Part 1 of your novel
As discussed in my previous post your novel should be split in four equal parts. That means that each quartile should have roughly the same amount of words, pages and chapters. It might be tempting to rush part 1, especially for those writers, who have gotten rejections or negative feedback focused on their story’s slow pace.
Yet despite this the main goal of part 1 is to set-up your story. That does not mean that this part is boring or that it is primarily concerned with descriptions of places. By all means do include meaningful action and captivating dialogue, but do not plunge yet completely into the main issue of the story.
And here’s why. Before the reader is truly ready to go on a journey with your protagonist, he/she needs to be invested in them- emotionally. In order to achieve this the author needs to create empathy for the main character(s). Show what their life looks like before the big adventure begins.
Introduce important secondary characters and foreshadow the main theme of the novel. The theme is often posed as a question or statement by a secondary character to the main character.
At this point I would like to say something about likeability. While a likeable character has obvious advantages, there are many successful novels with an unlikeable character. In fact recent fairy-tale retellings have been often told from the point of the villain in the original version of the story.
These stories are told from the point of view of the villain showing the hardship early on, thus making it impossible for the reader to see him/her just as a culprit. Actually, even if your character is likeable they should have flaws, which brings me to something that your protagonist should always be, namely relatable.
When readers relate to a protagonist they find his/her actions more plausible and they root for the hero. Even though fictional books are not based on reality they should still be based on common sense. If the behavior, dialogue language or story line is too far fetched the reader will first get confused and then loose interests. Books transplant us into a wondrous world, but one that still follows certain rules and has logic to it. If it doesn’t, reader’s become overtly aware that the story is unreal, which creates a detachment.
Besides creating empathy for the protagonist, part one should also feature a hook. Ideally it would take place in the first three scenes of your book. The hook creates a question in the reader’s mind that must be answered.
Around twenty percent of the inciting incident or incitor takes place. It is something that happens to the main character, over which they have no control. Once their whole world is put upside down, it leads to a response by the protagonist, either a commitment or decision has been made, which is the point of no return and the true start of the main story.
At 25% the first plot point marks the end of part one. This is the first time when the stakes as well as obstacles of the protagonist are discernibly illustrated. Furthermore, the implication of the antagonistic force is displayed. One thing to note here is that the stakes can either be something to be gained or something to be lost by the protagonist. As an author it is pivotal to determine the stakes of each of the primary characters, even though they are not featured at this point blatantly.
Thank you for reading. The next entry will focus on Part 2 or The Response.