Seducing Your Readers in Chapter 1

An #RWA17 Michael Hauge Session

Rule #1 as an author…you must elicit emotion (which grows out of conflict.) Michael Hauge spoke at the 2017 Romance Writer’s of American conference and drove this and other “musts” for the first chapter including:

  • Introduce the protagonist
  • Create empathy with your heroine
  • Establish POV of the story
  • Set the tone of the novel
  • Readers must ask some version of the question, “I wonder what will happen and how this will turn out.”
  • Draw readers into the story using vivid detail (see, hear, touch)
Tip: Revel your character’s longing or need (a deeply held desire or something missing from the character’s live.) Show how your character is “stuck” and be tolerating a situation that is somehow negative.

4 Ways to Create Empathy for Hero/Heroine

  1. Get readers to feel sorry for the heroine
  2. Put the characters in jeopardy (loss of anything vital to the character)
  3. Give the character a high level of skill
  4. Through humor

The Character’s Journey

Inner Journey — Journey from living in fear to living in courage

Outer Journey — An accomplishment readers can “see”

Tip: You can’t introduce your character skillfully if all you know is who she is in the present. In other words, know her backstory including her wound (painful event or situation that she “believes” she is over but which is still determining her behavior) in addition to the heroine’s belief. NB: The belief is never true.


What is my heroine’s fear?

What is my heroine’s identity (mask)? Identity is the emotional armour she wears to protect herself from that fear that grew out of the belief instilled by the wound.

What is my heroine’s essence? Essence is the heroine without the armour or who does she has the potential to become?

Goals and Motivation

The outer motivation for romance is to win the love of the heroine. Their journey is the steps the heroine takes to achieve that goal. The heroine can be pursuing two journeys, love + a second goal that must be in conflict with the hero’s goal.

Secondary Characters

Reflection Character: The mentor, sidekick…someone helping heroine. This is the character who is going to push the heroine toward her essence. In chapter one, this character may announce what the arc is for the heroine.

Nemesis: The character who someone embodies the heroine’s identity. Ask, how is the heroine most like the person they are in contact with.

The reason the hero is the heroine’s destiny is because he is the ONE GUY who sees her beneath her identity and connects with her essence. And vice versa.
Tip: Look for moments when in the heroine reveals her wound to the hero.

6 Different Types of Opening Chapters

  1. Everyday hero- opening pages describe his everyday life
  2. Action hero - hero living everyday life which involves big actions
  3. Major crisis- hero is facing a giant obstacle & ends with looming conflict
  4. Outside action- open on an action that is not hero or heroine
  5. Prologue opening- takes place significantly prior to story
  6. Book end- opening takes place at the end and flashes back

Story Structure

The Setup: Everyday life, heroine is stuck

The Opportunity (Crisis): The event that forces the heroine to react. This could be hero meeting the heroine. Though it moves the characters to a new situation, the goal is not revealed. Romance…they are not falling in love yet.

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