Hello Writers, on this day I present to you the fourth article on our notes at Teen Author Boot Camp. This week we draw upon the words of author Frank L. Cole, author of such books as the Potion Masters series, The Afterlife Academy, and The Guardians series. As we are sure you can see, he talked about how to write an awesome first chapter, one of the most important chapters of a book. Frank was a fun person to hear from at the conference, we bought some of his books and got them signed, it was great. Anyways on with the article, enjoy peoples whom wish to seek to learn of the writing (and stuff).
The first chapter is the basis of your book and gets the reader interested, imagine it like the click-bait thumbnail of a YouTube video except it’s followed (hopefully) by quality content. Frank Cole compared the first chapter to the entrance of Disney Land, where they put in a whole lot of detail just to make an entrance, but they want you to feel like you’ve arrived. And by this we mean that the reader should feel as if it’s an event to start reading your masterpiece. He told us to keep a strategic starting point to which we can refer to throughout the first chapter. Frank had seen that books for the most part started with mysteries, action sequences, or cliffhangers, sometimes even all three.
The main character should be introduced through a cool sequence of stuff happening, like as listed above. The protagonist (main character) should come across as compelling in the chapter to grab the reader’s attention. Frank also gave a list of qualities that a protagonist should have, such as having talents and skill to set them apart as a character and not some clay ball to imprint on, which we suggest not doing, but hey there’s always an exception. Opposing the idea of skill and talent is the idea of weakness, your main should have a weakness, something that they fear, maybe something physical, like kryptonite, or it could be internal, something within them. And to create intrigue and to keep readers reading you should try to give your character a secret, something their hiding from either everyone in the story, or from the reader. The main should most definitely have a goal, that’s mostly what a book is, just a bunch of smaller goals with blockades leading up to a larger goal with the biggest blockade. And to finish your character should have a transformation throughout the story, otherwise you have a stagnant character that seems to have allowed whatever traumatic events just happened, pass seamlessly through them. Character development is important people.
Voice is the unique style in which an author writes, its kind of like their trademark. For more information on voice we have lots of articles mentioning it, and some on the topic itself, check them out if you want to know more. Frank Cole told us that the voice is what gets readers in, it’s what gets them connected to the story. He asked us what makes our narrator and our character different? What makes the character unique to just any normal old narration device? For all of you still unsure of your voice, Frank urged us to try and find it, just experiment and do you, write what feels right to you.
Conflict is a critical element of writing a story, without conflict you just have a story about how Bilbo Baggins tended to his house and ate all of the many squared meals they have daily. For those of you who don’t know, that was a The Hobbit reference, by J.R.R Tolkien. Why is the conflict happening, is the second question to ask after, of course, what is the conflict? It’s good to understand why something is happening at any given time, why now? is a great question to ask in able to expand both yours and your audiences understanding. Why does this conflict matter to your character, how does it impact them? Why would a strange Earth dude seeking world domination, effect your alien protagonist in any way? Always come up with a consequence for failure, something that motivates your character to continue on, whether that to be to save a friend, save his family, or even save the world (maybe even the universe, who knows? Its your story). And to keep conflict continuously flowing you don’t want to give it all away at once, you need to give it in morsels, let it slowly, and deliberately, unravel before the readers eyes. Now it is not always essential to have the conflict introduced in the first chapter, but you should still introduce the main’s secret, skill, and or weakness.
The first chapter is critical, but the first few lines are even more critical. Their like extra click-baity, but still followed by quality content. The first line should make your reader instantly start asking questions, be sure to think of the questions you want them to be asking as they read through. Also the end of a chapter is also very important, that is if you want your reader to read past the first chapter. If you start with a hook, you need to end with a hook. This does not apply to all chapters though, often having to many suspenseful or mysterious endings can tire out an audience, so make it special when you do. And whats more special than your first chapter? Not much.
Some of you may be wondering about prologues, should you write one? Well that’s up to you, but there are some risks involved, like how some people don’t even read the prologue, so you don’t want to put to much crucial information in there. And for those wondering what a prologue is, its a start of the story that takes place either at a different time or place as the main of the story, but still ties in.
Frank gave us advice to know that all characters have a history, and most of it is uninteresting so include only the exciting bits that really matter to the plot-line of your story. Find what your character notices in a world, what draws their attention the most, and why? It will also help to remember to view the world through your characters perspective. Be creative with the descriptions of things they notice and people they notice, but note that most don’t think about how they look, nor can they really see it without a reflective object. These descriptions can also be deliberate, to maybe foreshadow something that’s going to happen or has happened, maybe to show a character trait, once again we don’t know, its up to you to decide.
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Hope you all enjoyed the notes we took, and the presentation Frank Cole prepared. Alright now see you all next week Writers.