Wednesday, October 13, 2010

WRITER WEDNESDAY: Start Your Novel Where the Conflict Starts

One of the things I've learned during this long journey of writing, is that you need to start your book where the conflict starts - and while it makes sense, it's often hard to implement! Most authors want to start the novel where the story starts. But, honestly, that may not be of much interest to your reader. They don't need to know upfront about a bully at school, an abusive parent, or failed love interests.

In that first chapter it's important that you get your main character into a scene where the conflict is presented, so that the manuscript has continuous forward movement and keeps the reader hooked on the journey.

Here are a couple of examples:

  • If your MC is moving: Start the novel on moving day, or even arriving at her new home. Don't have it two weeks before, lamenting the move with her best friend (unless your book takes place during those two weeks!)
  • If your MC finds an enchanted object: Get him to that location in the first chapter. We don't need to see the reason he's there, or how he got there. You can add that in as you go.
  • If your MC develops a special power: Give us a glimpse in those first few pages. Get us to the scene where she's questioning (whether internally or everyone's watching) what's going on.

By getting us immediately to your source of conflict and growth in the novel, you're cutting out the backstory and hooking in your reader. There's so much to pack into these first few pages, but throwing your MC into the middle of conflict is the best way for your reader to learn all about them (how they handle themselves, their sense of humor, their outlook on life, and more.) Use it as an opportunity to explore your voice and quickly get your story moving!


  1. Great post Nikki! I love to start tormenting my characters from the very first page!

  2. Great post! You also have to make sure your reader connects with your mc. Nothing worse than starting a book with a fight scene (I've seen so many of those in the MSFV secret agent contests) and you don't care one way or another if they die.

  3. Awesome post! I'm so glad to read this because I've been struggling with my first chapter, and now you kind of gave me an idea. :)

  4. So true... doesn't everyone's first novel start in the wrong place? Almost always about three chapters too soon. ;)

    To reiterate what Stina said, I need to have a reason to care about the mc before the conflict gets too crazy, but I love it when a story hits the ground running.

    Great post!

  5. great post! this is such a fine line to walk; starting with conflict AND making the reader care about the character. in about 10 pages or less...
    and yes, Tere, I'd have to say I started my first book at least a chapter and a half too soon.

  6. Definitely agreed!! I don't mean conflict in the sense of a fight scene, but getting your MC into the main conflict of the book as quickly as you can. It may not even look like conflict at the time, but the setup needs to begin ASAP.

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