The AmWritingFantasy Podcast: Episode 73 – How to write a GOOD first chapter of a novel
The beginning of a novel - especially the first chapter - is what will decide if the reader goes on to read more or ditches the story right then and there.
The ability to write a first chapter that hooks the reader is massively important.
But how do you accomplish such a feat?
In episode 73 of the Am Writing Fantasy podcast, Autumn and Jesper share the elements that every successful first chapter needs - along with some of the mistakes they have made in their earlier writing career.
Links to materials mentioned in this episode:
The Character Development - Essential Skills - course: https://ultimatefantasywritersguide.com/character-development-sales-page/
The video on how to write awesome prologues: https://youtu.be/CRTiTRWfUeU
The booklet designed to help you with crafting an amazing first chapter: https://www.amwritingfantasy.com/product/novel-beginnings-help-booklet/
Tune in for new episodes EVERY single Monday.
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Read the full transcript below.
(Please note that it's automatically generated and while the AI is super cool, it isn't perfect. There may be misspellings or incorrect words on occasion).
You're listening to the Am Writing Fantasy podcast. In today's publishing landscape, you can reach fans all over the world. Query letters are a thing of the past. You don't even need and literary agent. There is nothing standing in the way of making a living from Writing Join two best selling authors who have self published more than 20 books between them. Now on to the show with your hosts, Autumn Bert and Jasper Schmidt.
Hello, I am Jesper and I'm Autumn. This is episode 73 of the Am Writing Fantasy podcast. And the topic of today's episode is opening books. So I guess we need to, I don't know if we need to have something clever to say here as well as out of like an opening book for this episode.
Oh shoot. I'm there for a big good or just coming up with great opener on the fly. I'm not a stage show a actor, actress.
Jesper (1m 0s):
No, no. And I get distracted because, uh, when a hour intro narrator, there is a saying the intro, I was a, I got distracted because I was thinking about recently we got a transcription service to do a transcripts of every single podcast episode. Yeah. Well, yeah, but a bit, I got distracted because every time he sees he is now says my name and that intro, I can't help thinking about how the AI is going to get it wrong because I edited an upload it all the past transcripts of all of the past episodes over the last like week or something, or at least half of the actual to get my half.
Jesper (1m 46s):
But I did have a baby. Yeah. Yeah. But every single time the AI comes up with a new variation of how to do my name. That's what's amazing is, is different every time. It's the closest I've seen it. He does a Yesper with a Y, which I thought, okay, that's a pretty close.
Autumn (2m 5s):
But once I was, Hey dude, I was like, that's exactly so weird, so I got distracted about that. You weren't paying attention because you were like, what are you good at saying that about my name now? And it always spells mine incorrectly in lowercase and I was just like, yeah. And then also a Burt with an E every time it's a bit of an eye. Yes. Always a, you know, or at least I guess or at least it comes out a little bit closer than yours. But do you think, I wish we could train it to at least get our names right.
Autumn (2m 38s):
That'd be fantastic. Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. So anyway, how are things? Things are going good. I'm, I'm slowly starting to enjoy, um, the cabin now that the major constructions done. I won't say we're not doing anything, but it's, we're an unfinished work. So like today I painted the door is a very exciting, you were building, you know, the whole rooms and I had to paint a door so it was so easy and it was a gorgeous day. We've had beautiful weather in the sixties if your on the Fahrenheit, so you have in the twenties and Celsius.
Autumn (3m 13s):
So it's quite lovely, nice weather. And I'm getting myself, I'm finally organised. A long time ago I took a leadership course and it's funny how many times I actually refer back to this course. It was an 18 month course. Um, I've even written blog posts because I learned so quickly that if you put 13 would be leaders in a room together, you on a quest group or you got 13 people who want to go on a quest together.
Autumn (3m 43s):
It does not work out well. You can't have 13 different heads and one body. But one of the things I learned was time management. And I finally know that I have this mental and physical space to do something other than built an entire building that I'm living in it in a core team, a pandemic. Um, I've, I've started doing some time management and I got out my book and one of my favorite things was writing down your to do list, not just like a massive to do list, but based on your roles.
Autumn (4m 19s):
So I have, I broke up all my to do's into like Am, Writing, Fantasy or Writing or graphic design. And then I have little things under each of them. So that way you keep everything going because you're not just this massive list. You'll want to make sure that you get at least something done on everything. I even have stretch goals. They aren't, the only thing I didn't put in was Am like relaxed goals. I think maybe I want to work on a relaxed skull or a me time. I should add a meal goal tonight. And how much rewards for yourself when you get things done?
Autumn (4m 52s):
That's to me checking it off. I am such a Ferguson that isn't that horrible. Um, no, I, I'm, I'm very similar. I just love it when I can click done on something, then it's just like, yes, we're post to a sad, that way we can have a lot. So you have my, my reward is crossing things off and usually the stretch goal is something fun. Like right now, uh, you and I, we're talking about doing trailers for the last week. Um, and I put on my, my stretch goal is to finally get working on the trailer for my series.
Autumn (5m 24s):
So that's my, that's my, I really want to work on this fine time to work on this project or maybe one after you. It's like, yeah and you got to just push everything aside and say like I'm doing this because I want to do this. So how are things, I know you had a house showing in, you wouldn't tell me before the podcast. How so I'm dying of curiosity. Well yeah so we have the, you know as we talked about before I mentioned before, we are in the process of trying to to shell out easy, that's for sure.
Autumn (5m 57s):
Pandemic does not
Jesper (5m 58s):
help. And well actually that was the funny thing because I talked to the real estate agent and he said and get this, he said it is insanely busy now. You said we're working like 70 hours a week. He said wow, that's crazy. So I think it's because people just have more time on their hands now that they have with the pandemic. So they, they've, they're doing their house shopping now and looking on the internet and say Oh lets go and look at that house in this house. Or maybe this is sitting at their own house going, I hate this place, let's sell it.
Jesper (6m 33s):
No, or maybe it's just been, you know, they've been talking about moving for quite a while and then they think, okay, let's do it now. But um, but yeah, so and so they are pretty basic. So we have the one showing a, what is it, a one and a half or two weeks back. Yeah. We had a, it was like Am slightly, well, younger couple of other sounds. I sound so old when I say that. They don't say that I have a lot of, then you buy a couple of years.
Jesper (7m 4s):
So it's so funny. Yeah. Okay. Let's maybe like 10 years younger than us or something that you could say that's quite yet. Um, they, uh, pregnant with our first child so I can sort of recognize ourself. Um, and uh, they, they have been out How shopping I think for a while because it sounded like they came back. Ah, as I mentioned in the past, I have to show, we dropped the price a hundred thousand Danish crowns recently, so that helped.
Jesper (7m 34s):
Apparently. So they come back and they had a viewing and a half a week back and then a couple of days later the real estate agent called and said, uh, can we get a second viewing? Because they would like to come back and see it again. So of course, yes, of course you can. That's a, that's a good sign. Um, and then at the same time they wanted to see another house on this street that, that real estate In also have an Asian also has for sale.
Jesper (8m 5s):
So they wanted to see both of them because they wanted something to compare with. And a, they went and saw, the other one is like 200,000 things crunch more expensive than ours. It's also slightly bigger. I think it has one more room or something. Then hours, if I remember correctly. And I might be wrong on that, but nevertheless, they went there to get a bit of comparison, uh, or perspective. And uh, they were supposed to come here something like half past two that day or something and he'd called 20 minutes early and say, how can we come over now?
Jesper (8m 38s):
And that was like, what? Well, yeah, will be out of the house in 10 minutes, so then you can come and But. And I said to him, well, that was quick. Once you're suppose to be a bit, spend the least a half an hour over a day or something. Yeah. And they say, yeah, yeah, but they're not that interested in this house or you just want to to see it. So, okay. So they came over to hours and then of course a, we were of course not here. So when I talked to a real estate agent afterwards, he said that the first thing that the lady there said when they entered the house or our house was just like, yeah, let's see what I mean.
Jesper (9m 14s):
You know, you're getting a much, much more, how's for your money here? The other one, this is one of the first things you said. So that was good. Yeah. Uh, and a, they had, they had their mother with them. I don't know if it's the man or woman's mother, I don't know. But one of the two, um, and she was also praising the house and saying, yeah, this is a really good price. You're getting a lot of, a lot for your money here. Of course we did also just drop the prices I mentioned.
Jesper (9m 44s):
So I'm sure that helps. Um, and uh, they were basically just this is the real estate on set. He said that the basic, they were just talking only about the things that they liked. I mean there was no critical questions. There was nothing. There was just saying all the things that they like. Um, so, so that, that was good. Yeah. They have an apartment inside Copenhagen, a two room apartment that do you need to sell? So first, um, so he, and then Mike, who do you, you can buy a house on condition that you sell your own first.
Jesper (10m 18s):
Uh, so basically you do all the papers and all the, you basically sell the house but no money is transferred until they have sold their apartment. And then there was a time limit time limit on a contract. Like that a, so that they will expire at some point if they haven't sold within, normally it's like six months. So if they have them sold their place in six months, then the contract is either you can extend it or you can basically rip it apart then and say, okay, that's it. Um, that's interesting. Yeah. And then the only way around that is still that.
Jesper (10m 51s):
So if somebody comes while you sign the conditional contract, if somebody then comes and say, well we would like to buy the house and if they don't have any condition, they can actually buy it even though the other contract exists. So they basically overwrite that contract and then they just buy it. And then the ones who were supposed to buy it on there, that signed a conditional contract. Well that's just bad luck. Yeah. So that's kind of how it works here. So he was, the real estate didn't was a, he was supposed to talk to them over the weekend, but I haven't heard back from him today.
Jesper (11m 27s):
So now I don't know.
Autumn (11m 30s):
They don't know what they're thinking. Oh no. Okay. Well, you know, you can't make me wait until next Monday to find out if you want to do, if you find out this is what you have to let me know.
Jesper (11m 41s):
Yeah, yeah I will. But we'll see. I mean all in all it sounds like they're very positive and then their parents live down here on, on in the same city here so, and they live in Copenhagen, which is like 50 kilometers away so, and now she's six months pregnant, the lady. So I'm sure that they want to get down here close to the parents. Right. So I bet. Yeah. And then according to what they have told the real estate agent, they are not looking at any other houses or anything in this area is only our house that their looking at it that it should really happen.
Jesper (12m 19s):
I hope. But let's, let's see. Let's get on the internet with the Am Writing Fantasy podcast.
Autumn (12m 29s):
It's all right. So Autumn we doubled down over these past few weeks and we actually put a shot cost together, didn't we? We did. It was amazing that we've gone from, it seems like we have all these projects that we've been working on for ages and we just decided to throw another project in there and get it done in like two weeks was crazy. I don't know what we're doing sometimes other than making tasks that we can cross off. Well actually now do you say to me that was like such a conscious leader, let's do something where we can tick off because all of the other projects we're having, we have a huge like world-building course that we were moving forward on that.
Autumn (13m 10s):
But it's a big, we have a free course that quite a lot of effort. We have a course on email list building, which is also a lot of effort. So there are so many things. Maybe it's this like subconscious place. You are saying let's do something where we can get it done. Exactly. I think there might have been just like, we've went on a win, so we did a win and it was awesome. So it was good. Yeah. Yeah. So it turned out, uh, I counted the minutes. So there was 86 minutes of guidance on the key methods to create fantastic characters in that course.
Autumn (13m 45s):
It is six modules long until you decided to add a bonus module Autumn in the seven months long that it needed just a little bit more, but it wasn't enough for a whole nother module. So it's just a little short bonus. Yeah. Yeah. So basically it covers eight Character archetypes that every writer need to know. We talk about understanding Character motivation. We also discussed what comes first plodding or character development.
Autumn (14m 16s):
There is guidelines on point of view characters. We go into character arcs and explain how those works. And then you have a bonus module Autumn it's about breathing life into characters. So really bringing out their personality and making, it's a, you know, given that little spice of life that sometimes all of the Character lists and interviews and sheets and bubble charts just seem to lack. Yeah. So that there's a lot of good stuff like their, so as you said, 86 minutes a week.
Autumn (14m 50s):
It's, it's rather quick and easy to go through. So it's not like it won't demand hours and hours and hours from YouTube to, to uh, to, you know, get those key methods, get those key learnings. Its quite, quite easy in undemanding. It is. Yeah. Compact. Yeah, that's a good word. And it's also fairly cheap. Yes we do because it is a short course what we decided to make this one, I mean that came out or something out of the pandemic and quarantine to help writers, uh, you know, R group voted on it and this is what they want to do.
Autumn (15m 24s):
We have a special preregistration at a discount but even at full price we are selling it for only $47 because it is a short course and because it is there, you know, as part of something you can do now to keep your writing and advance your skills while you're sitting at home and waiting for the world to restart at some point soon it sounds like. Yeah. So the course is available right now and I will put a link in the show notes from where you can get access to it.
Jesper (15m 58s):
Um, and there is also a, as we always do Autumn we have a 30 day money back guarantee and a well it's very rare that anybody takes up on, up us up on those guarantees there. But uh, but it has happened once in a while and when it does, we don't ask any questions, we just give you your refund and that's it. Quite easy. Very much.
Autumn (16m 31s):
All right. Opening hooks. Prerecording we will, we actually started debating a bit. What do we mean about opening? There is a, it's what you're saying, there's opening hooks to the book, opening hooks to chapters. There's the opening hook to your blurb. Which hook are we hooking? Yes. Yeah. But I think that is actually a good place to stop just to finding a bit. What are we talking about when we're saying opening hook?
Autumn (17m 2s):
Absolutely. So we decided after a brief, Oh shoot, what are we talking about today on the podcast? Um, that we're so professional podcasts, this is amazing. We can handle the stress as well as our students. We just did a student Q and a before this as well. And we are good at answering questions on the fly so you can not push us off our purchase of what we know, what we're talking about. We said what we decided, we're talking about the opening of books. So this hook is literally hooking readers so that when you have someone to open up se like the sample, read a sample on Amazon to see what's inside that basically you grab them.
Autumn (17m 42s):
So they're like, yeah, I'm buying this. I want to see what happens next. So that's the opening hook we're talking about for today. Yeah. So it's things like when you have a story should take you, it's beginning. It is how to capture a reader's attention. And a, I guess maybe we could also touch a bit on how much detail you should include in the beginning. Uh, absolutely. How it goes. Yeah. And if not right now, as we were talking before, we actually have a booklet on novel beginnings and what should be in there.
Autumn (18m 15s):
So if you don't quite cover everything, they can always go to the AmWritingFantasy website and will have that in the show notes as well. And purchase the booklet is only a few dollars and get anything that we might miss today because you know, Podcast we're not going to try to do what we did last week, which was over an hour because that was the book launch a podcast and it was huge because book launches are a huge, yeah. If it was more than I actually thought initially it was just like there was so much to say, then we could have split into two.
Autumn (18m 49s):
But I sometimes think it's good not to make people wait, get it all over with at once and yeah, all the steps. So whether we start with this, do you think, what were, what is the best place to start? Autumn well, I think, um, I always, I always go with the cliches are the things that you hear thrown about and I like to dissect them. And one of the things you hear when you're writing is start with action. And so that is true. That is a good hook because you kind of grabbed the reader and takes them with you as you're about to do something the way the character should be doing something.
Autumn (19m 26s):
But what does that actually mean to say start with action and also what does it not mean? And that's one of my favorites because I do, especially teaching students, Oh my goodness. I think over 50% of students start their first sentence with something about the weather. And it's that whole, it was a dark and stormy night. So starting with action is not starting with what the weather. Nobody is tricky because starting with action is also not starting to see because there's also the other way where you're starting with, lets say some somebody is chasing somebody's right and when you start reading, if you have no clue who's chasing who is it?
Autumn (20m 10s):
The Character. Yeah. You don't need to get to know which one are you supposed to care about and yeah, where are you in so many questions right there. It reminds me of that awesome scene in the movie memento where, where, where he a, he keeps forgetting. So he's running and then he's like, he looks, I can't remember if he's looking behind. I think he's looking behind himself. Yes. And then there's somebody's running as well. And he was the one he's starting to, to speculate weight.
Jesper (20m 42s):
Am I chasing him on me? And it's just so, it's such an awesome scene. And then he turns and the guy's pulls a gun and shoots at him and he's okay. This isn't me. But it is true. I mean, as a reader you are basic. If it's not, if you were talking about book one, have a series or a standalone book. So we're just going to talk about the opening hooks for something that is brand new to the reader, doesn't know anything except if they took the time to write, read the blurb, which they probably did before picking either purchasing the book or opening it up to see what happens in that first page to see if it's an interesting.
Autumn (21m 15s):
And so yeah, if you're throwing a reader into a situation, and so yes. What kind of action do you want to start with the action where someone is a gunshot or since we're talking about Fantasy you know magic the Dragon's about to eat them wear. Do you want to start with action so that the reader is not overwhelmed going I am so a loss. I do not know what's happening. And I think one of the best ways of keeping things clear is maybe starting with action but not having it to the chase scene.
Autumn (21m 49s):
Having it as a one Character action and I always liked to keep it as something small. It could be as small as being purposeful, you know a drive to go somewhere too. I know in mine is the character has looking for someone my first book and born of water. So the action is she is sneaking out of a place so that she can go find something is very simple one Character something is going on. It's kind of building the curiosity and I think that's really going to be the key that we talk about today is all you want to do with the goal of every sentence is to keep, make the case, the reader want to read the next sentence to see what happens.
Autumn (22m 31s):
And you keep doing that long enough there going to want to read the whole book. Yeah. And I think this will, uh, on a slightly personal note, because there is also, especially when we're dealing with Fantasy here, there is also the Am the thing about sharing a lot about the setting, uh, you, you mentioned the whether before, but in Fantasy especially you can be like, OK, so they entering this Elvyn Citi and then there was like half a page on, you know, why the city looks like this or why people are behaving like this.
Autumn (23m 12s):
And then the history of that building over a year there was demolished and they have left it demolished as a reminder how evil the enemies AR or whatever, you know, all that kind of thing. And it is so easy to do when Writing Fantasy and because if I had to write my first book today or at the beginning of my first book, I think overall it's a good book, but at the beginning of the book does suffer from this. There's to much of setting description in the beginning of it.
Autumn (23m 43s):
And of course again that was my first book. So you live and you, but
Jesper (23m 46s):
uh, but there was too much setting description and they have had some people or readers pointing it out and pointing out How also there was too many names in the beginning. Uh, so yeah, so they are, they should have lost a bit of track on who is important and what, what am I supposed to, who am I supposed to route for? Basically that that's what they need to know in the beginning. They need to clearly understand, okay, this is the character that I'm supposed to root for.
Jesper (24m 17s):
This is a par apparently the hero or the Heron. So and they, they are doing something, you know, and they're not, I think we need to define action in a bit of a broader context. So action just means that they are proactively doing something. It doesn't mean action in terms of their short fights or being shot or anything like that. If you do it right away or if you do it carefully, it could be something like that.
Jesper (24m 47s):
It's, I'm not saying that you cannot never open a book where some sort of fight or what is going on or whatever or you could do that, but it's a bit more difficult. But I think actually it needs to be defined more broadly as it's just a proactive action taking by the protector.
Autumn (25m 5s):
Right. And so it's almost like a purpose. You have something going on and then if it was your day to day life, it is, you're searching for your keys. Something is happening. But yeah, it doesn't have to be a chase scene or fleeing from a dragon. It doesn't have to be huge. And I definitely agree description from the world. I mean in the world, especially in Fantasy is almost like another character. It is so important. It's as important as the magic. It's, it's just these are our two pillars of what Fantasy really is.
Autumn (25m 38s):
That it has magic and it has this amazing setting with amazing creatures, but when it comes to just those, especially that first page, you want to pair it down to just almost like Writing a flash fiction short story. Just the details to make it interesting. Just the details to layer in curiosity that there is more. You get the flavors, the hints that there's a whole world. There's a whole importance of why these things are there. You might mention that there's, I can't mention the tower that have been ruined so that you might mention there's a ruin tower, but not explain why or where it is.
Autumn (26m 14s):
Chickens explain that later. You have a hundred thousand words to explain what you're setting up and these first few paragraphs, but if you can get the reader passes for the first few paragraphs so you won't get the chance to explain it all. So those first ones to me is I had a poetry writing class and this is really almost the essence of poetry writing is you pair it down to just the essence. You need to convey what you're trying to get across and what should be getting across as who is the main Character a little flavor of the world.
Autumn (26m 48s):
Something happening, something curious, intriguing, something that is going to make reader go, what is going on with that? Go with going like, Oh my God, there's so much stuff going on. I don't know what's going on but go, Oh there is something. Why are they doing this? What's going on? Why? As you know, what is the story of this? They want to be curious why their doing things without explaining anything about what they're doing. Anything cause you can explain later. Yeah, about the world building as well. It's, it's, it's such a big part of, of the Shanghai of course.
Autumn (27m 22s):
But I think for a lot of us, a lot of us Fantasy writers, we write Fantasy because we also love the world building. And hence it becomes very easy to say in a way to want in the beginning of the book to share some of that because we feel this need to, well the reader won't really understand why, you know, this elf hae that dwarf over there and less. I also explain that to a hundred years ago they, there was a war between the two racism and, well that might be some truth to that.
Autumn (27m 55s):
But the thing is also as you should, you set that you have an entire book to share those things so you can go quite easily in the beginning and then over time seed In preferably of course in, in, in action or in dialog about what happened. That would be best. But I picked out as an example as well because I think it sort of cements the point that I'm making here in the, uh, I can't remember exactly if the book is the same thing, but this is a, at least from the movie where Gandel first enters the Shire and the Frodo accuses him of being late.
Autumn (28m 35s):
Do you remember what Gandalf replies? Oh shoot, I don't, uh, I need to, I should almost try to have a really good voice, but if I can do a good, that doesn't sound like an assumption. Like an evil wizard. No, but he says a wizard is never late, nor is he early. He arrives precisely when he means too. And I think that is so excellent because within that one line of dialogue, we now know, aha, okay, this guy's a visit a, a wizard.
Autumn (29m 14s):
And um, he is, he's come to visit for whatever reason, we don't even know why yet. And that's the curiosity part that Autumn was just talking about. Right? Right. Uh, about why is he coming here? What, what's gonna happen. Oh, OK. With it. Oh, that's pretty cool. As a defense as you read it, but you don't need to do more with. The other part could have been to start saying, well Frodo was a Hobbit and there was a wizard called Gandalf and he was really looking forward for Gandalf to arrive later today, blah,
Jesper (29m 42s):
blah, blah, blah, blah. Right. You got to wait to see you now I'm all already into info dumping and then my next impulse could be try to explain how long ago Ghana last there and how he usually brings some fireworks and you know you started and it doesn't matter.
Autumn (29m 60s):
No, no and you're, you're not, you're telling and not showing and I think that's one of the important things. And also I think not only that that line gives a sense of what kind of wizard Gandalf is and you get attitude with that and you want that as well. That is a huge opening hook. If you have a character that is sparks on page one where you get this attitude where you, you get a sense of who they are, that can be so interesting.
Autumn (30m 31s):
You suddenly want to know more about this character or this person and so that's another great hook and by paring things down to really good dialogue, good action. You just in skipping all the description in like you were saying, explaining about the habits in what they are and fireworks and wizards by just not worrying all of that, not to go with them to do it in chapter five, don't do it now or or better yet. Don't say he wizards always bring fireworks, have them show him off.
Autumn (31m 4s):
You know you want to definitely keep to the show, make the character's do things. Don't just sit there and tell the reader about the things that the character's could be doing. Let's just know. Don't do that here. Especially in the first pages key and keep your passive sentences to a minimum. They should be very good, tight verbs and things that are solid and happening.
Jesper (31m 30s):
Yeah, that's true and a lot of this stuff that we're talking about here is of course also about meeting reader expectations and by delivering those young or old tropes that that read is expecting to, to be there. I mean in the, in the plotting book, uh, the, we jokingly set a, so I just picked it up, this quote from in there. So it goes like this quote, imagine a restaurant where the large red sign over the interest reading Chinese restaurant, you go inside and find the menu listing spare ribs and hamburgers with no traditional Chinese dishes on offer.
Jesper (32m 6s):
Such a restaurant would have a hard time satisfying its customers in quote. Right? Very true. That's the same thing here for us. When, when Writing a Fantasy we need to deliver those Fantasy tropes because they opened a fantasy book just like we entered the Chinese restaurant in the hopes that we will find something with magic or fantastical creatures and all those kinds of things that we love from the shore. So we need to deliver some of that, but it doesn't mean that we have to start explaining.
Jesper (32m 40s):
Autumn (32m 40s):
came from and How the dragon that actually assists exists in these lands are 1,454 years old and Am it's actually a rather young for her age. I have a dragon and so on. Uh, you know it. No. And then opening Koch, no thanks. No, no. It's a way to much. And even, I mean I look at that, we've had a discussion about prologues because of the book we're writing together and I definitely, I, I, we've pared it down to that we think a sentence or two is okay, but if as soon as you get two a paragraph or two or a prologue as too long, it's should be a good, a little spice.
Autumn (33m 21s):
I love cooking and I've been cooking today. Sorry. So you're getting all the food analogies. Just a hint, a spice, something to get a little bit of seasoning, but you know, you need to keep it going towards the story. You shouldn't be explaining things. I know in the novel beginnings, this is sort of a, a good thing. If you had an opening line as the David possessing zip Brooks as a door, Caitlin grabbed a handful of bless at Mer. It's not explaining why Zeke is now possessed by a demon, which demon as possessing him, why he will more actually do anything or who blessed it.
Autumn (33m 57s):
It's just things are happening. And that's fine. The rest will be revealed later. Those are the questions that the readers should have is like Y is Z possessed. Who is, what's the relationship there? Their just little curiosity things that you kind of want to find out what's going to happen next without getting buried under all the details of well, we got in trouble and what school are was doing an incantation and then think of that actually work and blah, blah blah.
Autumn (34m 28s):
If you don't need to know what needs did you just to make that up. That's actually very from the a novel, um, the big novel beginnings booklet. Oh, right, right, right. Okay. That's my quote. Right, right. Cool. Yeah. There was, somebody is talking on in the Am Writing Fantasy Facebook group as well around a favorite opening lines on, of course, now I can't remember the exact date, but it was something like somebody said that the, what they like the most was some or something along these lines and I'm, I'm going to butcher it a bit, so sorry about that.
Autumn (35m 0s):
But it was something like it's the 1st of June and somebody has to die today. Oh yes. Yes. And I can't, I can't think of the book that that one's from. But yes, God can be very good one. But that's a good start. Do you know, you'll be like, okay, this is interesting. Yes. And that was, and to me, I think we can talk about a good opening and a good hook, but I think if you're writing in your, in your manuscript, do not sit there and go over your chapter one again and again and again trying to get it down to your first perfect hook, write your manuscript and then come back and then start looking for the gem.
Autumn (35m 43s):
I know when I wrote my debut novel, I actually cut three chapters. It took me, I had to write the whole thing out, do some editing, realized, tweak things and a whole bunch of other stuff. And then I started looking at the beginning saying where's this supposed to begin? And I realized I had three chapters of just drivel that I had a right to get out of my head and just cut it and it didn't lose a damn thing. And it actually improves a ton to suddenly just cut out the first bit, the explanation and start there.
Autumn (36m 15s):
And I've read, you know, I've helped other authors, I've read some other things and I know what I think that was like the third paragraph in and it had a great opening line of, Oh I can't even find it now. But it was something like, you know, today Katelyn was going to join the, you know, or something of, Oh shoot, it was something bad too, you know, is she, you know, trader's or something and she was going to become a trader or something and that was just like, Oh, today Caitlin is going to become a trader.
Autumn (36m 48s):
Oh that is, that's interesting. But it was buried like three or four paragraphs down. It's like we'll get rid of the other stuff. Start with that. That is, that's exciting. That is like wow, what's going on? And if you can find that, that's great. And most likely you have it. If you've written your book and you have your manuscript, it's in there. You just have to go and do, you know, sort through the hay. She defined the needle, you'll find it in there. But don't worry about starting your first draft, your manuscript with the perfect talk right first and then come back.
Autumn (37m 22s):
And that's part of the editing is to find out where, where or you put it cause it's in there somewhere. Right.
Jesper (37m 28s):
Yeah. That's a good point. I just want to pick up and do that in a second. But before I forget, I just wanted to mention as well that a, regarding the prologue AM we actually, or I or actually in the past record as a full video where I talk about how to write a killer prologue. So I will also add a link to that video in the show notes. And if anybody is curious about that than you can, it's on YouTube so you can go and check it out. Um, so it's, it's an older one, but a, the points in there is still good so that you can go on.
Jesper (38m 2s):
What's that one if you want. But yeah, just coming back to what you were saying there, I think that there is a really, really important point around the tendency and I think most authors actually have a tendency to set the first chapter or the beginning of the book to early rather than too late. I agree. Um, we often start with all of the buildup. Uh, if I do my own example again, a win with my first book, the, the one, the first one I wrote there that I mentioned earlier and as well,
Autumn (38m 36s):
I could actually have made it worse, but they, the beginning, because initially my plan was to start the book. And so the Character, uh, the, the, the protagonist, she is pregnant and they, uh, she and her husband to be, are going to the city a that they live quite far outside. They, they like this, it kind of ELs in a way, but then not elves, but kind of But. So they live in their own cabin probably like, I can't remember, I think it's like half a day's walk from the city.
Autumn (39m 11s):
OK. In the forest. And they don't quite get along that well with, uh, with the people in the city or the protect. This doesn't, so that why they live out their, but they have to go and visit his parents to tell her to tell them about the fact that she's pregnant. And my initial thinking was because you always hear this, um, advice out there about you should show the Character in their everyday life in the beginning. And when I first started out I thought, Oh, okay. So I'll put them in this cabin out there in the woods.
Autumn (39m 42s):
They can just be cooking some food or breakfast or something before they have to leave to go to the city. And luckily enough, I caught myself there and I thought, but how is that interesting? You know, so, so, okay. So I've got to have an opening chapter with people eating food and saying, okay, how are you ready to go? Yeah, I'll get my things. And it's just so important. Yes, there's definitely a tendency, I agree that um, we want to start, sometimes we need it to get ourselves into the story as authors, but I definitely think it's something that you can go back and cut because it's got to be, it's got to be at least enough of a Mo.
Autumn (40m 21s):
It was going to be an everyday life thing, but its also got to be a movement and something happening is something that's going to tie two like the inciting incident and the plot that's already got to be kind of bubbling up. And like we said, the Character has got to be fully fleshed out. Maybe you don't know your character that well. And so you know, in our Character course we talk about making sure your Character is really solid and vivid and then fully formed so that when you start even that first sentence, that attitude that something comes through that is gripping and really engaging for the reader to say, Oh you know, you're, there is no fuzzy greatness in this character.
Autumn (40m 57s):
This character is pretty much a solid 3d and colored. If it weren't good to go. Yeah. Because that's the other part of it, you and, and that's what you were alluding at them as well you see, you can also start the story or two late. So this stuff is really not that easy. You know, you can start to earlier, you could start too late because if you're starting too late, the problem is that you might be confusing the intro with the inciting incident. Right? And that's not the point either. So you can not start so late that you all may already into the inciting incident because that's sort of skews the entire plot structure of the novel.
Autumn (41m 33s):
So that's not going to work
Jesper (41m 34s):
either. So I think that the way we describe it in our applauding book is basically thing as the introduction, as thought of a mini story on his own. So it's like a bridge that reaches from the first page and towards the inciting incident. So it's this little mini story where something will happen that will then take you towards that inciting incident in an interesting way that peaks the reader's curiosity along the way.
Jesper (42m 9s):
And that's, that's really the trick of it is to make sure that one, you keep the curiosity going, but also that you have a clear goal in mind and with the ministry that gives you that goal. So there, there is something specific happening there. I'm in in just to use that one book again or my first book, this is an example again because now I already started it so I'm just working but a are for example, I actually have a sort of a little mini story in there in that once they get into the city that I mentioned before, I'm there in the city, they all live a day, they have platforms.
Jesper (42m 49s):
I'm in the tree like quite far above the forest bet and they, they are there. Are they having this festival? Well on this point in time they get there and the kids running around up there and whatnot and at some point as a kid actually falls off the platform and the protagonist then jumps off the platform as well and safe the kit. But she's of course pregnant. So that's not a good thing to do. And they fall all the way down to the ground. And ah, there you see there was a little mini story.
Jesper (43m 21s):
They were right,
Autumn (43m 21s):
right? Yeah. I always like to say the, the mini story, the conclusion of the mini story, whatever a plot that is, is basically the inciting incident, whatever the characters trying to do in, in your example, you know, save the kid, it turns out wrong. And that is what basically sparks the inciting incident. So it's all related. It, it builds into the plot. And mine is like I mentioned, the main character is sneaking out to see a girl with magic that she had For, you know, didn't get a chance to grab earlier because that's her job as a priestess.
Autumn (43m 57s):
She's supposed to collect other potentials to be taken in to the elemental church. And so she just didn't do it early. She froze, she's young, she froze, she didn't do it. So she's trying to rectify her mistake and that's all the whole mini story is basically trying to rectify a mistake. But of course when she gets the girl, it all goes to crap. And that sparks the entire 105,000 word novel because her Vinny story goes wrong.
Autumn (44m 27s):
And that's basically, that's a great way of showing the world, showing a full Character, showing a little bit of action without hitting your reader over the head with this plot in this world and all of this big stuff that they should care about it, but you haven't made them care about it yet. You, you shouldn't tell them to care about it. You should show them these are characters are really gonna like it. Show that in that little mini story and by the time their curiosity is hooked, the inciting incident happens and then they just have to know how the Character is going to survive this.
Autumn (44m 60s):
Yeah. So writing the opening hook is a, well, it's much harder than it is. This is really what it is very often. What determines if the reader will dump the book or not? Unfortunately, they will make up their mind within a few pages and that's it. So we will cover this topic in much more detail on how exactly to build this ministry and what to think about, how to introduce the characters and all of that stuff in much more details in our guide book on how to plot a novel when that comes out in probably a few months time, I would say.
Autumn (45m 40s):
Yeah, well we keep saying that will say, but a for now, or at least I hope you got a lot out of today's episode and the next Monday, if all goes according to plan, uh, the women, again, taking over the podcasts as, as autumn has a very awesome guests lined up for you.
Narrator (45m 59s):
If you liked what you just heard, there is a few things you can do to support the Am Writing Fantasy podcast. Please tell a fellow author about the show and visit us at Apple podcast and leave a rating and review. You can also join Autumn in Jesper on patreon.com/amwritingfantasy. For as little as a dollar a month, you'll get awesome rewards and keep the Am Writing Fantasy podcast. Going to stay safe out there and see you next Monday.
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