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An Open Examination of First Chapters MintyRest!xMcCHESToY 5535

This doesn't apply as heavily related to one shots, but what elements are important almost exclusively to first chapters.

Fundamentally, what makes the difference between a story that you will read in it's entirety, and a story that you'll forget about in a few hours?

Sure plot hooks are a part, but what's the difference between a hook that works and one that flounders?

FullmetalPony 5536

A good first sentence, proper language, and a balance between show and tell… learned that the hard way


File: 1369160656835.gif (827.64 KB, 320x240, GBJKIhT.gif)

An interesting hook should ask a question, provide part of the answer, then promise the rest down the line. Clearly establishing the central conflict is also a good idea, although it's not necessary if your writing and characters are interesting to read by themselves (Fo:E does something along these lines).


I think there's a different between what makes a good hook, and what makes a good first chapter. Obviously, a good first chapter must have a good hook, but it must also have (as FMP pointed out) a good mastery of language, a complete—no exceptions—avoidance of SDT, LUS, and grammatical errors (with some possible exceptions for the last one).

A good hook, though, is a bit different. Depending on the fic in question, you can either go with a "cold open" of sorts (in which you immediately start with action or conflict; this usually requires a great or passing familiarity with the characters), or a slow lead-in (which requires that you've already sold the eventual "plot" to the reader in the synopsis).

Ion-Sturm 5541

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>a complete—no exceptions—avoidance of SDT, LUS
Both of those are lame catch-alls used by people who can't provide solid explanations on when and why telling and colour-pronoun (which is only an issue due to over-abundance in the fandom and is used often in published writing) are acceptable to use. Some forms of writing, such as journal entries, are almost entirely in the form of "telling" yet remain engaging despite this.


For me, it's good character first impressions. Sadly, for the moment I can only think of bad examples.

MintyRest!xMcCHESToY 5543

>which requires that you've already sold the eventual "plot" to the reader in the synopsis

Ahh, okay. So the Synopsis is part of the selling point of the story. I always thought as much.

>Sadly, for the moment I can only think of bad examples.
Bad examples are great examples! By examining the flaws, it's easier to get an understanding of what works.

This is especially important when what works usually means that you didn't notice it happening.

Functionally, I'm trying to work out the exact limitations on when readers give up on a story.
I've got it figured down to the synopsis + chapter one, but I'm not entirely sure what elements have to be there to declare one story functional and another train wreck.

But I'm pretty sure it's in there somewhere.

soundslikeponies!bQsJPGMNfw 5544

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- The opening sentence should leave you wanting to read to find out more.
- The first impression of your main character(s) should establish who they are, yet make them memorable.
- In the beginning, the reader's reception to your work is tentative at best. If you constantly give them reason to keep reading, their attention span for your work will increase with time. So, make the beginning gripping.
- To keep someone reading you need some kind of tension, and there's various ways of doing that.
a) You create a mystery. The tiara of the golden ball is missing, and the only one of the mane 6 could have taken it. There's an item in a mail bag derpy is told to deliver, and she must not look inside. No matter what the cost. This kind of tension only works so long as you make the reader yearn for the answer, and you can often do this best by having the main character yearn for it, too.
b) Tension through conflict can exist on varying scales. Rarity doesn't know how to tell Twilight that the new dress she bought, and loves, looks terrible on her. Skipper is running away from old farmer Turnip after stealing carrots from his land. Applejack is wrestling a manticore with her lasso. Pinkie Pie's hanging by a cliff, as her rival, Surprise, smirks down at her cruelly.
c) Make your character experience fear. Make their fear real. Fear of failure. Fear of rejection. Fear of coming up short. If Dazzle is 50 bits short on tuition at the arcane university next semester, don't just show him trying to get the bits. Show him panicking. Show him scrambling and worried.

>Bad examples are great examples!
Bad examples are bad examples.There's a hundred bad examples for every good example. You don't nearly learn as much from bad examples as you do from good examples.
This post was edited by its author on .

MintyRest!xMcCHESToY 5545

>There's a hundred bad examples for every good example. You don't nearly learn as much from bad examples as you do from good examples.

In examining bad examples, you can gain a better idea of what doesn't work.
Learning from good examples can lead to plagiarism and repetition though. They're great for examples though, but you learn different things from both.

soundslikeponies!bQsJPGMNfw 5546

I will agree that there are different things to be learned from both. But I still believe you improve at something by surrounding yourself with good examples of it, not bad ones. Reading classics and award winners gives you a better idea of what to do than reading bad things (with the intention of not doing those things).


>Bad examples are great examples!
Oh, it's not that. I just don't want to get into another fight with SLP over how compelling characters are written.

Tactical!fRainBOoMw 5549

I'll write a good hook using nothing but "tell."

Fuckin' watch me.

This zebra right here.
This post was edited by its author on .


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>I'll write a good hook using nothing but "tell."
This may interest you. It's taught me more about "Show, don't Tell" than anything else I've ever read.
This post was edited by its author on .

Pascoite!uxy6g7ov9I 5566

For one thing, correctly using its and it's.


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