First Chapter Friday #5 (August 2016)

#FirstChapterFriday August 2016 | Every Friday, I read the first chapter of a book I’ve never read before to learn how to write a first chapter that will make readers want to read chapter two. These are the lessons I learned in August 2016.

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A Court of Thorns and Roses, Sarah J. Maas

Engaging first sentence?

No, not particularly.

I’m finding a lot of books that use the first line to describe setting. While I appreciate being thrown into the scene straight away, I’m more interested in what is happening than where it’s happening. A forest full of snow is not that appealing to me. It doesn’t matter how well it’s written, it doesn’t tell me why I should continue.

Engaging first chapter?

Yes and no.

It started off slow, and you know I hate it when stories start slow. I read in short spurts so you want to hook me quick. This story didn’t. The narrator spent more time thinking about her family, situation and world than she did interacting with her environment. Don’t get me wrong, what I know about her family and situation is exactly what I want to get out of a first chapter, but there were details that could have been removed from chapter one and dispersed throughout chapter two instead because they weren’t necessary for me to get the point.

On the whole, I’m happy that I know what the character wants in the short term and long term. This promises me that there’ll be action in the beginning, even before the central conflict is introduced. I also know one of her skills, which promises me that she’ll be active in the story because she isn’t useless.

Verdict

I loved the writing, so it gets points for that. Something happened, which earns it more points; however, that something was resolved, leaving me with no reason to read chapter two. For that, this first chapter gets a 3/5. I might revisit it again one day, but it’s not at the top of my pile.

Update August 2017: Still haven’t read it, but still want to.

#FirstChapterFriday Anna Dressed in Blood
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Anna Dressed in Blood, Kendare Blake

Engaging first sentence?

Nope, it was confusing and I’m still trying to figure out what the grease-slicked hair is a dead giveaway of. I’m sure I get it now, but my entire time on the first page consisted of “whaaaaa?” because the first sentence wasn’t totally clear.

Engaging first chapter?

Yep, I really enjoyed it. Maybe it’s because I’ve been binge watching Supernatural on Netflix. Maybe it’s because I enjoyed the first half of The Girl from the Well. Either way, I’m into ghost hunting at the moment.

I also enjoyed the voice, which means I’m probably going to enjoy reading about this character; however, there was a place or two where the description irked me. Small things, but I had issues with this part of page 8:

Instead I cleared shrubs and tilled an eight-by-ten plot for new rosebushes while he watched me with a surly eye, making sure his baby would be safe with this seventeen-year-old kid in an old Rolling Stones T-shirt and his mother’s gardening gloves.

The situation is that the protagonist wants to borrow this 70-year-old war veteran’s precious car, so he’s doing some chores to get into the guy’s good books. The protagonist seems to think that his T-shirt and gloves might make the man think he’s shady, which I don’t buy (especially the gardening gloves because how can wearing them be a bad thing?). To me, this sounds like a blatant attempt to tell me the protagonist is wearing a Rolling Stones T-shirt as if the writer thinks I’m going to like this character better if I know he likes old rock. I know lots of teenagers feel superior when they enjoy music from a generation they weren’t born in, but due to how poorly this info fitted into this context, it sounds like an author comment, not a narrator comment and the fact that she thought I would like the character better if he was pretentious annoys me. End rant.

Verdict?

I give this one 3/5 to, and for the same reasons as A Court of Thorns and Roses: voice was good, writing was generally good and a thing happened, but that thing was resolved and there was no reason I felt I needed to read chapter two.

Update August 2017: I still haven’t read it, but still want to.

#FirstChapterFriday Scorched
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Scorched, Jennifer L. Armentrout

Engaging first sentence?

The entire first paragraph was hell.

It had strong voice, but that voice sounded like what you get when someone in their 40s tries to write a sixteen-year-old and fails because they don’t know any real-life sixteen-year-olds. Then I found out this narrator was 22! She didn’t sound 22 at all and, as someone not far past that age, I should know. I should be able to relate to this character. She was so far from my experience of being 22 that I was completely put off reading any more. It was almost insulting.

Engaging first chapter

I have nothing good to say about this first chapter. It was riddled with stereotypes that made me cringe and I couldn’t stand any of the characters.

Verdict?

For anyone who this book would appeal to, there was a hook. The main character was faced with a problem and I know what the story will be about. But because I simply don’t care, since I can’t stand the narration or any of the characters, this chapter gets 2/5.

Update August 2017: Still haven’t read it and doubt I ever will.

The Lost World, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

#FirstChapterFriday The Lost World
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Engaging first sentence?

What it said didn’t necessarily pull me in, but the voice was so intriguing that I wanted to keep reading. The text felt alive.

Engaging first chapter?

I was simultaneously amused by the relationship between the two characters and on the verge of rolling my eyes at them, but given the year it was written I’ll allow for some old-fashioned views. It sets the story in motion by promising that the main character will attempt to do something heroic, which I can get on board with for the time being even if I’m not sympathetic towards his motivation (seriously, she’s just not that into you).

Verdict?

2/5. I didn’t hate the first chapter, but I probably won’t be reading the rest of the book any time soon. The blurb is where you promise me adventure. When that’s all you put in the first chapter, you haven’t won me over. It’s like saying “this book is going to have characters”. Yeah, it’s supposed to. What else?

Update August 2017: Still haven’t read it.

Louise

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2 thoughts on “First Chapter Friday #5 (August 2016)

    1. Hi Tony, I’m glad you found the post helpful. If you’d like me to critique your first chapter like the above, send it to info@jackalediting.com. If you’d like a critique more in-depth than those above, let me know and we can discuss it.

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