Let’s face it. Good impressions are important. Some people may claim it’s superficial and unfair. Isn’t it what’s inside that counts anyway?
For the most part, absolutely.
But to get to the inner core, there has to be a certain something that makes someone want to take a second look. I hate to say it, but that’s reality, whether we’re talking about making friends, getting a job interview, or getting a reader to invest emotional energy with your characters.
I cringe as I write this, because I’m a rebel at heart. But…isn’t it true? Good impressions are about conforming to society’s definition of a certain norm.
Think about it. Why do people go off and get themselves all dressed up before going to a party or attending an all important job interview or meeting? Why do people study up on a topic before meeting their professor or approaching someone to invest in their business? Why do people agonize on how to write their resume or query letter?
Say it all with me…to make a good impression.
I’m sure the thought of having to conform is downright painful for independent spirits everywhere; however, there’s no need to grumble–you can still shine and show your individuality. Good impressions don’t always clinch the deal. This is where the rebel lovers everywhere can have their moment of triumph…it’s important to show a little of yourself to make yourself memorable.
Within reason, of course. We’re not talking body parts or underwear here. So keep it clean and respect yourself.
Think of this as you create a good impression in the beginning of your manuscript. I’ve got three of my top picks for what I think will help you create a strong beginning. Now keep in mind, this is my personal opinion, based on all the books I’ve read and enjoyed. By no means am I an expert in this sort of thing. If you like, you’re more than welcome to add other things in the comments section.
1. A great hook: For me, this could be through a great opening line or prologue, interesting characters, the setting, instant conflict or emotion that draws me in and makes me want to read on.
2. An Interesting and Compelling Voice: It doesn’t matter whether I love or hate the protagonist. That’s actually part of what will make me want to read on. What is their personality and inner conflict, why are they likeable or not, what is the tone of their voice and does it grab my attention.
3. A Teaser: Some people have all the luck on understanding the nuances of proper teasing. Because it’s all about showing just a little, a little bit at a time, to give the reader an idea of what’s to come. Do it wrong, and the reader is just going to get frustrated and give up. But do it right, and your reader is going to hang around until the very end.
What do you think makes a great first impression in the beginning of a novel?
Write-a-Scene Writing Prompt: Read over your first chapter and look at your MC through an objective camera lens. Or ask your critique group or writing buddy to help you. Are you conveying a clear picture of what your character looks like, thinks, believes, acts, wants, needs? Obviously, you may not be able to show all of these in the first chapter, but have you shown enough of your character so readers will want to turn the page to know more?
If you’ve created a good first impression, congratulations! You’re one step closer to a finished manuscript.
If you’re finding your character is still missing that certain something, go back and work it. You can do it! Good luck!