I just finished reading a first chapter for a friend who’d been wanting me to critique for her. (Note: I’m pretty sure this falls under the heading of “Be Careful What You Wish For”).
Her writing is solid—clear, grammatical, easy to follow—and the character she introduced was sympathetic and likable. Great start.
The problem I had with the scene was that nothing much happened. And not only did nothing much happen, but the character in question didn’t even move around very much. He got out of his car, climbed the steps to someone’s front porch, dodged a bee, and knocked on the door.
That’s not a lot of activity for eight pages.
After I fired off my response email, suggesting she incorporate more action and present conflict, I hopped on Instagram, where I came across a meme on “8 Reasons Your First Scene Isn’t Working.” They were all good points, but the list didn’t include lack of action.
One of the things we learned at McDaniel was that readers judge characters, not by what they say, or even think, but by what they do.
All of that made me think about the motion/energy/activity level in my own new first scene. My scene has conflict, but there’s still a strong aura of “talking heads” about it—just two characters standing around yapping at each other.
Which, now that I’m aware of it, I can fix.
What are your thoughts on this? Is it okay with you if the first scene in a book is just people talking or thinking? Or do you want to see some bodies in motion?