Here is a tip I heard from Martine Leavitt and recently read again on Carol Lynch Williams’s blog:
The story must start on a day when something is different for the main character.
I tried this. Laid it all out there on the first three pages. And you know what editors said? “Who cares? I don’t know your character yet, so I’m not interested in going on this journey with her.”
Back to the drawing board.
Next I tried implementing advice from editor Jennifer Hunt, who in essence told me to tell readers whose story this is going to be, establish her voice, and *then* begin the character’s journey. Similarly, writer/editor Kim Griswell said:
Most heroes’ journeys begin in the ordinary, everyday world. We meet a character where he lives and get to know a bit about him. Just as we’re starting to like him, he finds himself at the edge of a cliff looking off into the great unknown.
I tried this too. Do you know what my writers groups said? “I like knowing your main character more, but I was hoping for some conflict by now. What’s different about this day?”
ARG! Sometimes I wonder if writers are even close to sane.
How do you balance the introduction of main characters with making stuff happen in a first chapter? Or what are some novels you think have especially great first chapters? Chances are, your favorite first chapters achieve this balance without readers even noticing.
*Runs off to read 20 first chapters*