Note: If you watched the video, but aren’t interested in reading the blog, scroll down below for an EXCLUSIVE sneak peek at the wonderful first chapter of The Baetylus Stone!
For those of you who aren’t all about the vlogs, I’m just going to go ahead and break the video down for you here.
Total side note: If you do watch the vlog, invite some friends over and make a drinking game out of it. Every time I say “invested” or “conflict”, take a shot. I promise you, you’ll be feeling reeeaaallly good by the end of the video. I’m not sure how much you’ll remember, but you’ll be feeling good. Or, even better, every time I say the above words, eat a piece of chocolate. Not gonna lie, but I think I’ve just given myself an idea for my new favorite game.
Okay, enough about drinking games that I probably shouldn’t be encouraging. Let’s move on to novel beginnings and my top tips for what you should and shouldn’t do.
The DOs of Beginning Your Novel
Start by introducing your MC. Well duh, you might say, who else would I introduce? Listen, I’m just making sure I’ve got my bases covered, here.
Introduce your setting, but DON’T (<---- notice the all caps) over-explain your setting in the first chapter. Weave it in naturally and in a way that revolves around your characters. If you can’t do that, then the first chapter might not be the appropriate place for world-building.
Introduce conflict (if you’re playing the drinking game while reading, now is when you’d take your first shot). This doesn’t have to be the big, story-driving conflict of the novel. Instead, it should be the daily, every day, typical conflicts your main character (MC) encounters. That’s a great place to start!
Introduce wants, dislikes, and needs of your MC. Does your MC absolutely loathe their summer job and want more than anything to be able to spend her summer bathing by the pool while staring at that hot lifeguard? Well, guess what? That horrible summer job might just be a really interesting place to start!
Introduce readers to your MC’s typical world. The best way to let your readers really get to know your characters is by introducing us to their world and showing us how they react to situations, how they talk, the kind of people they hang around. The first chapter doesn’t have to dive us right into the action of your story (that can feel exhausting), it just needs to let readers orient themselves with the characters and their lives BEFORE everything gets turned upside down by the big story conflict (i.e., the inciting incident).
The DON’Ts of Beginning Your Novel
Warnings: Take all of these with a grain of salt. There are merely suggestions and there, of course, are always exceptions (rare, but they exist).
NO waking up
If waking up is the most interesting thing you’ve got for your character, then I’m not sure I want to read past the first chapter. Stretch your imagination and look at all of my suggestions above to think of the best possible place and time you could introduce your story.
NO beginning chapters without conflict
First of all, my daily existence is conflict. If your first chapter involves none, I already can’t relate to your characters. SHOW ME THE CONFLICT. I know you can’t tell, but I’m saying that in a “show me the money” voice and I’m just replacing money with conflict. Clever, I know.
Once again, this conflict doesn’t have to be your big, inciting incident conflict (although, it certainly can be). It just needs to be typical everyday conflicts your character encounters. Fighting parents, bullies, running late for an important meeting, living in a war-torn country, etc.
NO being too mysterious
I get it, you have exciting reveals and big plots changes that will render your readers speechless! You can’t reveal too much, because otherwise, your reveals won’t be shocking. That’s all good and well, but the one person you don’t want to play coy about? Your main character. If we don’t know who your MC is, want she wants, or what stands in her way, you’ve already lost us. Mystery is fine but not when it comes to investing your readers in your characters.
The first chapter is not the place to write long sweeping paragraphs of backstory or to give intricate details about your awesome world. Once again, the first chapter is for orienting your readers to your MC’s normal world before it goes topsy-turvy. Too much backstory or world-building that early in the story tends to take readers out of it before they have a chance to care.
Now for the really good stuff. Here is a link to Michael Lee Morrison’s first chapter of The Baetylus Stone and links to where you can buy all three books mentioned in today’s segment.
The Baetylus Stone first chapter
The Baetylus Stone
The Hunger Games
The Hate U Give
That’s it for today! Whether you took shots, ate chocolate, or just acted like a normal person and read my blog, I hope you found it informative! As always, if you found this blog post useful, share it out on Twitter, Instagram, or Facebook. Write on (do you see what I did there?) and have a great day!