There’s a book out there that’s all about hooking the reader in the beginning; and I do mean all. It’s an OK book, but it grates on my nerves.
This single chapter outdoes that book in every way.
I really wish I’d read this chapter before starting on NaNoWriMo. Even moreso than LOCK, this is excellent stuff about starting your book out right—that is, achieving the following trophies:
- Hook the reader (if I hear that phrase one more time…)
- Get the reader to bond with the main character (!)
- Get the reader to go on
- Present opposition (!)
I’ve marked with ! the elements I felt most interesting in this chapter. Not to say that the others aren’t important—for instance, Bell covers what makes a good opening line in detail, the different kinds of prologues, in medias res, not slowing down, and more I liked to hook the reader—but the character-based elements I found the most interesting.
Bonding with the reader via the main character doesn’t mean that your lead is necessarily a likeable person (although that helps), but that you’ve got an intriguing character that the reader wants to find out more about (whether morbidly so or not). I like the main possible methods:
Identification. Harry Potter, for instance, the plainest-named and the everyman in the wizarding world. Bella Swan, as much as she is a reader-insert with a fill-yourself-in quality to her.
Sympathy. Basically, any Roald Dahl book.
Likability. Very basic: the usual natural selflessness, desire to help others, etc.
Inner conflict. Not too sure on this one, but it does make sense that your character shouldn’t be able to fly through life without a care in the world.
I think I hit these for my characters. Once I’m cold to the manuscript, I’ll get to see whether I succeeded.
Then there’s the opposition. They must be as strong as, or stronger than, the lead. This simple concept was sorely missing from my story, which took a lot of punch right out of it, and eliminated interesting possibilities for toe-to-toe competition.
What I’ve done now in the planning stage is add two gods to Euanth so that he has a gang—however, they’re not going be dumb lackeys, but strong characters in their own right: Helene and Dione. Two females and a male to go up against two females and a male. ((Transgender, female to male, but still a male despite a particular set-back in his way.)) I like it.
I also love one of the final sentences of this chapter:
Any type of novel can hook a reader, set tone, give a sense of motion, connect us with a character, and set the weels in motion.
Ah, James Scott Bell. You make me swoon for this book.