Don’t know what #FirstChapterFriday is?
Good Morning, Midnight, Lily Brooks-Dalton
I liked the concept.
Apart from odd transitions in places, the writing was fine. But almost the entire chapter consisted of info dumping about the character and what the setting looked like. I know his entire life, and that’s the last thing I’m interested in because I don’t even know why he’s worth my interest. It felt like the chapter only ended because the writer got bored.
I probably won’t read on unless I Google the plot and think it’s promising.
Make things happen in your first chapter or it’s boring. Don’t info dump in your first chapter because I don’t care enough yet and it’s boring. Don’t bore your readers because they have the choice to stop reading.
Update August 2017: I forgot this book even existed.
The Ruins, Scott Smith
There was a slight hint that something might happen when it was revealed one character’s brother had gone missing during their holiday in Mexico. (However, I know neither this guy nor his brother so I don’t care about the disappearance.)
The writing was terrible. Poor writing is a distraction because I spent most of my reading time thinking about how bad the writing was. The sentences just weren’t pulled together nicely or written with any kind of voice. Further, the paragraphs were constructed weirdly, with no breaks when a new subject was introduced, which was exhausting.
Worse, the scene (it wasn’t a chapter; there are no chapters in this book) told me nothing except that this bunch of characters were holidaying in Mexico. There was too much information about them and all the meaningless things they’d been doing up until the narrator decided to jot things down. These are things that, if important, could have been revealed AFTER the story started, not before. I’m not interested enough at this point to give a crap about these people. They’re strangers to me.
I’m not reading any more of this.
Don’t bore your readers. Make sure your story starts in your first chapter. If all it does is introduce your characters, it’s less likely to entice your readers to keep reading.
Update August 2017: I’ll never read any more of this book.
From a Buick 8, Stephen King
Initially when I dog-eared the page I’d need to read up to and saw that this chapter was 30 odd pages long, I already felt exhausted. This was after several days of knowing I needed to read this chapter for #FirstChapterFriday and not being bothered to do so. Finally, I got around to it, decided I could always read it in parts if it came to it, and bit the bullet. And boy am I glad I did.
For the most part, I didn’t notice how long the chapter was. I do like shorter first chapters that get to the point and aren’t full of useless details, but Stephen King has a way of introducing details that bring the scene to life while not always feeling over the top. Sometimes they’re over the top, but this one felt right. The balance of telling and just plain old voice was good.
From this first chapter, I have a strong emotional connection with this book already. I cried, and I’m invested in one of the characters and like the others. The main character, not the narrator but the character the events focused around, was an eighteen year old who had recently lost his police officer father. Due to the length of the chapter, this could be dealt with at an appropriate pace and balanced his grief with his other characteristics to form a character that I liked, cared about and sympathised with. If anything, I want to know that he’s going to be okay. In a way, this is personal to me as I’ve been through the same thing and could relate to this kid.
Also introduced in a well-paced way was the mystery surrounding a Buick kept in one of the police department’s sheds. The narration doesn’t flat-out tell you something’s wrong with the car, it suggests it as if he’s talking to someone who already knows about the car. That way, the flow of the scene is never broken, but I still pick up from the subtext that this car is a source of mystery.
The chapter ends as the narrator is about to tell the main character the story of this car and why it’s so mysterious, why it’s not a car at all. I want to know the deal about this Buick, since the title tells me it’s a plot device, and I want to know how it’s going to influence the life of this character that I have a connection with.
The length was daunting at first and I did wonder why I was reading about Ned’s life in such detail, but it was a well-paced chapter that got me interested in the characters and in the mystery surrounding the titular plot device.
I’ll read on.
Your character doesn’t always have to be likable, but readers do like to have strong emotional connections with characters. Additionally, adding a mystery to your first chapter will get readers to keep reading. Finally, to avoid too much telling, express your world building as if the reader will know what you’re talking about. They might not, but they’ll be able to pick it up from the context and subtext.
Update August 2017: I surprisingly haven’t read any more of this book.
Meg, Steve Alten
What a ******* waste of my time.
The book is set in the 90s, but the first chapter was set in the Cretaceous period to introduce me to the Megalodon in a way that would show me it’s enormous and dangerous. It did this by showing rather than telling, which is good, but it shouldn’t have done it at all! In a story called Meg with a picture of a giant shark on the cover, I’m a assuming the protagonist is going to run into one of these babies. Why, then, do I need to find this stuff out now (as if I even need to be told that a giant shark is a giant predator). It’s not like I needed a prologue set in the Jurassic and Cretaceous to tell me dinosaurs existed once upon a time in Jurassic Park.
This chapter didn’t introduce anything I didn’t already know or that I wouldn’t find out through the course of the story anyway, and it didn’t kick off the plot. Why, then, did I have to sit through it?
I’m pissed off because this chapter wasted my time. I now have less respect for the author and am far less inclined to read any of his books because he screws around with my time. Don’t piss your readers off.
Update August 2017: Still no.
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