This week’s video shows how you can take a page from Captain America: The Winter Soldier to hook readers with even a small amount of character development in your book’s first chapter.
Your book’s first chapter is hard. There’s so much you have to cram in there in order to get it to all work out.
- There’s the all-important hook.
- There has to be enough background and setup to orient readers.
- There has to be that opening event—that first domino—that kicks off the plot.
- There has to be action of some sort to engage readers.
- And don’t forget conflict and stakes!
It’s a laundry list, for crying out loud. But there’s one more thing you have to include if your book’s first chapter is going to be a success. And that is character.
Now when I say add character to your book’s first chapter, I first and foremost mean add your protagonist. This is the person readers need to connect with, so don’t beat around the bush. Whenever possible, the protagonist should always be the first person they meet in your story.
The second thing to be aware of is that it’s not enough just to have your protagonist show up on stage. What “introduce your protagonist” really means is introduce the fundamental core of his personality. This is what the characteristic moment is all about. Hook your readers with your protagonist, even if it’s just briefly.
You may thinking quite rightly—that action-oriented stories need to open with a bang that doesn’t necessarily allow for any lengthy character introduction. But you might be surprised how little character you need at the beginning to actually make this work. If your introduction is skillful, it need not be more than half a scene or less.
For a great example, check out Captain America: The Winter Soldier, which opens with a three-minute non-action scene that effectively introduces its three most important players as not just characters but as interesting people. That job done, the story can then hurtle into full action-hero mode with zero concerns that viewers won’t be able to identify with the hero.
So take a look at your book’s first chapter. Have you hooked readers with character? If not, what small scene can you add to remedy that dire absence?