Your first chapter is not only the appetizer that will overshadow the rest of the meal, it also plays a huge function. Your first chapter is the ingredient that creates the mood. Think about a great romantic night. If you cannot set the mood first off, your date will find an excuse to leave. Your first chapter creates the atmosphere of the book. It will show the reader what to expect in terms of style, tone, story, characters. The first chapter will tell what kind of writer you are and if the reader can connect with you or relate to what you are going to describe.
The first thing readers do not want to see from the first page off are clichés. Imagine walking in the same restaurant for the hundredth time. Some people like that; it makes them feel secure and warm. Most people find it boring. If someone is going to read your book, she needs to feel your book is different.
So, what are the clichés?
- Hero waking up, the first day at school/vacation or the last school day. While it makes sense to start a novel starting with a new day or new surroundings, it has been overdone.
- Talking directly to your reader creates an artificial sense of intimacy. Readers like to watch from outside: “You must probably think…” or “This is the story of…” or “She was born…”
- Starting with a prologue. It creates an artificial sense of drama. Same thing goes for starting with a dream or a nightmare. Most people skip the prologue or feel cheated by the dream.
- Looking in a mirror to describe the hero does not sound natural.
- Hero running away from something has been overdone or starting in the middle of an action scene. It s not a very good choice because the reader at this point does not really care for the hero so it does not really matter of something bad happens to him. What happens to someone really matters when we already know this person. Besides, the reader gets easily confused if you drop her too abruptly into the action without explaining the context and why what is happening matters, why you should care.
- Description of the weather or moon or anything natural
- Not enough happening and too much description. You need a conflict. Descriptions sound like a facebook profile or a list of events.
- Back story, even a tidbit of it because it is not relevant to the action right now right here
- Running through a forest
- Description of the MC getting ready for an event or for work
- A hero’s view on something: “Everybody dies, but my take on that…”
- A divorce, a break-up, a death, an accident
- An argument or a rant
- Talking directly to the reader:
Take the Fantasy Novelist’s Exam to check for 75 clichés:
Also check the The Fantasy Cliché Meter: the Bad Guys, at:
And Mary Sue Litmus Test, at:
And the Fantasy Hero Cliche-o-Meter, at: http://www.gotoquiz.com/fantasy_hero_cliche_o_meter
And more Cliches, at: