HOW TO ATTRACT AND MAINTAIN THE READER’S ATTENTION FROM THE FIRST LINES OF HIS NOVEL?
We can’t repeat it enough, but the first few pages of a story are decisive for the reader. Just like the cover of the book or the summary, the beginning of a novel should be given special attention. If successful, it will direct the reader to continue reading the story. Not rhythmic enough or too long, it will tend to lose or bore the reader, who would therefore be tempted to put his book down for good.
In addition to this interest for the reader, the incipit of your novel is essential in several ways: it exposes the context and the universe of your work!
Let’s discovers the plot and reveal your literary style.
So how do you start your novel in the 7 most effective way possible?
1. Prologue: stop or again?
Writing a prologue can be useful because it gives a particular angle to your story. Present the universe; introduce the plot and the issues… These are the functions of the prologue. But is it right for you?
2. A powerful entry…
The prologue is particularly interesting because of its format: relatively short, it can be punchy, gives rhythm, as well as a clear first glimpse of where you plan to take your reader. It is also particularly suited to certain literary genres such as theater, science fiction or even crime fiction. Press clippings as an introduction to a macabre crime. Isn’t that an interesting idea to create suspense from the first lines?
3. But superfluous?
But be careful: keep in mind that there is no point in writing a prologue for the sole purpose of writing one. This would then be the best way to miss it. If there is a prologue, then it must be extremely polished and must fit perfectly into your story. If it turns out to be optional, that it does not bring any added value to your novel, then this is a sign that it has no place and that it is therefore more relevant to start your story with a real first chapter.
Clearly, here are some questions to ask you to judge the relevance of a prologue:
· Do I need my novel to begin with a scene set in another era and / or in a location different from the main frame of my story?
· Is my prologue independent from the rest of my story? Does it have an impact on the plot to come, without being a direct part of my story?
· Does my prologue have a real hooking function?
· Is my prologue really necessary for my story?
If you answer yes to at least one of these questions, then go for it!
4. Heal your first chapter
Prologue or not, specific attention must be paid to the first chapter: it is the window of your novel, where more than 80% of the reader’s opinion on your story will be decided.
The importance of the first sentence
First of all, pay special attention to your first sentence: it should be memorable, impactful. Remember the incipit of The Stranger by Camus, “Today mom is dead. Or maybe yesterday, I don’t know”, still remembered today. Without pretending to measure up to the greatest, and obviously without neglecting the rest of your story, remember that a good first sentence can augur a promising follow-up.
5. Give rhythm…
Don’t wait too long to introduce action, as this may discourage your reader. It can be tempting to want to create a bit of mystery in the hopes of asking your audience questions, but keep in mind that if you know where you want to take them, the reader won’t. Know nothing!
Assume that at least one plot element needs to be exposed in the first chapter. The reader must understand your world; begin to tame your places and characters, in short, that the framework seems clear to him even if you can of course leave some doubts or gray areas.
6. Without revealing the whole intrigue!
But do not fall into the opposite pitfall! An action that starts too early and that stretches out, characters that follow one another, a back-story exposed too quickly … Keep in mind that you must spare your reader, he must not feel drowned in too much information. Failing to ask questions and try to remember all these elements, he will on the contrary tend to forget them and find himself lost.
7. Think about you and your desires
But above all, always remember that you write for yourself first! You are your first reader; your story must first and foremost appeal to you who have spent weeks, even months on writing your book, which you see as a culmination.
Don’t put too much pressure on yourself, either. Making a mountain of the first few pages of your novel is the best way to block your writing process. You can always return to the first scenes of your novel to improve them afterwards, no worries
You should now have all the keys in hand to get started with writing your novel now and make it as attractive as possible!
And you, what are your tips for grabbing and maintaining the reader’s attention from the very first pages of your story?