Within the first seven seconds of meeting someone, the average person will already have formed a first impression. Now, this could be due to a variety of reasons such as body language, tone or appearance. On the other hand, when it comes to writing, first impressions are formed differently. The first couple of pages give the reader a fairly good idea of whether they would like to continue or not. Here are a couple of tricks to keep the writer engaged.
A vulnerable character makes the reader care and become interested in seeing them do better. Invoking this sense of sympathy from the beginning encourages the reader to read on and discover whether this character will get back on their feet later on in the book. If the reader doesn't care about the main character, they will not want to continue reading on about them.
The human mind is a curious one and thus a mysterious setting will ensure that interest is continuously generated. This could be done by creating uncertainty in a decision being made or fear of the unknown. One of the many popular works by William Shakespeare, called Hamlet, begins with mystery where guards seem to have seen an apparition. The reader is kept on the edge of their seat to see if there is indeed a ghost or if the guards are insane. Although the supernatural is a great way to create uncertainty, there are other options such as a situation where the main character has to make an important decision but they are unsure of how to proceed. Factors such as these will draw the reader further into the life of this character.
There’s a certain thrill when you find that a character resembles you in some way, whether that is by a physical or personality trait. This connection instantly makes the reader feel closer to the plot and urges them to read on as they can picture parts of themselves within the story. Of course, it is difficult to include a character so diverse that any reader will relate to them. For that reason, the use of relatable themes such as the feeling of losing a loved one or making a decision between right and wrong is ideal.
The first paragraph can start by describing a landscape and this will immediately urge people to picture it in their mind. Within any fairytale, the beginning will typically start off as “In a far away land…” where the setting is described in detail before any characters are. This is an effective method as it places the reader directly into the story where they are able to envision the feeling of the area immediately.
If the reader cannot grasp the goal your main character has within the story, then there is a risk of losing them. The main character must have a desire or a goal to reach that will have consequences. Without this, there is no sense of danger for the character and no reason to continue reading. The sooner you state the goal the better as this clarifies the reasoning behind character actions.