Initially, it started with a small stack of books - they sat waiting patiently for my inner reader to return. As the stack grew, I told myself - "no more new books until you finish that lot first." Ridiculous notion. Who wants to be sensible? So why haven't I finished reading these books? I know - I'm just a little busy, don't worry I'll get back to reading them later...promise! Several months later, the stack has tripled. Could it be that reading multiple stories at one time has taken its toll? Too confusing? Better to focus on one book at a time, Grasshopper.
Truthfully speaking though, for me - its the 'Chapter One Blues' - I meander through those early chapters searching for that spark to ignite my imagination, pull me into that scene where I can eavesdrop on the shoulders of the main character, breathe their emotions, feel their happiness, sorrow and pain. I try; I really do...and yet. I feel nothing; I'm not drawn in, I don't understand the character. Which is sad.
Chapter One is crucial to drawing the readers in, keeping them interested.
On further pondering, I came up with my top three reasons for abandoning the stack of spanking new books.
1) The Voice Disappears
Although enticing at the start, that unique voice disappears with the first twenty or even fifty pages of the book. The blurb on the back of the book was enough to open my wallet in the bookstore but once home, the voice fails to capture and hold my attention the entire way through.
2) Story, Interrupted
I've never been a great fan of clowns, especially ones that jump out of boxes. And I'm not a fan of authors who pop in and out of chapters randomly addressing the reader. I don't want to be drawn away from the story with 'Well, dear Reader...I digress. Let us return to our potty Mrs. Gardner..." Its frustrating, patronising too. I want to lose myself in a book, be entertained and taken on a journey away from real life. Reminders that I'm reading a book...well, just ruin the party.
3) The Plot Loses..Itself
Or its my perception of what the plot should be. This excuse is ridiculous I know, however when I get so involved with a book and the plotline takes an unexpected, dare I suggest unnatural twist, one I can't agree with...well, I usually do this -"What? Thats ridiculous - she can't end up with that twat! Who is this Johnny-Come-Lately?" Cue snorts of disgust, toss offending book across sofa, leave the room. Yes, there really is a secret burial ground under my sofa cushions.
Writing a rip-snorting Chapter One is difficult, I'm learning all the time. Write, write, write, and then write some more. My growing collection of doorstoppers does teach me a lesson - that is, to ensure my own Chapter One is in ship-shape condition. There are so many hints for writing a brilliant Chapter One; I am drawn to this post by Chuck Sambuchino Chapter 1 Pet Peeves. I know, its dated 2008 but still a great reminder. Another great article I found at the Guardian online is Ten Rules for Writing Fiction.
Are there any opening lines or Chapter One bugbears which get your pantaloons in a twist? Please feel free to air them here.
A Pantaloon = Breeches = Bloomers = Knickerbockers.
.pan*ta*loon (pnt-ln)n. 1. a. Men's wide breeches extending from waist to ankle, worn especially in England in the late 17th century. Often used in the plural. b. Tight trousers extending from waist to ankle with straps passing under the instep, worn especially in the 19th century. Often used in the plural. 2. Trousers; pants. Often used in the plural. -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- [French pantalon, a kind of trouser, from Pantalon, Pantaloon; see Pantaloon.]
All Chapter One Pantaloons will be culled for charity later this year.