Want a killer first chapter that engages your readers and pulls them into your story?
It’s a pretty simple solution actually. You don’t need to have written a gajillion (technical term) books or be an award-winning essayist or even have written anything before.
It’s so simple, I can tell you in four little words:
Start at the end.
You can’t know where to start without knowing where you’re going. Your characters need goals, just like you do, and knowing where you direct them allows you to focus on the other fun parts of writing: world creation, dialogue, and creature creation!
At least, those are my favorite parts.
Here are the top reasons why knowing your ending will make your beginnings even stronger.
Envision the Journey
Starting with the end allows you to better envision the journey your characters need to take. You can pinpoint the exact events they need to experience or take part in to achieve the emotional change, or the mental clarity required for your character to get from where they start to where they end.
Regardless of what happens in your story’s middle, knowing the ending will help you get your characters off on their journey on the right foot. You can set them up with the exact opposite situations or personality traits than what you want them to end the story with. Just in that simple decision, you’ve created a story that can resonate and thrill your readers because you have dynamic characters and a fully fledged plot.
We all love a rags-to-riches story or a story with a great character arc of someone doing an 180 from good to bad or bad to good. These trends and arcs are easier if you know your story’s ending.
Tap Into Your Story’s Potential
Knowing your ending before you even start writing, allows you to position your characters and events so that you can tell your story to it’s greatest potential.
It opens up a deep world of foreshadowing and flashbacks that allow your readers to see more of your characters in their own histories and create a sense of foreboding or hope to guide your readers emotionally as they travel through your story.
Eliminate Confusion and Make Room for Play
Starting at the end minimizes the confusion you’ll face when you sit down to start your story. That first sentence doesn’t need to carry so much weight and doesn’t need so much pressure placed upon it because you already know where the story is going. You know how it ends! You have the power to start strong!
This is incredibly freeing, and once you have the characters and events in place, allows you play around with language, prose, and emotion. You can add in subplots that weave in seamlessly with your main plot, you can add in minor characters with subtle but important influences to the main plot (Severus Snape anyone??). Your ability to add depth and multiple layers deepen the more you know of where your story ends, creating a story that readers fall in love with.
A great practice to try, once you know your ending, is to write your final chapter before you write anything. Then when you sit down to write the first chapter, write it as a mirror of the last chapter.
Allowing your first and last chapters to mirror one another creates symmetry, helps your reader see how far your character has come, and allows you to play around with themes, items of importance (like mirrors, rings, wands, etc), and leaves your reader with a sense of completion. You left your reader where they started, but now everything is different. It’s the sort of feeling that will have your readers recommending your story to friends and family and may even add your book to their favorites lists.
It’s not a bad place to be.
Help! I’m Not Sure of My Ending!
So, what if you aren’t sure of the ending? What if you have a few ideas of how it could end or two vastly different ideas?
That’s ok too. I do want to stress that it really helps if you can figure the ending out before you start.
If you aren’t sure of your ending, I suggest coming up with three potential endings. Early on in your story, your character’s fate will be a bit more ambiguous, so as you write, you’ll be able to eliminate one or two of those potential endings, simply by creating the journey of your characters.
If your ending ideas are vastly different, try and find the common threads in the two endings. Your character’s personality, for instance, might not change too much, but where they are, who they talk too, how they interact with people could change depending on the ending.
If this is the case, write both first chapters and both final chapters. Whichever pair you like better, write that story. You can always go back and write the other story too at a later point.
I hope these tips helped! Writing a killer first sentence, paragraph, and chapter doesn’t need to be laden with pressure. Know your ending and you can’t go wrong.