This week’s video presents two important rules of thumb, one for making sure you’re not beginning your story too soon and another for making sure your first chapter is hooking readers.
The beginning is one of the trickiest terrains in any story. There’s just so much we have to juggle for that opening chapter to accomplish all the jobs it’s supposed to. Two of the most important of those jobs are setting the stage for the story and hooking readers.
The hard part of this is that the requirements of these two things often seem completely dichotomous. Important setup information is not always the best way to grab readers’ attention. The necessity of this setup info also sometimes messes with our ability to figure out the best spot in the timeline to begin.
Writers often ask, “How do you tell if you’re beginning your story too soon?”
Today, I’m going to present you with two important rules of thumb for, first, making certain you aren’t beginning your story too soon, and, second, helping you grab readers right off the bat.
Rule #1 for Not Beginning Your Story Too Soon
You’re beginning your story too soon if there is nothing happening in your first chapter.
You’d think this would be a no-brainer, but it’s not. I just recently read a romantic-suspense novel by a bestselling author that opened with a mega-setup, mega-boring chapter in which nothing happened because this particular scene took place too far before the main conflict began.
Rule #2 for Not Beginning Your Story Too Soon
You’re beginning your story too soon if your opening chapter does not contain the goal/conflict/disaster pattern of proper scene structure.
Really, this is just an extension of the first rule. Why? Because proper scene structure does two things:
1. It ensures something is happening, because…
2. …it demands the presence of conflict.
What you need to do is make sure your opening chapter has your character in pursuit of a goal that will in some way cause or be integrally related to the main conflict he’ll encounter as the story continues. Do these two things, and you can be sure your story will never begin too soon.