I could have gone with an image of Uggs, but I think these Marc Jacobs high desert boots are a level of fugly that’s hard to beat. And they tie in so well with today’s Ask Daphne question:
What are some of the things you don’t like to see in the first chapter of a book?
I could expand on this for ages, I think, given an infinite amount of time, but in the interest of being pithy, I don’t want to see:
- The main character waking up.
- The MC looking into a mirror to describe themselves.
- The narrator telling me how ordinary the MC is.
- An opening line that references the weather.
- A prologue with characters that aren’t our MCs.
And to be clear, those are all things that really can turn me off from page one. From the first line, even. Then again, done in a new or interesting way, they can still work, but assume these are generalizations, ok?
Going into more detail on the first chapter, if you’ve avoided our top five pitfalls, I would be wary of casual racism or sexism that isn’t the point of the story. Because of recent internet chatter, I’m also particularly conscious about the existence or lack thereof of parents. Too much swearing can also be off-putting, but it’s a more personal opinion, and can be swayed depending on how it’s used.
In terms of content, I’m not sure I ever really want to read a story that opens with a frank and brutal description of rape — or any sex act, really. But I’m not going to say no to them unilaterally, because your writing may elevate the scene beyond something that bothers me and into a real hook or selling point.
And just so I can end this on a real positive note, here’s what I want to see in an opening chapter:
- Intriguing characters.
- A compelling plot.
- Conflict and drama, and/or tension of some sort.
- World building.
- Spectacular writing.
Further questions on opening chapters?
Oh, and for those of you looking for our weekly About My Query post, we’re going to try doing them every other week for a bit. And I’m looking for a few good queries — or bad ones, even — so long as you’re willing for them to be posted and critiqued here. I’m only going to take the first four, since that’ll get us through two months of posts, and that’s long enough. If you have your query ready to review, send it to firstname.lastname@example.org, not the usual email for query submissions. Be sure to put “About My Query” in the subject line, along with your book’s title. We’re open to ALL genres for these posts, not just manuscripts you would submit to me for consideration. Good luck! Update: got all the AMQueries I need for the next two months. I’ll be emailing you if you sent one to let you know when it will be posted.