Starting a Book: How-To

New Beginning

Staring a work on the story is the real trouble for many authors. How to begin? From which scene? From which phrase? Is there a need in prologue? What should the first chapter be about?

Really, what to write about in the first chapter. Fact: first two-three chapters are a “face” for a book. And the fate of the writing depends on what will its beginning look like: boring, heavy and dull, or exciting, intriguing and easy-going? If the reader will be stopped by huge descriptions, if there will be no “hook” to catch them up, they’ll look through some chapters and then close a book with a yawn.

What Should be the Book’s Beginning?

Author Starts a Book

It is good when the start is:

  • Dynamic, which means no flat descriptions during three pages. It is better to start with a dialogue. Or with any moving: a hero goes to his grandma’s house and gets satisfied with some cool music, thinking about his recent love affair at the same time;
  • Easy: don’t load the reader with “To be or not to be?” question or hero’s trouble. Troubler can appear in second or third chapter, though not in the first one and not in the prologue. And the problem should be during some chapters, not the only one;
  • Moderately Intriguing: give there any small link to a hero's secret, or pay attention to his ride to grandma's house: why did he go there suddenly, leaving the girlfriend alone? Yet don’t go too far with this “intriguing fog”. Give the reader some variants of possible answers in order for them to think and to “hook up” with the book.

And one more thing: the beginning shouldn’t be cut off the middle part: all the scenes of first chapters are the links of one long chain which leads to the height of intrigue and the idea’s development.

There is an often-met mistake about the first chapters: writers often think them to be the “training ground”: to train your style, to “see” the main character, to feel the world. As a result, these chapters are being written without any care, just cause. And when the hero suddenly gets into trouble in the fifth chapter, when there are no any reasons for problems, the reader gets confused and shocked. Like: “Where do these things come from?”

Conclusion: the beginning of the story needs to be logical. If you are going to compose your story “on the go”, if you haven’t thought out troubles for your characters, don’t be too lazy about finding their reasons, coming back to the start and filling it with logical and serious links to those problems.

So, if there appears a band of bikers suddenly attacking your hero, maybe he threw an insult in their way while coming to a road-cafe which is the scene of action now.

First chapters are for the exposition: you need to describe the world and to put figures on a chessboard. It is better to show up all the main characters during first couple of chapters, even the main bad guy. The reader is to be wondered not by their appearance. The reader wants to see cool plot turns in future, so mask your bad guy by making him a hero’s best friend, for instance.

Does the Book Need a Prologue for Start?

If talking about the prologue, it is not necessary. But if you decided your book to need it, then there are next prologue variants:

  • Prequel: important events of the past, for instance, sudden and mysterious death of main hero’s parents. Such prologue rarely has its direct connection to first chapters, but it is important to connect it with an intrigue;
  • Legend: the point of idea and intrigue, the short and faceless explanation for the story. For instance, “The Lord of The Rings” starts exactly from a legend, though not with a prologue.
  • Flashback: a short and important episode from hero’s past. It is often shown in the shape of a dream or diary notes, then in the first chapter the main character awakes or closes the diary, and thinks on the reason of a dream or writing. Of course, there is to be a mystery in such prologue
  • Plot event: an important event form middle chapters, a little intriguing episode, which was taken from the story and remade as a prologue. First chapter starts from sacramental: “Two months earlier…”;
  • Ending: the prologue tells that everything is already over. For instance, the hero passed through his trial and solved all troubles. Now he is sitting on a stone in a place where final battle was fought, and gets into the depths of his memory, thinking how it all started.

First words of the book depend on the information you want to give to the reader: to show him the main character, to bring him to the heart of the matter, to describe the intrigue and to drop some hits about mystery, to show the world (in fantasy) and etc.

Which Phrase to Choose for The Start

Starting Phrase

Starting phrases can be:

  1. Portraits: the description of appearance for characters standing on the scene;
  2. Actions: start from the plot action at once, without any explanations;
  3. Landscape description: the text describes the scene itself;
  4. Detail: first sentences describe the certain detail which has its symbolic meaning and which will play its important role in the events of the book soon;
  5. Autobiography: the story is being told from the first person, and is about the hero’s past.

Book can be started from biographical, emotionally-action (“- Fire! We’re on fire!”), expositional (“This story takes its start in Alpine mountains…”)

It is author who chooses the information for first phrases and chapters. The main thing for them is being dynamic, intriguing and logical. The reader can excuse the writer for many things, but not the boring “She got up from the bed, looked through the window and saw there…” during three pages.

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