Today's Post: Chapter One's
First chapters often measure the worth of a potential novel. Many lay out the theme or premise of what follows. If so, will it engage readers? Will it have a broad appeal? Most important: Does it generate a flood of ideas, characters, events, and emotions for the author to draw upon? Once written, will it hook readers and compel them to read on? Reflecting on my published novels, I can’t claim they all started with a clear view of their premise, yet their first chapters do set the tone, if not the theme, of the story. “Life Shattered” introduces a tormented child who is hiding a genius mentality. “Life Rescued” establishes the challenge of overcoming a spirit destroying injury. “Life Threatened” begins with a brutal murder which hints at a psychopathic character. They set the tone but the real premise is not revealed until well into the stories. Like most mysteries, “Murder – On Salt Spring” starts with the murder, but also introduces the character conflict which follows. “The Pizza Dough King” is a love story from the first chapter on. “You Speak for Me Now” introduces two themes in the first chapter; namely, strength and challenges of an introvert/extrovert relationship and, on a societal level, the struggle between the rich and everyone else. Both are clearly laid out up front. I find writing either a chapter or a short story a useful way to assess the merit of a possible novel. In fact, “The Pizza Dough King” sprung from a short story which in effect became its final chapter. In an author workshop once, the leader asked us to write a chapter one and later read it to the group. I read what is now the first chapter of “From Revolution Born”. The group response was so enthusiastic, I’ve kept the novel growing ever since even though it’s hard to identify a climactic ending. A number of possible novels have been tested in this way. Today’s short story, “Sam Adams”, is one of them.