Your first chapter is the salesman of your novel. Most readers will read the first pages of a book before purchasing it, some will go as far as reading the whole first chapter. You have about two thousand words to grab that person’s attention and keep it.
How do you do that?
Think about the movies. I don’t know if you’ve seen Matrix but I’m going to use it as an example. Trinity, the heroine, is sitting at a computer having a conversation with a mysterious person talking about another, the hero, which we don’t know yet. Right away it sets questions in our minds. Like a first line of a novel. Then the police and Guardians attack her. There’s a spectacular chase scene where Trinity barely escape with her life and ends with a cliff hanger of her disappearing in thin air. Makes you want to stay and watch the rest of the movie.
That’s how a first chapter should be; just enough information to wet a reader’s curiosity, action to grab their attention, and a cliff hanger ending to make them want to turn the next page.
Doesn’t need to be a chase or car crash or fight but it can’t be boring. If you start your book with backstory or description the reader gets bored. Begin the story in a moment of change. Action is what draws the reader along. You can spread details about the past as the story progresses.
How can you improve your first chapter skills?
Read the first chapter of your favorite book slowly. See how the writer draws your attention and how. What important event takes place? How much description is used and how much history is given? You don’t need to write the answers. I just want you to study the chapter from a writer’s perspective.