Sunday, 5 January 2014

Chapter Deja Vu

Removing unnecessary commas... oh wait, I've started an article like this before. Why would I start another in the same way? Okay, that's not my best example. Still, the same goes for the first chapter of every novel, unless you've got some sort of Groundhog Day plot-line going on.

Starting chapters in the same way each time gets dull quickly. It’s repetitive, predictable, and tells your reader that once they’ve reached the end of the current chapter, then expect another slow lull before more stuff goes down. And when your readers can anticipate a lull, it gives them a reason to put your book down and less of a reason to pick it back up again.

More examples:

Don’t start a novel with your character waking up. In fact, unless something exciting happens in bed (hey-hey!) then you probably shouldn’t start any chapter with a waking up scene.

Avoid long, ponderous chapter openings where the character is driving or lying in bed – these work better in the middle of chapters with complicated predicaments.

This is similar to my point above, but don’t list the character’s routine. A good way to make sure this is avoided is to start chapters at a different point of the day, with different characters present, or in a different place. Variation is the key to interesting.

That unique character quirk you’ve come up with, perhaps a character swearing, don’t pull that trick every time. Or maybe your character is caring so you start every chapter with them doing something nice. You don’t have to show it every chapter and in the same place.

Of course repetition can be important for symbolic reasons, but make sure you’re aware that you’re doing it, that it’s still interesting, and that you’re doing it for a well constructed reason.