Monday, December 26, 2011

Chapter One...

In today's post, I want to share some tips I have read about how to put together a strong Chapter One in order to leave your readers with a good first impression.


To Prologue or not to Prologue??

For my book, The Dragon Forest, I felt a Prologue was necessary. I had created a world of castles, knights, and dragons in a mythical land of Illiath. I felt my readers needed a little background before they started chapter one of the book. But I didn't want to overwhelm the reader with too much detail. Does your story need some background before it can begin?  Perhaps add a prologue. 

However, chapter one should provide the details of your setting, main character, and that feeling of immediacy necessary to move your readers along. 


It's all in the details....I find it most comforting to write what I know. I had to conduct research on castles for The Dragon Forest, however, for The Warfare Club, I wrote about a smaller town that resembled the one I worked in when we lived in North Carolina. Although the town I describe is fictional, I used my memory to fill in the details. I wanted the town to seem interesting to the reader, but not overwhelming. So, I put in some facts about how the town was the scene of a famous Civil war battle, an intimate bookstore on main street will be of importance later on in the story, and the main street itself will have a mysterious purpose to be revealed later. 

You can be economical in your details, but I advise against being vague. This setting is where you place your main character. Therefore, it must be interesting in order to keep your readers wanting more. 


Chapter one is where you will introduce your main character. Don't hold back! Tell me what I need to know about your character here in this chapter. Will I like her or hate her?  Will I read that he is of good moral character, but has a seedy past he is running from? The writer has that power to show me, the reader, who this character is and depth, but without too much detail. 

What will your character know? How will they change? What situation are they in and why? Add some secondary characters here to show the reader even more about your main character in dialogue or actions..or both. 

Add depth to your character here in chapter one, but leave some intrigue for later in the story! Readers want to discover things for themselves. 

Mini Plot

Each chapter should have its own mini-plot, but the plot of chapter one is most important. Here is where you let readers know where you are taking them. You introduce your setting, your character, and the situation he must deal with. 

What's the trouble your character will encounter? What decisive action will she take? Is she organized enough to take action or does she hesitate? Don't bog us down with backstory here in this chapter. You have your character in a situation, I want to know how she will get out of it. Provide backstory as to why she hesitates later in the book.

Cliff hangers are great, but not for chapter one. Don't leave your character hanging so early on. Make sure chapter one provides the situation your character must deal with, but provide some closure in chapter one. You readers will decide on their own if the closure you presented in chapter one is true enough...or just a teaser!

I hope these tips help you form a strong first impression! They have helped me tremendously. Writers should always be willing to learn more about their craft. 

But the most important tip I can give you is this.....above all else, Just Write!

These are some wonderful tips I learned from "8 Ways to Write a 5-Star Chapter One" by Elizabeth Sims  and "Writing Fiction: A Guide to Narrative Craft" by Janet Burroway & Elizabeth Stuckey-French

Your Turn:  How did you come up with your setting? Did you write what you knew or did you create your own world?



  1. Just saw this, Ruth. Am glad my piece in WD spurred some good thought. Thanks for the mention and WRITE ON!

  2. Thank you for the tips! They have really helped. Thanks for visiting!!