Write-a-Scene Writing Prompt: Make a Good First Impression

[Note: Since many of you are working on a new WIP for the 30 day goal, thought I’d repost this writing prompt. Enjoy your weekend!]


Let’s face it. Good impressions are important. But, some people may claim it’s superficial and unfair. After all, 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. Hear me, Mike Jung (AKA #mikesempire)?

But…isn’t it true? Good impressions are about conforming to society’s definition of a certain norm.

Think about it. Why do people get all dressed up before going to a party or attending an important job interview? Why do they obsess over a first date? Or even closer to home, why do writers agonize about the all important query letter or synopsis?

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. It’s just a foot in the door, an enticement, to see if there’s any substance between the covers.

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.

If you haven’t seen Pretty in Pink, you must! It’s a classic teen movie.

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 (gasp!), 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. Give me a good voice and you’ll make me want to read more. What is about your MC’s personality and inner conflict, why is he likeable or not, what is the tone of her voice? Create a voice that grabs the reader’s attention.

3. A Teaser: Some people have all the luck on understanding the nuances of proper teasing. It’s all about showing just a little, a tiny 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 follow you to the ends of the earth.

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/plot 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? Do you intrigue the reader with a good action scene? Hint at an interesting plot?

Depending on the nature of your book, you may not be able to show all of these in the first chapter, but have you revealed enough of your character/plot 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 your dream. Now make sure it’s consistent throughout your entire manuscript.

If you’re finding your first chapter is still missing that certain something, go back and work it.

You can do it. Make your words count!

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Vivian Lee Mahoney

Consider yourself warned: I write books about rebels. I'm also a postergirlz for readergirlz, a literary advisory group for teens. Who knew going back to the teenage years would be so rewarding?

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