Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Answers to Monday's Blog and Secrets of a Good Chapter One.

I left you Monday (after much frustration from Blogger) with quotes from the movies, promising you the answers today. Please find below the quotes, who said them, and the movies they are from.

10) You talking to me? --Robert DeNiro from Taxi Driver.
9) Fasten your seat belts. It's going to be a bumpy night. --Bette Davis from All About Ever.
8) May the Force be with you. --Alex McCrindle, Star Wars.
7) All right, Mr. DeMille, I'm ready for my close-up. --Gloria Swanson from Sunset Boulevard.
6) Go ahead make my day. -- Clint Eastwood from Sudden Impact.
5) Here's looking at you, kid. -- Humphrey Bogart from Casablanca.
4) Toto, I've got a feeling we're not in Kansas anymore. --Judy Garland from The Wizard of Oz.
3) You don't understand! I coulda had class. I coulda been a contender. I coulda been somebody, instead of a bum, which is what I am. --Marlon Brando from On the Waterfront.
2) I'm going to make him an offer he can't refuse. -- Marlon Brando from The Godfather.
1) Frankly, my dear, I don't give a damn --Clark Gable from Gone with the Wind.

I've only seen a few of these movies, but I've heard the quotes. There were some I thought should have been listed in the top ten such as: "Houston, we have a problem" from Apollo 13 and "E.T.  phone home" from E.T. the Extraterrestrial

Are there other memoriable quotes you would have liked to have seen in the top ten?

Now for Wednesday's writing tip.

Okay, you've decided you're finally going to sit down and write a book. You've always wanted to do it, but now you're actually going to type the words...Chapter One. You know what you want to say, but you're just not certain where to start.

How about...In the beginning...? Wait a minute that has already been done. So what about...It was the best of times. It was the worst of times...? Used already. Then there's the good old standby...It was a dark and stormy night... Okay, so I was only teasing, but my point is your beginning needs to be orignal. Not something from a book you've read before, nor a quote from a movie. Of course, you already know this. But while we're on the subject avoid cliches as much as possible. That said, let's move on and discuss the secrets of a good chapter one.

The first secret is start your book at the point where change comes into your character's life. This change can be many things: a stranger, a murder, a missing person, an illness, a new love and etc. But whatever the change is, it should affect the protagonist's status quo. It can be good or bad, but whatever it is life will never be the same for your protagonist.

The second secret, this change will affect your character's everyday life, so you have to also set up his/her world. Before your story started your protagonist had a life and you need to show us a glimpse of it. A tricky thing to do, but if done just right you'll evoke empathy in your readers and make them want to follow your character to see how he/she will handle this "change" through the book. And please don't forget to show how the protagonist feels.

A couple of weeks ago in my writer's group one of my friends said, "Kathi's a head person." I wasn't sure what she meant by that, so I asked her. She said, "You're always telling us to write our character's inner thoughts." I thought about that for a while, and she's right. I do like to know what's going on in the main character's mind because that shores up motivation for their actions, plus builds on emotions--emotions of not only the character's, but the readers as well.

After you show a glimpse of your character's everyday life and the change that has happened you need to apply the third secret, the continuing result of the change. This will carry through to the end of the book.

To show you how these secrets work I'll give you an example: your protagonist is a thirty-six-year-old waitress, who has always dreamed of owning her own bakery, but she's in a dead-end job with no prospects of saving enough money (this is her world, her everyday life). One day her friend tells her of a cake decorating contest and the winner will receive $20,000 (enter the change). But there's an entry fee, and  she'll have to take time off work. If her boss were to learn of her plans, he'd make sure she worked a double shift on the day of the contest (danger and conflict). She starts saving (continuing result). Notice we added danger and conflict. Does that remind you of another writing tip from a few weeks ago: want, tension and outcome? It should. They are all working together in chapter one and helping you set up your story.

There now, you have some of the secrets of a good chapter one.

Do you know other secrets to a good chapter one? Please feel free to share them, and I'll add them to the list.


  1. Good points to remember for that all-important first chapter. Action, tension, conflict, a hint of plot, and a burning desire to turn the last page.

  2. That's just some of the best advice ever - 'start your book at the point where change comes into your character's lfe'. Absolutely perfect!

  3. Thanks, Carol. :) You've added some great points as well.

  4. Thanks, Jemi! I'm glad you liked it. :)

  5. Good advice on the first chapter. Another point I've heard said is to start in farther than you think you should ... meaning don't spend a lot of time explaining, but jump right into what's happening.

    Thanks for the movie clip, and the trivia, too.

  6. Cindy, yes I've heard that as well. Good point. Goes along with get into a scene late and out early. Thanks for stopping by. :)



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