On Writing

What is the Most Important Part of a Book? Act One

What is the most important part of a book? It seems like a simple question, right? Well, it’s not.

I will put a disclaimer before you start reading: the answer will vary from person to person and it can depend on the book.

Books tend to be broken into three acts. Let me break those down for you.

The first act is typically where the main character is shown in their normal capacity. Nothing unusual has happened to them yet. There are hints, but the character is still “normal.” The first act typically ends when the character is forced out of their normal world in a way where they cannot return to life how it was.

The second act is typically a journey, either a physical one, an emotional one, or a spiritual one. The character typically grows and has several run-ins with the antagonistic force, and they typically learn something important. They also think they have won a victory of some sort at the end of the second act, right before the third act starts.

The third act is where all the strings come into place and our protagonist and antagonist have a confrontation. Usually, the protagonist loses at the very beginning and they are typically depressed by this and it takes a new motivation for them to have a renewed energy to battle against the antagonistic force. It’s usually after this that the protagonist faces the antagonist and they usually overcome the antagonist. Then comes the resolution where all the loose threads are tied up or are left untied and teased for a sequel.

Now arguments can be made for any section of the book being more important than others. Today I’m going to argue for the beginning. Next week I’ll make the case for the middle. And then the last article will be an argument for the end.

So why is the beginning the most important part of a book?

Well first, this is the very first thing that your readers will be exposed to. Your beginning is where you hook the readers. This is where they decide if they’re going to finish a book or not. I have a tendency to have to finish every book I start, I guess it’s part of my OCD. But if I find that I’m not going to finish a book, which has only happened a couple of times, I will put it down after Chapter Three or Four. It’s by then that you should be interested enough to finish the book, and if I’m not or I don’t like the plot or where it’s going, I’m going to set it aside and not finish that book.

Second, its where your plot is introduced. By the end of the first act, your readers should have a pretty good idea of the plot. Now, they shouldn’t be able to guess exactly how the book will end, but they should have a good idea of the direction the book is heading.

Third, they need to be introduced to the main characters by the end of the first act, particularly the protagonist. Generally, the reader will keep reading the book if the characters are interesting, but the plot is not. Now, I’m not saying make your plot really boring and your characters really interesting, in fact, please don’t. Make both amazing so that the reader will have a really great experience.

So the most interesting part of a book is the beginning because it is the first thing the readers read, it introduces the plot, and it introduces the characters who you go on to like.

Next week, we’ll look at why the 2nd act is the best part of a book.

From my pen to your paper, may our swords never clash.

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