Good Ways To Start A Story In First Person – “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times,” was one of the most famous lines in the first chapter of literature. A killer, an exciting story, an unforgettable character – no, we’re not talking about the plot of a horror movie. These are some of the elements that contribute to an enticing first chapter. We can’t give you a magic formula that will get your opening line quoted as much as Charles Dickens, but we can give you some tips on how to write a first chapter that will captivate readers.
As a means of persuading readers to continue reading your book, the first chapter should contain everything an executive summary would contain. You want to be unique and inventive in your writing, but leaving out these story elements is likely to confuse readers more than attract them.
- 1 Good Ways To Start A Story In First Person
- 2 How To Write A Story For B1 Preliminary (pet) Writing
- 3 Character Craze: Why Writers Should Develop The Antagonist First
Good Ways To Start A Story In First Person
When it comes to a book chapter, simple doesn’t mean boring. This does not mean over-describing the setting, introducing too many characters, or using terms that are overly technical at this point in the book.
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I think the most important thing in the first chapter is an interesting introduction to the material, as well as establishing why the reader needs the information and why you are the one to tell it.
[In the first chapter, don’t] be too broad or try to cover too many bases. This is what the rest of your book is about. Give context, of course, but give a concrete reason why the reader should keep reading.
Famous quotes, clichés, and profound statements are expected at this point, so what can you say that sets the tone of the book while also feeling unique?
The first paragraph is where you can introduce your reader to your writing style and offer them a continuation of the story. Think of this as your “elevator pitch” for your book. From the first sentence, your book must be in your voice as the author and in the tone of the book.
How To Write A Story For B1 Preliminary (pet) Writing
I often start with a personal anecdote (or anonymous user research) to illustrate the need for the information I’m sharing, my expertise, and to engage readers.
Other options include opening with a simple sentence containing just a subject and a verb, a unique quote from your main character, or opening in the middle of a conflict. For example:
Since the first line and first paragraph of your chapter are arguably the most complete parts of the entire book, it’s good to get feedback on them early on.
Find a few people in your target audience (friends, family members, social media followers, etc.) to serve as a mini focus group. Send them your first line, with no context (especially no indication that this is your writing from a work-in-progress), and ask them to share how it makes them feel. If most of them respond with the sentiments you were aiming for, you have a good opening sentence for your book.
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You can do the same with the entire first paragraph or even the first chapter. Pay attention to whether your readers want to read on and where they get confused.
Even if your first chapter is part of a larger story, you can make it especially compelling by giving it its own miniature plot. You won’t resolve everything in this mini-plot at the end of the first chapter, but you can give your reader some satisfaction.
To do this, figure out what your character needs in these early stages of the story and put a small obstacle or two in the way. This is not the main plot of your book, but it should fit in.
A mini-plot like this keeps the story moving and keeps your first chapter turning the pages. It leaves a good impression on the reader who will not be able to resist reading further.
Ways To Start Your Story Better
One way to keep readers engaged at the end of the first chapter and most subsequent chapters is to end with cliffhangers or open loops. The idea is to leave the reader begging to know more, to keep them turning from page to page. As Michael Kwan suggests:
While we can talk about “closing the loop” on tasks, projects, and to-do lists, in the first chapter you want to leave open loops for the reader. You give them enough to fascinate them, but not enough to completely satisfy them. So they can’t help but keep reading.
From non-fiction to fiction, the first chapter can be very different. As you write, think about your audience and genre. What is the standard? What will readers expect? Either way, your goal is to intrigue readers, but the approach to achieving that goal is different for each genre.
When I write fiction, I write in first person present tense because it has an immediacy that helps me convey emotion well since most of my fiction is very emotional. I want my readers to feel like they are there with the character. In terms of non-fiction, I write almost exactly as I would speak to a class I was teaching about the same subject.
Ways To Write Your Opening Line
The first chapter is the first thing an agent will read when considering whether to represent your book in the traditional publishing process. It’s also the first thing readers will see (after the cover and back – which you may not have control over) if you self-publish or get a publishing deal. This is basically the deciding factor in whether someone will finish and recommend your book.
Whether you write it first or last, give the first chapter a lot of extra attention in your editing circles—more than any other chapter. Make a checklist of everything you want your first chapter to be. Focus on one of these elements in each round of editing. There is no single “correct” approach to how to start a first-person story. However, there are several ways to start a story using a first-person point of view and draw readers in from the start. Here are 8 tips for starting a book in the first person:
Many novels that are considered classics today open with a first-person introduction to the character. This type of opening, where the protagonist offers a friendly hand to the reader, can be very effective. Take the beginning of Dickens
‘Whether I will prove to be the hero of my own life or whether someone else will take that place, these pages must show. To begin my life with the beginning of my life, I record that I was born (as I am informed and believe) on Friday, at twelve o’clock in the evening.
Get Your Story Right: The Storytelling Canvas.
As far as introductions go, this one is very simple. Dickens does not immediately create a particularly strong emotional connection with the character. What Dickens does, however, is intrigue the reader about David. We want to know if he will be the hero he is talking about or not.
“I was a posthumous child. My father’s eyes were closed to the light of this world for six months, when mine opened them. Something is strange to me, even now, in the reflection that he never saw me; and something stranger still in the shadowy recollection I have of my first childish associations with his white tombstone in the churchyard, and of the vague sympathy I felt for him lying out there alone in the dark night, when our little drawing-room. it was warm and bright with fire and candles, and the door of our house was – almost cruelly, it sometimes seemed to me – bolted and locked.
Dickens makes us want to know the outcome of the story and then makes us sympathize with his narrator through his tale of loss.
Making the reader care doesn’t necessarily mean making the reader feel sorry for your character: readers can just as easily dislike your scheming anti-hero or feel conflicted. The most important thing is that the readers care, either about your character, or about the outcome of the situation they are announcing.
Paragraph Structure: How To Write Strong Paragraphs
Starting with the characters’ actions is another useful way to hook the reader right away. Instead of your character describing a memory or past experience, start with your character doing something.
Showing your protagonist either in a state of strong emotion or in the process of a confusing activity teases the reader with the sense that there is much more to the story and promises the reader that more will be revealed.
Part of what makes the sample introductions above quite effective is how little they reveal about the first-person narrator’s circumstances. First, the reader may ask ‘Whose body?’ or ‘Is the main character a killer who gets rid of the body or is the situation more complicated?’
This is an important element of how to start a first-person story: Leave some of the most interesting things about your character for later. When we meet someone for the first time, it is irresistible if they tell us all the smallest details about themselves. The same goes for your characters – a little mystery makes us want to know more.
Character Craze: Why Writers Should Develop The Antagonist First
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