Categories
On Writing Reading

The Importance of Chapter One (or the Prologue)

So why is the first chapter so important? The first chapter is many things, but it ultimately helps the reader decide if they want to keep reading. As writers, we want our readers to keep reading our story. The first chapter is our best bet at getting them to keep reading.

So, what can we do as writers to keep readers interested in our book? Well, there are a few things that I’ve seen done in other books that are good examples to follow. We don’t need to do every single one of these things as writers, they aren’t rules you must follow. They are just things that other writers have done that helped their book.

The first thing the first chapter can do to successfully keep their reader is to hook the reader. You might ask, “what is the hook?” Well think of it this way, it’s like what a fisherman does. You put something that the fish will want on the hook so that the fish will bite into it and the fisherman can catch the fish. Well, we as writers want to “hook” our readers. Generally, the hook comes in the first couple of sentences. And one of the best ways that a writer can “hook” their readers is by getting the readers to ask questions. Let’s look at an example:

“Wind howled through the night, carrying a scent that would change the world. A tall Shade lifted his head and sniffed the air.”
-Prologue of Eragon by Christopher Paolini

While this is not technically the first chapter of Eragon, it is the first thing that the reader is going to read so its goal is still to hook the reader. Notice how Paolini is getting the reader to ask questions with these first two sentences. Why would the scent change the world? What is the scent? What is a Shade? Is he human? We want our questions answered, so the only thing to do is to keep reading. Paolini has now hooked us.

The hook also contains action. We as readers can infer that action is about to happen. And a good hook makes us wonder why this action is happening, thus motivating us to keep on reading. This is a greater hook that can carry on for the entire chapter, and sometimes even a good bit of a book, maybe even a series (apparently, the classic fantasy series The Wheel of Time’s prologue isn’t fully explained for a couple of books). This is a greater hook that gets us to finish the chapter, and sometimes even the book.

Let’s look at another example of a hook from a fantasy classic:

“In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit. Not a nasty, dirty, wet hole, filled with the ends of worms and an oozy smell, nor yet a dry, bare, sandy hole with nothing in it to sit down on or to eat: it was a hobbit-hole, and that means comfort.”
-Chapter One of The Hobbit, by J.R.R. Tolkien

This one gets us to ask questions, but an action scene is clearly not taking place. So how does Tolkien hook us? Well, he makes us ask a big question, what is a hobbit? He goes on to describe where the hobbit lives, but he still gives us very little information on hobbit’s themselves. We as readers keep asking the question, and so we keep reading. This is a good example of using description to hook a reader. Chapter One of The Hobbit doesn’t do much at the beginning of the chapter but describes the lives of hobbit’s, particularly Bilbo Baggins and his family. By the time we have found our answer to “what is a hobbit?” we want to know more about Bilbo, and so we are successfully hooked as readers. This leads us to the next point.

The second thing the first chapter can do to successfully keep their reader is to get the reader to want to know more about your protagonist, especially by teases. You don’t want to give away the whole backstory of your protagonist in chapter one. If you are able to keep teasing the reader, they will want to keep coming back for more.

As I tried to think of an example of this, I thought about the Prologue of Mistborn: The Final Empire. It successfully teased Kelsier, giving us just enough information for the readers to want more of him. Sanderson gave us teases of Kelsier’s backstory while setting a scene that made us fall in love with the character. By the end of the chapter, we’re hooked and want more of Kelsier.

The last thing the first chapter can do to successfully keep their reader is to start the chapter with a bang. I touched on this a little bit in my first point, but I wanted to expound on it a little more. When we as readers are thrown into the middle of an action scene, it can be a little much. So you really have to give a balance of the action and explanation of things. It can draw the reader in, or will turn them away. So you have to be sure to enter in the right place and give just enough information that the reader won’t be too confused. And an action scene doesn’t have to be a sword fight or gunfight, it can be someone driving down the road to the grocery store!

So in summary, great first chapters (or prologues depending on the book) have shown us how to start off books well in three different aspects. They successfully hook the reader at the beginning of the chapter. They successfully tease the protagonist, giving the reader just enough to want to know more about them.

So what do you think? Do you agree or disagree with me? Let me know in the comments below!

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


Thanks for reading! If you want to get updates on when new blog posts come out, subscribe to my newsletter, “The Raven,” and be the first to get updates and exclusive updates on my writings! If you want to contribute to the conversation, please comment below! I will try to respond to all comments!


Processing…
Success! You're on the list.

Categories
On Writing

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

If you have not read Part One or Two, start here with Part One and then finish Part Two here.

So, we’ve reached the end. Act three.

This act typically ends our journey with the characters we’ve grown to love. It’s a sad goodbye (unless Disney decides to reboot your series for a less than stellar sequel trilogy).

Before we get into the points on why the third act is so good, I must put a stipulation. The third act can only be good if your first two acts did their job. Did you set up a protagonist that people cared for or are interested in enough to care about what happens in the third act? Are there enough hints to your twist ending so that it doesn’t feel random and out of nowhere? And is your antagonist set up as a dangerous conflict to your protagonist? If the answer is no to any of these, you might want to rework some of your first and second act, because if you leave any of these components out, your ending may not end up being as killer as you think it is.

Now, considering all of these things have been checked off, let’s look at why the third act is so good.

There are several reasons, here are three!

1. The first and most obvious thing is that we are given the last big confrontation between the antagonist and protagonist. It’s all built up to this. We finally get the big fight between them. This is generally a pretty awesome and satisfying part of the book. But it can also be shocking. You may not know how the hero will win, but you know they will win. But most of the time at a cost. They generally will lose something dear to them, sometimes not, but generally, you will see the loss of someone or something close to the protagonist. A good example of this is in the movie Super 8 (warning, if you have not seen this movie, major spoilers are to follow). In the movie, Joe has carried a locket that was his Mom’s for the course of most of the movie. It is fairly obvious that he treasures the object and that it reminds him of his mom. At the end of the movie when the alien is building its ship by taking the majority of the metal in Lillian, Ohio. As Joe, Alice, and their fathers watch the metal suck towards the ship. That’s when you see Joe’s locket start heading towards the ship, he grabs it, but the ship still needs it and isn’t complete without it. He lets go of the locket. He had to lose something that was precious to him in order to let the alien leave and therefore winning the movie’s struggle. This is also a great example of character growth, but that’s not what today’s post is about.

2. The second thing is the resolution. The third act concludes things, but the story doesn’t end after the antagonist loses. The story ends only once you have finished the last page or when the screen goes black. That’s when it ends, not before and not after. Do you know those last couple of chapters between the defeat of the protagonist and the end of the book? Those can help decide whether or not you like a book. There was an epic fantasy book that I read a couple of years ago, I won’t mention the name of it because some readers really like it. It was the first of a series and the series has yet to be finished as far as I know. I loved the beginning of this book and the middle. It was so drastically different from anything that I had read to that point. When I arrived at the third act, it went in a completely different direction then what I thought. The character did things that I as a reader did not think he would. I barely even finished it. I just skimmed the last couple of chapters. This really saddened me because I had grown close with the land and the laws and the main character, but the ending was such a disappointment. Now, every time I see a book by that author, I disregard it. So why am I telling you this? Your resolution needs to go along with what you have set up. If not, it disappoints readers like me. Another resolution is key to the third act is because it is the last time you interact with the characters. It’s your goodbye, and this leads to point three.

3. The last thing is the want to spend more time with the characters, also known as a hole. If the book did its job, and especially if it’s a part of a series and is the end of a series, you feel that hole. It’s over. All the time you spent with those characters, it’s over. Their story has been told. This only happens if the author has given a meaningful ending and has tied up all the plots and subplots in their novel. And when you finish, well that’s when you have to find a new book to read.

So why is the third act the most interesting part of a book? Because of the final conflict between the two opposing forces, the resolution, and the end that leaves you wanting more.

So that’s it! Three acts, which is your favorite? Be sure to comment below and let me know and comment anything you have to say relating to Act Three as well! I want to hear what you guys think!

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


Thanks for reading! If you want to get updates on when new blog posts come out, subscribe to my newsletter, “The Raven,” and be the first to get updates and exclusive updates on my writings! If you want to contribute to the conversation, please comment below! I will try to respond to all comments!


Processing…
Success! You're on the list.

Categories
On My Writings On Writing

Learning From Our Detestation


Unfortunately, I started my Chemistry class today. I have never been a big fan of Science in general, but have always done fairly well in it (I finished Biology with a 93% a couple of weeks ago). I have heard from friends and family that Chemistry is the worst one of them all. So I have been dreading the arrival of doing it.

But today, I decided to have a different perspective on it. It may not be my favorite subject, in fact, it probably will be my least favorite subject. But, I am going to commit to learning it the best I can and doing the best I can in the class.

You may ask why? Well, my Dad wisely advised me to look at the subjects I dislike in a different fashion. He said that I should look at everything I learn as giving me more knowledge that I can put towards writing. Take Science for example. I am learning Chemistry right now, and this is giving me an opportunity to think about how a Chemist thinks and works. So if I ever write a character that works as a Chemist, I will know how to write that character better. And if I ever write a Science Fiction Novel (I actually have had the wheels turning and have been thinking about that lately, no promises on when), I will be better equipped to write the Science in Science Fiction. I believe that my writing will greatly improve from this decision and I look forward to seeing how.

So I have decided I am going to put more effort into the subjects I dislike. I’m going to see what I can learn so that I can write things I may not care about now (such as a Chemist), but things that I may need to know in later novels. It’s gonna be hard because my tendency is to hate the subject I dislike and just complain about it, but I also look forward to challenges, and this is gonna be a challenge.

Please comment below! I want to hear what you guys think about this!

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


Thanks for reading! If you want to get updates on when new blog posts come out, subscribe to my newsletter, “The Raven,” and be the first to get updates and exclusive updates on my writings! If you want to contribute to the conversation, please comment below! I will try to respond to all comments!


Processing…
Success! You're on the list.

Categories
On Writing Something We Can Learn From Films

On Character Redemption


A trend I have noticed lately in storytelling, particularly Star Wars’ storytelling, is the redemption arc of certain villains. 

Quick Warning: If you have not seen Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker yet, spoilers are to follow.

A noticeable twist that takes place in both Rise of Skywalker and Return of the Jedi is the redemptive arcs of both Vader and Kylo Ren/Ben. I stand in the position that both arcs worked out for the better. 

Both Vader and Kylo Ren start out as the main villain of their respective trilogies. By the end of those trilogies, they have redeemed themselves as characters, and fans begin to love those characters. But then the characters’ lives are cut short.

So that brings up the question, does a redeemed character have to die?

I would argue yes, though a masterful writer can redeem their character and keep them alive. 

Kylo Ren/Ben Skywalker is the perfect example of why a redeemed character needs to die. In Rise of Skywalker, Kylo Ren is conflicted the whole movie. He cannot decide if he wants to submit to the emperor and kill the scavenger, Rey. While on Endor his inner confliction rises to a peak when a memory of his father appears. After replaying a scene that happened in The Force Awakens, Kylo Ren tosses the sith saber into the seas of Endor and becomes Ben. But later, Ben dies saving the hero of the trilogy, Rey. This character’s death is the completion of Ben’s arc. He dies to save the one he had wanted to kill just earlier in the series.

Ben’s death is a sacrifice, and it’s a sacrifice for the good of another person. That person was someone he had wanted to kill earlier. Ben shows his redemption by paying the ultimate sacrifice. Thus proving he is a redeemed character. 

Vader does the same thing in the original trilogy. He sacrifices his life for the son he had wanted to kill just moments earlier. 

Now I am not saying that Rise of Skywalker was without its flaws, it had quite a few. But the redemptive arc of Kylo Ren was a really well-done aspect of the film. In fact, I would probably say it was the most well-done plot aspect of the film.

So what can we learn as writers from this?

Well first, I think that in order for character redemption to be believable, there needs to be some symbolic change. In Rise of Skywalker, there were two symbols. The first was when Rey killed Kylo Ren. The second was when Ben threw the sith saber into the sea. These were symbols of Ben’s turning away from his old ways.

The second thing is that when a writer chooses for a redeemed character to die, they must be sacrificing themselves for the good of another. Ben sacrifices his own life to save Rey, showing that his heart has changed for the good. He has given up the most valuable thing he has, his life, to save her, thus completing his redemption.

So when redeeming characters, authors should show symbolic change. And if the author chooses for the character to die, they also should be sacrificing themselves to help others, thus completing their redemptive arc showing change.

Now, these are just a couple of the things we can learn from Star Wars, not all of the things we can learn. Star Wars has been around for so long and has told many stories, that there are many things that we can learn.

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


Thanks for reading! If you want to get updates on when new blog posts come out, subscribe to my newsletter, “The Raven,” and be the first to get updates and exclusive updates on my writings! If you want to contribute to the conversation, please comment below! I will try to respond to all comments!


Processing…
Success! You're on the list.

Categories
On Writing

Outlining vs. Pantsing


Hey everyone! This is my first official post on this blog, and I thought that there would be nothing more fitting than to do a post on writing. 

As a creative writer, I have discovered that there are two different ways that you can write stories, and both are equally effective. So I thought I would explore a little bit about what each tool does and how different people use the tools.  

If you are a writer, you have probably heard the terms outliner and pantser. They are pretty familiar terms. This article is not saying one is better than the other if you are a pantser, awesome! If you are an outliner, that’s equally as awesome! I’m just here to explore what each means and some pros and cons to each tool. First, let’s define each tool.

Outliner:

An outliner is a writer who discovers their story before jumping into the process of writing it. They can do this in an extremely detailed way, or they can only nail down the bare necessities of their story. 

Pantser:

A pantser is a writer who discovers their story as they write the story. They jump right in and begin to see what happens as they go.

Those two definitions are very broad definitions and there are many other specific definitions that you can find out there. 

So let’s break down some pros to each tool. 

Outliner Pros:

  • They know how their story will end, this gives them more of an idea of how to foreshadow big events. Brandon Sanderson talks about this in his second lecture in the excellent writing class that you can watch for free on YouTube.
  • They don’t have to go back and do as much rewriting because there is a less likely chance for there to be plot holes. Again, this is because the author knows how the story will end. 

Pantser Pros:

  • Their character is more likely to be a really interesting character who develops as the story goes. This is because the author does not know who their character is and they discover them while they write their story. George R.R. Martin does this and it makes his characters, supposedly, really interesting reads (as someone who has not read his books yet I cannot personally say whether or not this is true, I’m just basing this off what the general consensus is).

Now let’s look at a couple of cons.

Outliner Con:

  • There can be less character development as the writer can be focusing more on the plot of the story, versus focusing on the plot of the story.

Pantser Con:

  • Because the writer does not know where their story is going, they can have plot holes which can result in lots of rewriting or plot holes that are left unfixed.

So, how can you avoid these cons? For an outliner one thing that a lot of authors do is interview their character while outlining, they can ask them basic questions or more complicated ones. This gives them a way to know their characters better. I have never pantsed a novel before, but I have a suggestion I think could work. When you are pantsing your novel, keep a notebook beside you, and jot down any major details so that you won’t forget them or so that you can be aware of what the reader knows. 

So what do I do?

For my current series, I plan on outlining every single book. Now, I do not plan on going super in-depth like some writers. When I outlined the first book, I discovered all my major points and who my main characters were and where they would be at the end of the story. I also explored my setting seeing where events would take place. Some authors like to outline every scene that takes place in their book, I don’t. But there is no wrong way to write your story. The way I write my story is going to be different from 99% of other writers, and that is perfectly okay. The way you write is going to be different from 99% of other writers, and that’s awesome! Each author is unique in the way that they write their story, and that is what gives us so many unique and interesting stories to read.


Thanks for reading! If you want to get updates on when new blog posts come out, subscribe to my newsletter, “The Raven,” and be the first to get updates and exclusive updates on my writings! If you want to contribute to the conversation, please comment below! I will try to respond to all comments!


Processing…
Success! You're on the list.