Keeping readers guessing

Revision update: Still slogging through the first eight chapters, this time with a fine tooth comb looking for word choices, etc.

I’m also keeping an eye on Anita Nolan‘s series on beginnings on her blog. Yesterday she had tips to hook the reader, and the first was keeping them curious. This is a good tactic for every part of the book, but especially for the beginning. If a reader is curious about what’s going on, he or she will most likely read more, and that’s exactly what we want. To keep the readers reading, keep them guessing.

Knowing what to put in a first chapter and what to leave out can be difficult. I think it’s a tool a writer learns over time. It’s one I’m learning right now.

As I mentioned, I’ve been reading first chapters from the bestsellers in my genre on my shelves to see how they do it, and I’ve come up with three main goals for the first chapter:

  1. Introduce the character, setting, situation,
  2. Make the audience care about the character,
  3. Make the audience curious about the character and, thus, the story.

So, I’m looking at my first chapter with those things in mind, and anything that isn’t necessary at this point to those three goals, I’m leaving it out. Hopefully, it’s working.

How do you decide what goes in your first chapter?

Write On!

What do you think?