First impressions are vital in interviews, first dates and any number of social situations. The same is true of books. The first chapter of a book is your first (and sometimes only) chance to impress a reader and persuade them to buy your book.
I’d like to share with you some of the first chapters that had a huge effect on me and changed my reading habits.
Secret Seven Mystery
The ninth book in the Enid Blyton series, Secret Seven Mystery had a profound effect on a seven year-old boy. I had been passionate about books since my mother first took me to the local library as a tot. SSM was the first ‘chapter’ book that I borrowed from the library to read on my own. The first chapter took me to an exciting world where kids solved mysteries and had adventures. In truth, the books haven’t stood the test of time but I still think fondly of that series of books.
When I was twelve a friend in the Boys’ Brigade gave me ‘The Hobbit’ to read. I had never heard of it and knew nothing about it, but he assured me I would love it. He gave me the book on a Friday night, I had finished reading it by the Saturday afternoon. The first chapter had me entranced, I bought a copy and of course I followed that up with Lord Of The Rings. They remain among my favourite books.
The Big Sleep
As I grew older, the mysteries of Enid Blyton and Franklin W. Dixon no longer satisfied me. I tried Agatha Christie but her criminals never seemed real to me. I mentioned to a teacher my search for something new that would be more adult and more genuine. She returned the following day with The Big Sleep and The Maltese Falcon. I took them home and before I had my dinner that night, I began Chandler’s masterpiece. Marlowe jumped from the page and smacked me across the face, he was cool and witty. I had found what I was looking for. That first chapter sparks with snappy dialogue and brilliant descriptive writing. That book gave birth to a love affair that took me all the way to writing my own first novel.
The Bourne Identity
This was another find in the library, this time when I was about sixteen. The first chapter sets the tone for a story that at times leaves you breathless, unsure whether Bourne is a hero or a villain. I became a huge Ludlum fan as a result and within two years had read voraciously everything that he had written. He was the king of the political conspiracy novel and is one of the few writers whose novels I can re-read and enjoy as much as that first time.
I was a huge fan of both Star Trek and Doctor Who from an early age but I had never read a science fiction novel. Every science fiction book I had ever looked at seemed to show dystopian future that was a long way from the positive future envisaged on my favourite TV shows.
A college mate had expressed incredulity that I could be a fan of TV sci-fi but not have read any books. He saw it as a challenge and gave me a few novels to try. The top of that pile was Frank Herbert’s Dune and it proved to be the ideal choice. The first chapter starts a saga that never lets up in complexity of plot with rich and three-dimensional characters that are a joy to read. You don’t have to love science fiction to love the Dune series. It is an incredible family saga that spans planets and generations. The plotting of the various factions would not have seemed alien to Renaissance Italians and in many ways the families in the story could easily have been called Borgia or Medici. Needless to say science fiction now forms a regular part of my reading diet.
Indie Authors World competition seeks to find a book with a first chapter that will captivate readers. Have you got it in you to write a first chapter that will change reading habits? Find out by entering the Calum Macleod Memorial Publishing Prize competition. As well as the chance to win a publishing package worth £2000, you will be helping the charity Meningitis Now to continue to support families, and educate everyone about the disease.
For more information visit the competition page.