Categories > Original > Essay > Reasons I Will Not Give Your Story a Chance

First Chapters and the Rest of Your Story

by HatedLove6 0 reviews

First chapters.

Category: Essay - Rating: G - Genres: Humor - Published: 2022-09-25 - 3952 words - Complete

Now we finally get to the first chapter. Now, when I say "first chapter," I do mean the first chapter, but I also sometimes—not always—tend to look at a future chapter to see if these kinds of things persist. If they do, I back out immediately without another thought.

The First Chapter has Character Sheets.

I don't care if you have character sheets or bios or profiles or outlines or mood boards or just whatever, as long as you don't put them in the first chapter, or in the middle of your story. It tells me that you let the character sheets do the introducing, developing, and describing for you. Not good. Either put them in a separate book or journal entry or put them at the very end, after your story is completed.

The First Chapter is an Author's Note.

It's one thing if you're explaining how to read Choose Your Own Adventure, or Who Would You Fall For, just in case some readers have never encountered interactive stories before, or you're putting up a disclaimer chapter detailing all the warnings, story types or any other information that may be "triggering," but it's another thing entirely if you created a chapter just to say hi to your readers and tell us how you're doing or just telling us anything unrelated to the story. This redundant information also includes updated schedules for me because I never pay attention to that. You update whenever you update, and it's whatever. I don't want to know because it's a disappointment for me when a writer promises an update on a certain day, and then they're late or they never get around to it, but that's my personal bug to live with; other readers may like to know the update schedule. I do not.

The First Chapter is a Prologue or a Preface, But it Actually Isn't.

Prefaces are different from prologues, and prologues and prefaces are different from the rest of the story. If your prologue may as well be the first chapter, just say it's the first chapter. Prologues or prefaces don't make your story fancy or anything—if anything it's more work. A preface is basically a formal introduction to the story in your voice, not the character or third-person narrators. You basically state a little about your story such as why you wrote it, how you got your inspiration for it, your growing concerns that are prevalent in the story compared to real life, along with who the book is for. A prologue is also sort of like an introduction, except that it is part of the story and advances the plot. The information given in the prologue is part of the story in a way that, without it, it couldn't be mentioned anywhere else in the book without it being awkward, and, yet, this piece of information is necessary. Unlike a preface, the prologue is treated as a scene where any character, including third-person, can narrate it, even if the rest of the book is written in another person or tense. This also means that, if you decide to have a prologue, you have to hook your readers in the prologue, and then hook them in again in the first chapter. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone's (J. K. Rowling) first chapter could have been an excellent prologue, but because she was a new writer, and publishers usually don't like to see prologues from new writers, was stuck as a first chapter instead of a prologue.

The First Chapter Doesn't Have Paragraphs.

Seriously. If I see that it's one huge block of text or huge sections of text, and then I see this continued in other chapters, I'm not reading the story. I know I like big paragraphs, but some of these stories are just ridiculous, especially when I can see that most of it is a conversation between two or more characters, and there's no separation of any kind (which is another complaint further down the list). And when I say "block of text" I also mean paragraphs with no indentations or skipped lines.

You have this sentence.

Then you have this sentence.

Neither have indentations.

None of them have skipped lines between them either.

And what if there are indentations, but it's hardly noticeable?

I'm still not going to read it.

I'm a chalkboard person, which means I see better with a dark background and light font, and I find that I can concentrate on a story longer. Preferably, I would have skipped lines than indentations when I'm reading on a screen, dark or light background, but I can give a story a chance if their story is indented (in an easily noticeable way). So when I'm on a screen that's white with darker font, and then I see it's just huge blocks of text, no matter how big the font is, I'm going to skip your story altogether. It's a huge error to miss, which I don't care if you're on your mobile or whatever (you need to check for this!), and because of these conditions on this site, I don't have the patience or time to sort through your story. And even if this site had a dark background and light font, I would still skip it.

If you're one of those extremists that say that there should only be indentations, well guess what? (1) Most writing sites I frequent don't support indentations, even when I use the p tag for HTML if I'm allowed to use HTML, and since I frequent a lot of writing sites, I want to get my stories out there with little fuss, so skipping lines is what's most supported everywhere online anyway. (2) Skipping lines as a sign of paragraphing is accepted when on the internet specifically because reading on a screen is harder on our eyes than reading a piece of paper. Look into online news articles, and you'll see that even though they are professionally publicizing something, they are also skipping lines to show that it's a new paragraph. And another reason printed books or newspapers use indentations rather than skipping lines is because indentations save space, thus saving paper, which saves money. So don't get on my back because I choose to simply skip lines rather than indent even though I could do so on this specific site.

The First Chapter Has No Capitalization Whatsoever.

If you don't capitalize the first letter in a sentence, the beginning of a dialogue, or even "I" when you're saying something like, "I'm going to the store," I'm not going to read your story. It should be obvious as to why. The only exception is if you're doing something like Flowers for Algernon did (even though there was proper capitalization throughout the book). This book is written from Charlie Gordon's perspective where he at first writes as a child, mostly filled with spelling errors, but after the procedure, his intelligence started to improve, and his writing gradually gets neater with fewer errors, and then, as he starts to regress, the writing started to go back to how it used to be. It visually helped the reader understand the state in which Charlie's mind was in each stage the book turned.

The First Chapter is in Chat-Speak, Sticky Caps, or Caps Lock.

I mean if the first chapter is solely in chat-speak, sticky caps, or caps lock. I know Shakespeare was the first to substitute the letter "u" for the word "you," but that doesn't mean you need chat-speak to narrate your story. That goes the same for sticky caps and caps lock. Sparingly is fine, depending on the circumstances, but the entire chapter or story is not. If your story takes place primarily in an online chat room, that is fine as well, just not anywhere else.

The First Chapter is Short. And I Mean Really Short.

Go ahead and call me picky, but I hate short chapters period, especially in stories, and especially in the first chapter. My personal minimum word count for chapters is 1,000, and if I see that your chapters don't even match that, I'm not going to bother because the first chapter's job is to introduce the world and the characters to your audience, and I have doubts when it's less than 1,000 words. The main reason I don't like short chapters is that these chapters seem to always end in interruption only the be continued to the next chapter, only then be interrupted again. This is fine every once in a while, but not every single chapter. There needs to be a break in the story that I can comfortably put down so I can pick up on it later. Another reason I hate short chapters is that it would seem daunting that there might be over 100 chapters, or even 200 if the chapters are super short. I would easily forget my place and have to go chapter hunting. This is also why I have been having huge trouble reading Witch & Wizard by James Patterson and Gabrielle Charbonnet even though I like the books. Maybe I should just get the manga version.

"But some of your chapters in A Smile to Hide are less than 1,000 words!"

First, my official first chapter was almost 3,600 words, so that's definitely not short. Some might even say that it's too long, but I hold practically no complaints for longer chapters. Secondly, for the chapters that are less than 1,000 words, that's because A Smile to Hide is a Choose Your Own Adventure, and when you write them, you really can't control the chapter lengths. Trust me, I tried. Some chapters can be ridiculously long, and some can be ridiculously short. Sometimes a single sentence is all that's required in CYOA chapters. Otherwise, in most of my other stories, each chapter is at least 1,000 words.

The First Chapter is Centered or Aligned to the Right.

Please do not align your stories to the center or to the right because it makes it harder to see where the line ends or begins, for one, and because it's just plain unneeded! Why on earth would anyone do this? It isn't even that decorative.

The First Chapter Looks More Like a Poem Than an Actual Narrative With Actual Paragraphs.

I've seriously seen this in at least one story.
The person centered the entire chapter.
In fact, every chapter was centered.
The story was narrated in short sentences.
And if the character said something,
"It would be in the next line even though this is an obvious error."

I don't care if you skipped a line to signal that it's a new paragraph.
I don't care if you technically would have had a good story.
If you do this, I'm not reading it.
And that's that.

The First Chapter is Entirely in Bold, Underline, Strikethrough or Italicized.

Do I really have to explain why I would skip the story? Really? Fine. It's too hard to read, especially when you're a chalkboard person. It doesn't matter whether it's only one of these, a few of them, or all of them at the same time. I'm not going to strain my eyes for your story.

If the story is a reader-insert, you use descriptive parenthesis.

I don't care if 99% of the world's population doesn't mind Haley, (hazel), (brown) in reader-insert stories, or any story written in second-person. I hate it, and it downright makes me roll my (hazel) eyes. I even hate (Wagner) and (f/n). First of all, you don't need it. It's useless. "You brushed your (brown) hair and outlined your (hazel) eyes with kohl," could just be "You brushed your hair and outlined your eyes with kohl." Trying to figure out what the letters in the parenthesis stand for just takes me out of the story too. As for the (Wagner) and (f/n), I would prefer you either give me a few spaces of hyphens or underscored blank space or "(Name)" than the abbreviated parenthesis. Sure, I hear radio static with blank spaces instead of automatically inserting my own name, but that's easy to skip over. And with (Name), I just pronounce it "NAH-may" and keep going, as if it's an actual name. If you really wanted to make me happy, either give me a name in the story (whether it's a full name, just a last name, or a nickname) or don't use anything at all. I don't particularly like reader-insert stories as it is, but since it's been getting steadily popular on every site that does allow second-person stories, there hasn't been a whole lot of OC stories to choose from, so I've been trying to read reader-inserts because that may be all there's left for me to read.

There are Frequent Spelling Errors or Wrong Word Usage.

Again, unless this is on purpose, such as in Flowers for Algernon, I will stop reading the story immediately. Don't get me wrong; it's not like I'll stop reading as soon as I see only one error, but if this happens over and over, I'm quitting. I also don't mind if you're writing is from the UK or Australia, or other English countries with alternate spellings—I can understand that—just keep it consistent. And do not do the "(sp?)." I don't care if you're on a mobile or tablet, either use spell-check or get a dictionary. If you can't do this in your English class, don't do it here. Or at least don't recommend me stories that do this.

There is Frequent Punctuation Abuse.

Nothing annoys me more than people who don't know how to use an ellipsis (the three dots). It's three periods. Period. Not four, not two, not five. Three. The only reason there would be four periods in a row, is if the ellipsis takes place at the end of a sentence, and that final period (or is it the first?) is the actual period, not part of the ellipsis. You also don't use an ellipsis and an em-dash together at the same time. Either a sentence is immediately interrupted or it hangs with the pause. Not both.

Other punctuations that are often misused are semi-colons, parenthesis, colons, question marks, and exclamation points. How is something as simple as question marks and exclamation points misused, you ask? Some people like to add too many of them to their sentences. For example, "WHAT???" Or "WHAT?!?" There is such a thing as interrobang, in which the symbol looks like a question mark and an exclamation point laying on top of each other, so I don't mind "?!" or "!?" but not "?!?" or "!?!" It's too much and unnecessary. We get the point that it's both a question and an exclamation of shock. You don't need to add another punctuation mark.

And just because I use the word "abuse" does not mean I meant "overused." I mean that the punctuation was used incorrectly.

The Story Starts with Waking Up.

Ok, this isn't really a deal-breaker unless you actually get into the entire morning routine—wake up, brush teeth, brush hair, shower, get dressed, pack the school bag or purse, etc. It's not a hook, it's tedious and unneeded and I don't have time to sit, read, and wait until the story actually starts. Just get on with the story already!

The Story Starts Off with the Character Formally Introducing Themselves.

This is worse than starting with an alarm clock. Seriously. You do not need to actually introduce your character when we're going to be getting to know them during the story. It's unneeded, and it tells me that you don't know how to develop the character during the story.

The Story is Written in Script Format.

I like Shakespeare, and I know how to read scripts, but most people here don't know how to write an actual script. Actually, people here tend to use it as a lazy third-person dialogue.

Person 1: "Hi, how are you doing?"

Person 2: "I'm doing fine."

Scripts aren't just people, dialogue, and actions. There are actually rules and formatting involved, so please learn them before you write one, and if you do use script format correctly, it better be for the entire story instead of just one chapter or a scene, because that just tells me you gave up.

The Dialogue Rules are Broken Frequently.

Rule 1: There should be new paragraphs when a new person speaks. For example:"""

Joe said, "Hey, Mike. How's it going?"

Mike replied, "I'm fine. What about you?"

Joe then answered, "Me too.""""

Rule 2: When the dialogue ends in an exclamation point or question mark, the dialogue tag isn't capitalized."""

"Hey, you loser!" said Mike.

Rule 3: When a dialogue tag is in the middle of two complete sentences of dialogue, the tag cannot connect them together, as if it's one sentence. For example:

"Hi," Joe greeted, "What are you doing later?" This is not correct. It can either be: "Hi," Joe greeted. "What are you doing later?" Or: "Hi." Joe asked, "What are you doing later?"

Or you can just have the dialogue tag before or after both sets of dialogue.

Rule 4: If the dialogue tag interrupts a dialogue sentence, try to do so with the natural pause created by the comma, as if the sentence wasn't going to be interrupted.

"Hey," Joe greeted, "will you help me?""""

Rule 5: While you don't need the dialogue tags all of the time during conversations, they are still needed to remind the audience who's speaking, and also because dialogue tags are supposed to enhance the dialogue itself. There is a syntax difference between saying, mumbling, whispering, and stating something.

Follow those five rules, and we should be fine, and, again, I don't mind if you are from the UK or Australia where, instead of using double quotes, you use single quotes. I understand.

The Story Has to Have a Cipher Key to Understand What it All Means."""

"This means dialogue."

'This means thoughts.'

This means it's a dream.

"ThIs MeAnS a MoNsTeR iS sPeAkInG."

'ThIs MeAnS a MoNsTeR iS tHiNkInG."

This means that there is a note.

--This means something else which I can't think of right now.--"""

If there are any of you who haven't encountered something like this, trust me, this is real and people have done this. Of course not in professionally published books though.

For one, this is too tedious to remember as I read the story, but, two, it's totally not needed. My rule of thumb is that you should stick with the obvious. Quotes for speech, and that's really the only consistent rule. Some people have said that you need to italicize thoughts, dreams, and memories, but you don't really have to; although it's still acceptable. You don't need sticky caps for monster speaking—just use the quotes and use a dialogue tag to say that the monster was speaking.

Don't get me started on bold. Outside of nonfiction articles, chapter titles, or headings, there really isn't any use for bold. It really shouldn't even be used to emphasize something, which is what italics are for. In addition, if you're using it for notes, or, heaven forbid, dialogue from a certain character, my eyes instantly look at the bold text and I end up skipping lines because my eyes are just so drawn to them.

The Story Uses Links or the Image Provided in the Chapter, or Even Emoticons to Describe Something Such as the Place, an Outfit, the Character, or the Character's Expression or Mood.

One word: lazy. I don't care if you provide links and images, but also put them down in words. I don't want to open up another tab just to know what the outfit is, interrupting my place to understand what should have been described.

The Story Uses Different Font Styles, Sizes, or Colors to Portray Which Character is Speaking. Or Just Changing Styles, Sizes, or Color in General.

Why change the color or style when you can just use dialogue tags? Useless. And just keep the style, size, and color consistent. Don't change it unless necessary, such as when you change the font style to courier when a character is reading an old telegram or something.

The Story's Paragraphs and Sentences Are All the Same Length and the Paragraphs Are One-Liners.

If your sentences are all the same length, it's all going to sound boring, static, and choppy. There needs to be a flow, and god be with you if your sentences are short. Paragraph length can also hinder your story if they're all the same length. I know in middle school that my teacher told me that paragraphs were at least five sentences long, but that isn't true. It can be any number of sentences, including only one if the subject is contained in those sentences. Sometimes the subject can be over fifty sentences long, so sometimes breaking it up into smaller paragraphs is advised, but it isn't absolutely required. That being said, it would also be daunting that there would be five huge paragraphs one after the other. It still depends on the story and its flow, but if it's in the first chapter, or if the paragraphs tend to be humongous throughout the story, I may skip it.

On the other hand, if your story's paragraphs consist of one-liners or two-liners, it's even more frustrating to me. It just looks like all there is dialogue, and maybe a couple of small actions without any description, which is what stories need. Description puts meat on those bones, draws readers into the world, and is one of the biggest reasons why a story thrives. So an entire story being only one-lined or two-lined paragraphs is not good unless it's a short, and simple story.

Don't get me wrong, paragraph lengths should vary, even in short stories, and one or two-lined paragraphs aren't bad, but if the story is over 2,000 words, all of the paragraphs shouldn't be so big or so short. Gosh, I hope that made sense.

The font is too huge or too small.

Either it's too hard to read or too tedious that a single paragraph takes up half the screen. Eight, ten, twelve, or even fourteen-sized font is fine. Anything smaller or bigger is not good. Also, keep the size consistent.

You Have Tried to Negotiate by Withholding Your Chapters to Get Comments, Faves, or Follows Anywhere on Your Story.

Seriously? I know that you may seem discouraged by the lack of comments, faves, or follows, but do you honestly think that making your chapters your hostage is going to help you? This is the same thing every site you go to. It takes time to build a fan base, and the only way you'll get fans is if you interact with people and be friendly. Actually, take the time to converse with your commenters, and don't treat them like a point on your scoreboard. It also helps to update your stories at least semi-frequently, and finish them before starting another story. This takes time, and even if you have a hundred years, there's no guarantee that you'll ever be popular.

So even if you do everything right by making friends, updating on schedule, your stories are awesome, filling your activities and journals with stuff, and you still don't end up uber popular, what makes you think that negotiations will help you in any way? If anything, even if it works, they look to me like pity faves, and your comments would probably consist of just "OMG I love your story, please update!" which are very cheap to me.

All in all, these negotiation and hostage tactics just make you look like a brat to me.
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