By Jill Kemerer
When I started writing romance novels, I made many rookie mistakes. I repeated the same words and phrases, had no clue about pacing a scene, and my characters weren’t always as likable as they needed to be. My worst offender, though, is a common one. I started the story in the wrong spot. Many romance writers find it difficult to understand where they should start their story. Here are questions to ask when evaluating your opening scene.
1. Do your hero and heroine meet, interact or, at the very least, hear about each other in the first chapter? If yes, good! If no, why not? Romance readers selected your book for a love story. Put the characters together as soon as possible. Don’t wait until chapter three.
2. Is the opening scene a moment of change for the point of view character? The character should either decide to change his life, react to a change in his life or make a change in his life. The first chapter isn’t there to set up the story. It’s to hook the reader. Period.
3. Does the viewpoint character in the opening scene have a clear story goal? What does your character want? Make it tangible, make it matter, and make your character work for it throughout the book. A good story goal will challenge the character and won’t be easy to obtain.
4. Do your main characters come across negatively? If your heroine’s inner growth revolves around being less selfish, you might be tempted to show her selfishness in the opening scenes to prove she’s changed in later ones. Please rethink your plot. Readers don’t like selfish heroines. They won’t stick around for chapter seven when she finally becomes a person they like. Have her realize she needs to be less selfish WAY before the book ever begins. Make her likable from page one.
5. Does the opening chapter force your characters to make decisions? Readers turn pages out of curiosity. They want to know what your characters will do. Use conflict-driven decisions and unanswered questions to hook readers. For example, a wedding planner decides to accept her ex-boyfriend’s little sister as a client. The conflict? It means she’ll have to interact with the man who broke her heart. The motivation? His little sister is marrying a congressman, and it will put the heroine’s wedding-planning business on the map. By having the heroine make that decision, the reader will eagerly turn the page to see if sparks fly, if the heroine fails, and if it really does put her wedding planning business on the map.
I would love to hear your tips on starting your story in the right place. Please leave a comment!
Jill Kemerer writes inspirational romance novels with love, humor and faith. Her latest novel, UnexpectedFamily, released September 1, 2015 through Harlequin Love Inspired. A full time writer, she relies on coffee and chocolate to keep up with her kids’ busy schedules. Besides spoiling her mini-dachshund, Jill adores magazines, M&Ms, fluffy animals and long nature walks. She resides in Ohio with her husband and two children. Jill loves connecting with readers, so please visit her website jillkemerer.com and find her on Facebook and Twitter.