where something is already happening, but first introduce the character and show him in everyday life before throwing him into conflict.
  3. 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.”
  4. Create an opening filled with tension and conflict which prevents the main character from getting what he wants.
  5. 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.
  6. 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?


6 thoughts on “How To Write A Compelling Beginning

  1. I recently read The Swan Thieves. It was a very good novel EXCEPT for the fact that I really didn’t care for the main character. You have to be able to connect with the characters.


  2. You’re right. If the main character has major flaws but no redeeming characteristics, it can ruin a novel. Michael Hauge says redeeming characteristics have to be shown pretty quickly..


  3. What I hate is reading page after page of the description of a locale before the story starts. Probably isn’t backstory, as you call it, but a real big delay before the story starts.


  4. There has to be a nice balance of exposition and action in the beginning of a book. I’ve stopped reading books early on when I didn’t get enough of the who? what? where? why? and how? to help me understand where the plot was headed. I need to get immersed in the fictitious world the author has created but I also don’t want too much background that dulls the storyline before it has a chance to get underway.


    • That makes sense. I had a writing teacher once who said start the story just before the s**t hits the fan only I couldn’t figure out where that was at the time. I’m as guilty as the next one on inserting the setting. Just can’t help myself! .


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