Monday, 27 June 2011

First chapter needs more bombs

Writing a book is really easy. Writing a good one is hard. And one of the hardest parts of all this hardness is the first chapter. It has to be good or nobody's going to be interested in the second one. There's lots of ways to start.

1. With an interesting incident

The bomb will explode in one minute.

This interesting incident hits you in the face straight away. Is there enough time to defuse it? Is there enough time to run away? You would have to read on. Unfortunately, my book doesn't have any bombs in it. Yet. I could rewrite the first chapter to include more bombs. Alternatively:

2. Be abstract
Bombs are a bit mainstream. What if it was an existential bomb?

Why is the bomb? What is its purpose? It might not really be there. Probably is, though.

Yes. This can only be the opening chapter to a very serious book. It will make you ponder and pretend to be better than it actually is. Lots of interesting things will happen in this book. Or will they? Maybe it's just best to start with - 

3. A really long sentence
This is a good way to trick the reader into reading more than they intended to. By the time they finish the first sentence they'll be so far into the book they'll think they might as well finish it.

The bomb will explode in one minute, which reminds me of a story my old bomb disposal teacher told me, it was a very long story and he told it all in one breath, he said...

If the sentence looks like it's about to wind down, that's the time to break out a semi-colon; an under-used punctuation mark for people who fear full stops. 

The whole business of first chapters is so hard that I skipped to the second and the third and the fourth. They're easier.


  1. The semi-colon has always aroused me.

  2. you'll be an author!! I love the one about long sentences. If you read a ong sentence you might as well read the whole book. That made me chuckle. Interestingly I used a sentence that length in an assignment about 6 years ago and was told off for it being too long!! I took the same asssignment to another tutor who laughed and said 'bullshit'! Go figure!

  3. I love the part about semi-colons! I have a semi colon addiction; Vonnegut always said, "Do not use semicolons. They are transvestite hermaphrodites representing absolutely nothing." But they are just so easy! They need to set up rehab for people like me; I need my semi-colon, man!

  4. Drake - It's good that you can admit it. I think.

    Brent - Long sentences can be art. They can have twists and turns and pauses and colons, and then come back to their original point; I've never been able to do it, I'm running out of things to say in this one.

    Syndeylk - I don't really know what the semi-colon is for, but some people swear by them; I prefer a dash - it can round off the sentence with a nice point.