“But I believe that the number-one thing that hooks readers is authority, by which I mean a sense that this writer is in control of the story and how it’s being told. An author with authority isn’t in a rush to give away the central plotline of the book, because s/he knows that plot is going to be good, and so s/he can afford to take her time getting there, and to do it right….The author can take that time because s/he still makes all of this backstory build up steadily to the Inciting Incident, which happens by the end of the first chapter if not earlier.”
I don’t think Klein is necessarily saying that we all need to have leisurely openings about the scenery or the weather. But I think it’s so common to hear that you need to hook the reader with the first paragraph, and I’m glad that Klein suggests focusing on character and emotional core at that point. A lot of books start on a day that something changes; it’s good to have a moment of time in which we see the characters in their status quo. Then we can appreciate how things will change. (Klein has a few great examples, like The Hunger Games and The Fault in Our Stars.)
Still, it’s important to note that Klein also says you need an inciting incident pretty quickly. If there’s no momentum by the end of the first chapter, a reader can feel like there’s not enough reason to keep reading.
This has definitely given me something to think about for my latest projects. Make sure to check out the full post, and share your own first chapter tips/pet peeves in the comments.
(image: J. Paxon Reyes)