In a book what makes a great beginning? How do you grab your reader and keep them there?
Great Book Beginning Elements:
Great Character Development: The first thing that a reader will start to connect with in the book will be the character. Is he real? Is he able to connect with the reader? Does the reader have an invested stake in the first few pages with the character? This all depends on the development skills of the author.
Conflict: There needs to be a conflict or at least the start of one. This is the way that a struggle is started whether it is a psychological struggle or a personal one. Or it might be a conflict between two opposing parties; here we must understand the intricacies of building conflict and tension. There needs to be something lurking in the beginning which is troubling the main character.
Specific Details: There needs to be the use of specific details in the beginning of the book so that it is possible for the reader to connect with the setting, the location, the dialect, and all other attributes. The reader will easily be able to connect to the location which is being used and will also be able to feel as if they are in the shoes of the character.
Style: Here you as the author have to be the guide, there should be something universal about the tone as you open. It must be a call to the universal and a call to witness struggle and tension. As you write think about the writings of novels and books in the same category in which you are writing which are universal classics.
Following this model implement and choose the best elements of the writing styles you have read and admired. By picking elements of successful styles you are learning to be a wordsmith, and as you learn you are also able to take your craft and to use the best elements of all practices.
Also make certain that you have a friend who has a critical eye read and tell you about the beginning of the book. The first paragraph will make or break the rest of the content for the reader. The first 100 words will aid or destroy your work.
And yet do not allow those first 100 words to stop you from writing. Use your friends and those around you to assist with the critique to make you a better writer. A blinking cursor is definitely not a winning element. Sometimes fear of not writing a perfect beginning will keep a writer from starting.
Many set off to write the great American novel and then find themselves stifled by the first sentence. Do not find yourself as one of those people who is stifled by fear of failure, be open to criticism and grow and learn as a writer.
Engaging Middle Context
No part of a book should be considered downtime. Make certain that just because you are in the middle of the book you are not taking a break in the devices of great plot development. Follow your outline and make certain that you are using all of the winning elements of design.
An Amazing Conclusion
What makes an amazing ending is a slightly subjective experience for the reader, some want enlightenment, some want inspiration, some want to learn, some want truth. However, the most important thing here is the ending is partially the take away and partially the last thought.
Tie up Loose Ends: For a reader who invests time in a story, knowing what happened to the main characters in the end is pivotal. Unless there is a second and third book which are waiting in the wings this must be done. Think back to watching the last episode of the Sopranos, every person who has seen the finale episode leaves the series wondering what happened to all parties involved. The simple fade to black ending leaves the mind wondering, questioning, and somehow without fulfillment.
When you invest the time to read a book each person gains a personal interest in the characters this means that there is a direct relationship between the character and the reader. When you are psychologically invested in this way it is impossible not to worry about the outcome for the character and his interests. In this respect of your reader unless you are planning a sequel please ensure that you plan the details of the tie up.
What does this mean? There should be nothing left to circumstance as to where the characters went or what they did. We should know 100 % how things ended.
Happy Ending: In a perfect world everyone gets what they want, some readers will always find this to be the most satisfying ending in which all parties have their way and everyone moves forward in the way they wish. Readers identify with this sort of ending somewhere psychologically as it is able to take them back to times when things were “simpler”. Imagine for example the parent reading to the child in bed who is sitting there intently awaiting the outcome for those few final golden words, “And they lived happily ever after.” This can be a huge determining factor in the success or failure of a manuscript if the ending does not harken back to those childhood days if this is the message the writer is trying to induce.
Informational or Informative Ending: This ending should be one that educates the reader and tells them something that they did not know before whether it is about life, experience, culture or something that is outside of the ordinary. An example of this sort of writing brought to mind is that of Kate Chopin’s the Awakening, although it was written in the early 1900s, this book is an amazing statement about life as a kept woman. The main female character finds herself, dressed in the best clothes, in the best house, like a caged bird full of expectations. She rejects her expectations and eventually departs in suicide. At the end of the book the reader is left grasped by shock at her perspective and education on the Victorian female perspective.
Endings that Anger: These usually include arbitrary endings and arbitrary violence to the character or to someone who is pivotal to the story. Some elements of this might include the immediate death of one of the very key characters who it is unthinkable to lose, or it might also involve an act of violence against key characters. Other elements include ending plots which seem to come from nowhere, strange design elements which have nothing to do with the rest of the story or are in complete contempt of the writing style and expectation of the author.
With all that said the next question many ask is why would anyone write this way? One of the best elements of good writing as well as one of the best elements of good design is the element of surprise. If you are left on the edge of your seat throughout the course of a book dying to see what will happen next and then when you finally, as a reader get to the end of the book only to see that the time investment you have made ends abruptly.
As a writer do not be surprised if the ending changes and is modified as you go along. This is one of the elements of good book and plot design as this means that you are growing as a writer and that you are planning an intriguing book. The most important thing as a writer is to remember that the beginning is an amazing start and you want to make your reader be engaged, committed, and invested to the character and to the story.
In the middle of the book make certain that there is never a down or sleepy moment, whether in plot or dialogue. And lastly give your reader an ending which is deserving of the characters. Do not cheat your readers with an ending which fades to black and does not give them an accurate idea of what is happening or what happens to the characters.
If you are writing a book with a sequel give the readers a note at the bottom that says something like To Be Continued. And consider adding a small message at the end of the book saying when you anticipate the sequel coming out. Because at that point the reader will be left hanging and hungry for more, please be considerate of their desire to know the next part of the story.
I. An amazing beginning which engages the reader
II. A middle with no down time
III. An ending worthy of the reader’s time investment.
Hopefully this gives you an idea of how to plan the beginning, middle, and end and helps you structure your plot and time line with amazing accuracy, exaction and facilitation.