First Chapter – My Nemesis

Why, oh why do you torment me so, first chapter?  First page?  First line?

I know you hate me.  That’s okay.  The feeling is mutual.

With everything I’ve ever written, the beginning has been the worst, the hardest part, the piece that I wish would just go away so that we could get to the good stuff.

Why doesn’t the good stuff ever come right at the beginning for me?

It’s like that in job interviews too, or when I met new people in social situations.  I’m not exactly shy, because I like getting to know new people.  It just takes a while for me to relax enough to be myself.  It takes a while to get past “So, what do you do?” and get to those areas of common passion that allow you to really click with someone. 

Trust me, dear reader, by the time we get to Chapter Two, you are going to love it.

By Chapter Five, everything will be rolling along and you won’t want to put it down.  But you won’t get to Chapter Five if we can’t get through Chapter One.

And Chapter One?  I’d rather get a cavity drilled without novacaine.  And I have had a cavity drilled without novacaine.

There’s so much to DO in Chapter One.  I have to introduce you to my main character and make you like her and care about her.  I have to describe things… but not too much, because I don’t want to bore you.  I have to give you action… but not too much, because I don’t want to rush things.  I have to introduce at least some of the other main characters… but not all of them, because I don’t want to throw too much at you at once.  I may not even be able to introduce the other main character — the antagonist or love interest — until a later chapter because I CAN’T because the story just has to GET THERE. 

You know, the way Jane Eyre has to grow up before she can meet Mr. Rochester in Chapter Twelve.  Or the way Mr. Darcy does not make an appearance until Chapter Three, and indeed, we’ve never even heard of him prior to that point.

But I can’t send an agent Chapter Five with a letter promising to get Chapter One right eventually, if only they’ll sign me and help me out with it.

Because, I promise, if you read the proposal scene, or the scene in the meadow, you’ll be hooked.

But Chapter One?  The piece that is supposed to sell my work?  That haunts me like a ghoul on Halloween night.

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1 Response to First Chapter – My Nemesis

  1. svea says:

    Great post! You never realize how critical the first chapter is, but goodness, a lot is riding on it. I came across a first chapter I wrote years ago and I was surprised by how interested I was after reading it (I didn’t recall what story I had been drafting without looking at the notes)… maybe I should meddle with it once more. Best of luck to you!

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