Invite the reader to become a part of your fantasy world. A reader has picked up your book because they are interested. Make them feel welcome and excited about this new world. The best way to accomplish this is through an intriguing opening paragraph, an action that captivates the interest, a curious fact, or a neat first line of dialogue. Think of your favourite book and how it began. Why did the opening line lure you in? You need to woo your reader. The best way to engage in literary seduction is to invite the reader to join you in a world of imagination, intrigue, mystery and/or adventure.
As a writer, the worst thing you can do is info dump or throw details at a reader without any description or context. Sometimes large chunks of information are necessary; however, you have to earn that detail heavy time with your reader. The first chapter is not the place to info dump. Think of it as a date. You wouldn’t sit down on your first date and launch into your complete medical history for an hour (unless you really wanted to get out of that date). There will be plenty of time to unveil the backstory of your character throughout the novel. Give your reader time to explore the world and your characters before you provide a family history list 16 generations back (That was a trick comment. Never give a history list sixteen generations back. I'm sure even the Queen, bless her, would find that boring).
Engage with the reader on an equal level. When writers tell instead of showing they can often make the reader feel unintelligent. Your reader is smart. (He or she DID pick up your book!). Let the reader figure things out for him or herself. This method is known as the “show don’t tell” approach. The commonly used phrase implies that an author is to show a reader the environment or characters through description and let him or her draw the conclusions. Thus, you will describe a character as having a short fuse and use dialogue to reveal her anger issues instead of writing, “Susan had always had a problem with her temper and frequently yelled at the mailman.” Then readers can connect the dots on their own and piece out a character or plot design for themselves. In this way, they will engage with the text and become invested in the adventure.
A good magician knows when to keep things hidden and when to make the big reveal. Writers do the same thing on a regular basis. I’m a bit of a chatter box and have been since I was small. There was so much information to share and tell. But as a writer, I’ve learned to keep my novel secrets hidden away until the best time to cry “Tah Dah” and dazzle the reader with the solution to the mystery. Make sure you’re revealing the right material at the right time. Keep your reader interested and guessing with just enough information. It makes the reveal more amazing when you haven’t been giving away hints here and there chapter by chapter. Keep the surprise and remember #nospoilers.
Enjoy your writing experience. If you love writing, your passion will come across in your work. Celebrate your writing strengths, be that dialogue, description or intricate plots, by placing it centre stage in your work. Then use that talent to the best of your ability to weave a story that will captivate your audience. As an instructor, I could tell which students enjoyed writing essays and which hated the process. It came across in their writing. Same is true for novelists. If you aren’t passionate about your project, switch to something else for a while or find a way to fall in love with your topic again.
And as always,