Let’s get this party started…..

Hey there!

I’m back. In fact, I’m back in so many ways — back to teaching for the semester, back to writing this blog, and back from the Wisconsin SCBWI conference which was the perfect place to gather my writer self and remember why I write. I taught a breakout session on beginning a novel – how to create characters, scenes, and inciting incidents.

In case you want to take a peek, I’m listing some highlights of my talk here for you….

Setting up the Big Picture or pre-writing….

Answer the following

  • Whose story is this?
  • Usually the first character the reader meets
  • What is the problem?
  • What is the inciting incident that sets the action in motion? The inciting incident is  “…a situation beginning, ” says Cheryl Klein, editor and author of The Magic Words.
  • Can the protagonist solve this problem?
  • What might the complications be?
  • As Cheryl Klein says, “…when readers open a novel, they should be able to see immediately that its world has been imagined and thought through in full, and it’s waiting there on the page to engulf us: We believe in it. Often this credibility is established via another principle: specificity. Did I mention you‘ll want to pick up a copy of Cheryl’s book, The Magic Words ? it’s amazing!
  • Only when we can see this clearly can you hook the reader with your first lines…

Additional elements to consider

  • Plot problems and inner need should be established in the first chapter..
  • Plot problem should be where the action occurs
  • Inner need is where the character discovers something about him or herself in a way that he/she evolves through the novel
  • Theme comes out of these…

Getting Started

  • Find your primary character (protagonist)
  • Find your antagonist and secondary characters
  • Define conflict
  • List possible scenes
  • List possible settings
  • Use the novel structure to plot out your story arc

The Hook 

  • It is a first line, a first paragraph, a first page….one leads to the other
  • The premise (conflict)
  • A statement of what is to come in the text
  • Establishes character, narrator or setting
  • Is often a shocking piece of information
  • A powerful first line


Okay, your turn…..write five first lines. Select the three best and write a paragraph. Pick the one you like best and write that first chapter…..you have the beginning of a novel!