Thursday, March 23rd, 2017

The Promise of Your Story

指きりWe’ve been zeroing in on the unique craft elements of beginnings – opening pages, scenes and chapters – in the Children’s Book Hub over the past few weeks.  One of the most important elements to consider is the promise of your story. 

What is your story really about? What will it say on the dust jacket that will prompt the reader to crack its spine and read on?

This is known as your story’s “promise.” 

The promise of J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter is that it will be about magic – more specifically, wizardry.

The first paragraph of the first book reads:

“Mr. and Mrs. Dursley, of number four, Privet Drive, were proud to say that they were perfectly normal, thank you very much. They were the last people you’d expect to be involved in anything strange or mysterious, because they just didn’t hold with such nonsense.”

… which nicely promises the reader that in this book some very not normal, strange and mysterious things are about to happen.

The point is, if your book is about a character who can talk to animals, don’t wait 100 pages before they talk to, or hear from, an animal. If it’s a ghost story, make sure that first chapter or scene contains some ghostly element. Even if the character doesn’t realize what’s happening yet, there should be some hint right away of what’s to come… something that ties into your hook, the thing your story is really about.

Find a way to work the most interesting, compelling part of your story – its promise – into your opening.

(Interested in more information like this? Check out my home study courses in writing picture books, chapter books and middle grade novels and young adult fiction, at JustWriteChildrensBooks.com.

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