#FirstChapterFriday November 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 November 2016.

First Chapter Friday #8 (November 2016)

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#FirstChapterFriday Biblical
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Biblical, Christopher Galt

In the last eight months of doing #FirstChapterFriday, I’ve found that it’s easier to be unimpressed by a first chapter than it is to be impressed by a first chapter. This prologue was only a few pages long—long enough for me to be able to form a negative first impression if that was going to be the case, but not really long enough for me to otherwise be anything more than indifferent towards what I read. Therefore, I don’t have anything good to say about this prologue at all. I suppose it might have been interesting, and I definitely remember it promising me what the story was going to be about, but I don’t actually remember the specifics so many weeks after initially reading it.

The bad

There was nothing glaringly wrong with this prologue, it just didn’t hook me. I might have read on to form a more concrete first impression, but when I got to the end of the prologue I saw that the next page just said “Preludes”. Seriously? Not only did I have to read a prologue, but there’s preludesPlural? When does the actual story start?

The verdict

Am I going to pick this up again? Not likely. Not if I have to wade through half a dozen false starts before I actually start the story. Why would I put myself through that? 1/5.

Update August 2017: I haven’t read anymore, and I don’t remember a thing about it.

#FirstChapterFriday A Bad Beginning
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The Bad Beginning, Lemony Snicket

The good

The voice was great; I was immediately engaged by it because it felt like a real person was telling me a story. Further, the writing flowed so well that this engagement was never lost.

The best part? Something happened to change the lives of the main characters. This is something that requires an immediate reaction and will be a catalyst for the main story. Unlike Biblical, the story actually started.

The bad

My one complaint would be that I don’t currently feel a strong emotional connection with any of the characters; however, that could purely be an audience problem. The reason that this is a problem is that I don’t have an immediate need to find out what’s going to happen next; ergo, I could put this book down and read something else instead. Someone who is part of this book’s intended audience (i.e. a child) might feel a stronger connection than I do because the situation would be much more frightening for a child than an adult and a child might have a more urgent need to find answers. For me, however, the main characters weren’t the stars of the chapter, the Change was, so I didn’t get to know them.

The verdict

I did appreciate what the first chapter accomplished, which was much more than I find they usually accomplish; however, I didn’t get to know the characters very well so I couldn’t form an emotional connection. If I didn’t know what sort of things were in store, I might be even less interested. Taking into account that I’m not the intended audience, I give this first chapter a 4/5 and will probably read the rest some time in the near future.

Update August 2017: I haven’t picked it up again, but I probably will if I’m ever in the mood to read children’s books.

#FirstChapterFriday The Boy Who Drew Monsters
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The Boy Who Drew Monsters, Keith Donohue

The good

The writing in the prologue was great, which sets expectations for the writing for the rest of the book. It flowed so well that I didn’t get distracted.

The bad

I expected I’d have more good things to say. Ah well.

Though the writing was good, good writing doesn’t keep me interested for long. What happens is generally what interests me, and this prologue didn’t have much of that at all. By the end of it, all I knew was “boy is scared of monsters at night”, which is hardly original. I don’t want to know his whole backstory up front, but if I wanted to hear a story about a kid who’s afraid of the dark, I don’t need to look further than my own family. This book didn’t give me a reason to want to know more about this particular kid.

The prologue finished on an even page, so I was willing to read the first page of chapter 1, but this too failed to intrigue me and I closed the book.

The verdict

It was okay but it wasn’t that interesting, so I’m giving this prologue a 3/5 and the book has gone back to gathering dust on my bookshelf for now.

Update August 2017: I haven’t picked this book up since, proving that story is more important than writing.

#FirstChapterFriday A Long Way Gone
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A Long Way Gone, Ishmael Beah

The good

Another nicely written first chapter.

The story started immediately, but then in explaining the beginning, the narrator went off track here and there. I knew he was about to tell me when his story started, but there were a handful of times that I was wondering when the heck that was going to happen. After getting to the end of the first chapter I now understand that this was done so that the tone wasn’t too dark for consumption right from the beginning because this is going to be a dark story. I appreciate that I could experience the narrator having a good time before things went terribly wrong because it makes him easier to sympathise with, which is important because I imagine he’ll be doing some unsympathetic things throughout the rest of the book (the reason is written on the cover) and I want to be able to maintain some sort of sympathy during these dark times.

About three-quarters of the way through the chapter, things got awful. I don’t mean the writing or storytelling, I mean the stuff I was reading about hit me in the gut. By the end of it, I had a strong emotional connection with this character and I want to see him get out of this in one piece (relating back to that sympathy point), and I want to see the bad guys get brought down.

The bad

I am interested in this story, I do have a reason to keep reading and the story did start immediately; however, I didn’t feel the urge to keep reading it straight away. In fact, I picked up another book and started reading that instead.

The verdict

This one gets a 4/5 because it accomplished exactly what I want the first chapter to accomplish, but it didn’t give me an urgency to keep reading straight away. I think this is because even though I have a vague idea about what’s going to happen down the track, the chapter didn’t have me anticipating what was going to happen on the next page.

Update August 2017: I haven’t read more of this, but it’s mostly because I’m not in the mood for this genre.

 

Louise

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