It's good to be back on the blog. For today's FAQ Fridays post, I wanted to talk about the importance of first pages in a story.
Readers often judge a book primarily on the opening pages. Writers have about ten pages to grab the attention of their readers. Our audience must find themsleves engrossed in the story and answer the question, "Is this worth my time to read?"
Before I start the first draft of a story, I brainstorm a list of possible opening scenes. It's important to craft the first chapter carefully. I often ask myself several questions.
- How does the story begin?
- What is the opening scene?
- What is the sequence of the action?
- How do I set the entire story in motion based on my main character's life and the premise of the story?
An opening scene sets up the story from page one. Writers refer to this as the inciting incident—the catalyst, the change that takes place in our character’s normal life, the very first incident that draws the main character into the storyline.
How important is the first chapter?
The first scene, the first sequence, and the first chapter are critical. A writer’s skill and story are always being judged, especially on the first page, where it’s quite easy to get a grasp of a writer’s strengths and weaknesses. Writers usually have only one chance to make a lasting first impression. There's no getting around that.
What about e-book readers?
Most online bookstores provide the first pages preview feature. Readers often have the ability to preview the first pages of books from the comfort of their home. They can take their time before deciding on a purchase. If readers aren't hooked by the sample pages, they’ll easily move on to the next book.
The first chapter has always been important because it sets the story in motion. A connection between the characters and premise must be established. It's what grabs the reader's attention. Through voice, action, and images, writers can give readers a taste of what to expect in the entire story.
As a reader, how much weight do you give to the opening pages? As a writer, do you feel the pressure of creating a great first chapter for your readers?