Wednesday, November 6, 2013
Showing C.A.R.E in the First Chapter
As I was preparing to chat with a writer's group about the importance of first chapters, I thought of a cute acronym to go along with my teaching. (because it helps with memory, right?)
So - what keeps the readers reading in your first chapter?
Showing C.A.R.E. as an author. That's what!
C - Character relate-ability - If readers don't care about our characters in one way or other, they are less likely to keep reading. This doesn't necessarily mean that our characters have to be noble and righteous. It means they have to be relatable. An 'aha' moment of "I know how that feels" or "I've felt that way before", or "I've been there or done that" before. Somehow we have to relate.
So, if we enter the world of Narnia with Peter, Susan, Edmund and Lucy, a reader might can't relate to the fears of WWII or stepping through a wardrobe into a magical world, but we can relate to being scared of something (like the children were of the bombs dropping in London) or of being in a new place (like in the Professors house), and we can remember 'dreaming' of imaginary places. It's wonderful.
Example: How do producers hook viewers for a 1-hour weekly series? The first five minutes (or less) of the show (before commercial break) begins with some arresting development. A body drops from a twelth story window onto the car of the hero/heroine; a recap of last weeks' ending reminds us that the heroine walked in on her boyfriend kissing another woman. Somethng happens to grab our attention and hold us through that commercial break.
The same is true for our writing.
R - Radiate a Sense of Place - Story Worlds are powerful places. From Middle Earth to Scarlet O'Hara's Deep South, to Dickens' London, or Brian Jacques' Redwall Abbey, place plays a big role in a reader's immersion into our stories. Downton Abbey is great for creating a sense of 'place' on the screen.
One of the BIGGEST reasons why fiction readers read is to escape their world or be entertained by someone else's story. Creating Story Worlds that do just that feeds the fiction reader's need, and makes them want to keep reading.
E - Emotions Draw Readers In - Relatability is one thing; An Emotional Connection is another. When the reader has an emotional response, he/she is usually hooked into reading more. If the response is caring, then great! If it's intrigue, good. If it is shock or fear (not my favorite ones, but some people like them), then they are more liekly to keep reading.
Jamie Carie begins her novel, Love's First Light, in the middle of the French Revolution with the hero's sister being executed. Emotional? Oh yeah! Mary Connealy usually begins her novels with the characters in peril. Emotional? You bet. Laura Frantz starts her novels off with historical beauty and depth of characters that create longing. Emotional? Definitely. And let's not forget humor! Like Janice Hanna Thompson or Deeanne Gist.
So, what do we need to do as writer?
Show our first chapters (and our entire books) a lot of C.A.R.E. and we'll really set the stage for a beautiful story.
Of the above 4 elements, which do you think is most important? Which one are you good at writing? Which one do you find most challenging?