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The Crucial First Chapter

By Anne Greene

The last time I wrote, I discussed how to Make Your Manuscript Sparkle. I trust you all learned more about deep point of view from that lesson.

Down through the years of writing and being a charter member of ACFW when it was ACRW, I’ve learned so much of the craft of writing that God nudged me to share all that valuable information. So, let’s get started and talk about The Crucial First Chapter.

Open that fresh-idea book with an exceptional hook that grabs the reader and keeps her reading the next sentence…and the next…and the next. Dig deep into your imagination and find the first exciting, action-filled scene and plunk the reader into the middle of that movement. The first sentence should also point to the book’s theme.

Skipping to the end of that first crucial chapter, leave your reader with a cliffhanger. Just as the opening line must hook the reader, the end of the chapter must grab the reader and entice her to keep reading. Never tie up your chapter’s loose ends here. Instead, have your hero/heroine make a decision for further action or have him/her pose a new story question.

After your opening hook, the main characters must be introduced. The first time each character is mentioned, their entire name must be revealed. The reader needs to picture the main characters in their minds as early as possible. Perhaps have the hero describe the heroine and vise verse. And, of course, no hero or heroine describes themselves. Don’t introduce too many characters in the first chapter. When you do introduce a new character, give the reader of picture of him/her. Each character deserves an introduction.Marriage by Arrangement

Introduce the main characters’ utmost desire and the obstacles keeping them from attaining what they would just about die to get. Be strong bringing in each character’s motivation. The main characters should have a flaw which will allow a character arc to build during the story.

Introduce a character’s faith or lack thereof. (This is good for contests that drop points if you don’t have this part covered early in your story). Other than for contests, the faith element may be introduced in a later chapter. When you do introduce the faith problems, drop in tidbits of his/her faith need through the way the character reacts to various circumstances in their lives.

Develop the character and his/her emotions. Make the hero and heroine vivid, likeable characters. Give them some quirk to make them come alive. Give the character room to change and grow.

Make the secondary characters believable. Add them only to provide a valid addition to the story. Don’t let your secondary characters take over the story. Tell them to wait for their own story. Please don’t have too many secondary characters. This can be confusing to the reader.

Climb inside the character’s skin. Write only what the POV character can see, think, feel, taste and know. This draws your reader into totally relating to your character. Of course, SHOWING is different.

Set the dialogue first in a paragraph. Don’t bury it at the end. Make what the characters say real and relevant. Listen to your characters. For me and many other writers, the characters lead the action and write the story. Take time to listen to them.

Check each fact for accuracy. Give details. This makes the story authentic. I know this slows your writing, but it is soo important. One wrong reference can make a reader disbelieve your entire story. If she’s like me, she will throw the book against the wall and never pick it up again.

Give the reader a sense of where the characters are at all times. Descriptions of rooms, sense of space and flow are all important. No talking heads. Vividly-written action supplies mood as well.

The first chapter is important. Don’t let the reader down. I just made writing that first chapter easier. I wish I had known all these tips when I started writing! Go with God and write the excellent Christian fiction book He wants you to write.

AnneGreene3ANNE GREENE delights in writing about wounded heroes and gutsy heroines. Her second novel, a Scottish historical, Masquerade Marriage, won the New England Reader Choice award, the Laurel Wreath Award, and the Heart of Excellence Award. The sequel Marriage By Arrangement releases in December, 2013. A Texas Christmas Mystery also won several awards. She makes her home in McKinney, Texas. Anne’s highest hope is that her stories transport the reader to an awesome new world and touch hearts to seek a deeper spiritual relationship with the Lord Jesus. Anne also offers a free writing class Plotters and Pantsers Write To Publish Workshop.

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