Every book, play, and motion picture has an introduction. The start of something can either be an event that has already happened or a glimpse into the future. The first word in your story is where it all starts, regardless of which scene comes first.
If you’re a writer like most others, the hardest part is usually starting. Coming up with the first line can feel like climbing a mountain without a safety rope, even for writers who have every detail planned out, the structure mapped out on corkboards in every room of the house, and scene cards lined up across tables and kitchen counters.
In any movie or book, the first word, phrase, sentence, paragraph, and chapter are the most crucial. The author, agent, and publisher all experience severe distress as a result of it because it establishes the mood, develops the characters, adds conflict, and more. Throughout the entire book, the first chapter is frequently the one that is revised, rewritten, and reread the most.
Let’s begin with the first few sentences, though. The most crucial words are the first ones. The cover is what draws a reader’s attention when they are perusing a bookshelf with no particular book in mind. What do you suppose they do after reading the synopsis on the back of the book (or sometimes it’s on the inside flaps) if they are still interested? Chapter 1, of course.
Readers are focusing on the font. They will look away if it is too small, and they may become distracted if it is too large. They look at the paragraph density and, of course, the most crucial step is reading the first sentence. The sentence draws the reader into the narrative. They will read the second sentence if the first one is interesting enough. They will put the book back on the shelf if the second sentence is overly wordy or uninteresting, and you will have lost a sale. The bookstores will completely remove your book from the shelves if there are enough losses, and you will be liable for the lost wages. As a result, if your book’s beginning is poor, the reader will likely put it down and never pick it up again. Therefore, include a strong hook in your first line.
One of my favorite opening lines of any book comes from Charlaine Harris in her murder mystery novel, Dead Over Heels.
“My bodyguard was mowing the lawn in a pink bikini when the body fell from the sky.”
Right there, readers are bombarded with a lot of questions, a clear picture, humor, and mystery. The identity of this character and the purpose of having a bodyguard are questions that readers have. Is the bodyguard a woman or a man wearing a pink bikini? And why is the bodyguard mowing the lawn in the first place, especially when she is only sporting a pink bikini? The obvious question: What the hell was that body doing in the sky?
It is entertaining, engrossing, humorous, sexy, vivid, and enigmatic. In another example, the erotic-thriller, Massacre’ade Party written by L.K. Scott opens with a more forward, informative line:
“The Venetian’s latest victim was also one of West Hollywood’s elite socialites.”
From the very first line, the readers know Massacre’ade Party is about a killer-well enough to have been given a name. An odd name for a murderer. The killer’s moniker: how or why? The readers are also aware that there have been several murders before the beginning of the book. Finally, we know the city—West Hollywood, California—and that the murderer is specifically targeting socialites, which foreshadows the social and moral context.
As demonstrated by the aforementioned examples, the opening of a dialogue or narrative can be instructive, violent, or erotic.
Visit your neighborhood bookstore, browse Amazon.com, or check out Goodreads.com to find the genre under which your book might fall. This will help you better understand how your novel should begin. Choose a few books and analyze the tenor, mood, and personality of each line. Consider what the line is telling you, but also what the line isn’t telling you.
The primary conflict and characters are at the heart of your story’s middle. In order to prevent readers from becoming bored and setting your book down without picking it back up again, it must be even stronger than the opening. The worst-case scenario is that they might be deterred from buying your other books and leave negative reviews on their blog or on websites for retailers. Any chance you might have had for success with a new book can be seriously destroyed by one negative review.
Will the reader be interested enough to finish the book? Will they carry on laughing and tell their friends your jokes? Will they stay up late and tremble in fear under the covers with a nightlight on? Has your reader fallen in love with your character and fantasized about escaping together? Consider how many childrens’ lives were changed after the release of Harry Potter. How many kids who didn’t have many friends sought refuge in the world of Harry Potter?
The writer must use words to harness the strength of the reader’s emotions and transport them into their world. Don’t let your middle sag. Continue the characters’ crucial quest. Give a subplot room to grow and become involved with the main story. Give your characters a contentious issue to fight over—something that transforms the situation into a place they didn’t anticipate.
When a reader is so immersed in a book that after it is finished, they are unable to pick up the next one until the emotional rollercoaster has passed, this is known as a book hangover. Once the book is put back on the shelf, the reader is left with a lingering impression. It encourages discussion of the book in online forums and among friends and family.
It can be subdued and lingering, exploding with excitement, or full of twists that send your reader’s head spinning with anticipation. It might be romantic or even fatal. The goal is for the reader to be inspired to seek out and read everything else you’ve ever written.
The culmination of all events occurs at Zero Hour. Eventually, the secondary plot and the main plot collide. Characters who might have never met before finally cross paths. All the characters finally face the truth as the secrets are exposed. Star-crossed lovers share one final passionate kiss before passing away, the villain is confronted and vanquished, the diamond is located and brought back, sacrifices are made, and the protagonist transforms both himself or herself and the world from which he or she came. There shouldn’t be any mysteries or explanation gaps.