Monday, September 6, 2010

The First Three Chapters - What should be there?

What are your thoughts on things that should be covered within the first 3 chapters? Should everything be "set up" and in the main plot/characters by then?

The first three chapters are crucial for any book. With that said, there really isn't one right or wrong way to approach these early pages, but there are certainly things to consider.

First of all, character development is one of the biggest! Now, depending on your genre of your story (Single Title Romance, Category Romance, Women's Fiction, General Fiction) the number of characters we get to know will vary. Obviously, in category romance, we will certainly need to see the hero and heroine very early on. In many cases, we might see them as early as chapter 1, although even in these cases, you might only have mention of the other person. Certainly by chapter 2 we are getting to know both of the characters. Please remember this IS NOT a rule for writing these in these genres. As I have mentioned in the past, writing genre fiction of ANY type is the same as studying music, architecture and other styles that have clear characteristics. We look for certain things that need to be present.

With these characters, we need to really get a sense of what drives these characters. What their motivations are and certainly their personalities. This is mostly important for the protagonist. We have to like this person. We have to want to read more about this person. There has to be something to suck us in.

World building is one of the next elements. We have to have a sense of place to have our new found friends (characters) live. This world has to be real! If you want a great article, check out the laterst edition of Romantic Times (Sept, 2010). There is an article on world building for Science Fiction, although everything in it applies to all genres.

Finally, we need to see some sort of a problem that we want resolved. We don't want to see three pages of character development with no idea as to why we want to follow the characters. The conflict doesn't have to be fully detailed, but we need enough to want to turn the pages. Also, remember that conflict doesn't have to be over the top. It can be as simple as wanting to see how the characters overcome their personal feelings.

The key is set up. Not a set up of the plot but a set up of the story.

Hope that gets you thinking.



  1. Thank you for this post! In the process of revising my romance and everything helps!

  2. Great info as always, Scott. Thanks for the post!