Tag Archives | hooking your reader

Friday 5 – Tips on opening chapters from Nightshade.

I’m not a huge vampire/werewolf fan. But I love a great story and a character that sucks me into the story. Needless to say, Andrea Cremer did just that. I’ve only read the first two chapters on my Kindle. The rest will come! The opening sold me.

1. Involve the reader in the protagonist’s internal struggle right away. (chapter 1)

Opening paragraph: Many would say the opening was risky because Calla was fighting a bear. I mean, where’s the set up? Shouldn’t I be invested in the character first? But excellent writing trumped the risk. For every action Calla or the bear made – Calla’s reactions showed her personality and internal struggle.

  • Bears’ roar and hot breath  – fueled Calla’s bloodlust. (showing)
  • Boy’s ragged gasp – desperate sound made her nails dig into the earth. Calla snarled at it. (showing)
  • And the clincher for me came at the end of the first paragraph – Calla’s internal thoughts that made her seem like a regular teen. What the hell am I doing? Talk about a hook. There are obvious implications in that thought beyond the fact she could die fighting a bear.
  • Throughout chapter one and two we see Calla’s internal struggle as she saves this boy.  But I’m assuming it’s not a gimmick and this boy will play a role later in the story.

2. Show hints of the external storyline. (chapter 1)

Opening pages: After Calla chases the bear away, she approaches the hiker.

“I’d betrayed my masters, broken their laws. All for him. Why?”

No long paragraphs of set up explaining her world. We know she’s a wolf. We know she just made a rebellious and brave decision and could get in trouble for it. The details will come later. Perfect example of revealing just enough but not too much.

3. Use sensory details connected to the emotion of the moment to make the writing come alive. (chapter 1 and 2)

  • Strong verbs
  • Sensory details and imagery – lots of smell and sight
  • Well-placed description with vibrant adjectives
  • Incredible internal thoughts that showed her emotions instead of telling or explaining (R.U.E. Resist the urge to explain.)

4. Show a likeable character. (chapter 1 and 2)

Calla “saved the cat”. At personal risk to herself, and more than just physical safety, Calla saves the boy from the bear and helps heal him. She made herself vulnerable. Right there, I was hooked. Don’t underestimate the power of this screenwriting trick.

5. Show the story world and conflict instead of telling. (chapter 2)

  • Through a visit from the alpha female of another pack and a conversation that scolds Calla to be more lady like for her upcoming marriage with the other pack’s alpha male – we learn everything. It wasn’t done in a sequel, where Calla feels sorry for herself. And most importantly, it didn’t feel contrived. Masterful dialogue.
  • The alpha leaves and Calla has to deal with her mom. Through dialogue and interaction with Calla’s mom we learn about her family structure – without one spec of telling. Incredible really. Hard to do. Rarely done.
  • End of the chapter, Calla’s brother mentions that if she ever doesn’t want to marry this alpha male, he’d rebel with her. Wow.

What I love best so far is the juxtaposition of this normal teenager – messy room and everything – with the ancient tradition of a wolf pack. Ironic. Unexpected.

I haven’t read the whole book yet, but I can tell it will be really good. And isn’t this the kind of opening we want? I have 6 samples on my Kindle – guess which one I’ll be buying?

Comments { 25 }