Now, I said it would be easy to fill up those boxes once you understood them, so here’s what goes in box one. This should fill up about a quarter of your book and it has five things to accomplish. These things should be taken care of before your first plot point appears. If they appear after your plot point, chances are your story will be found wanting.
So, what are these mysterious things?
What’s the hook?
If you don’t capture your reader early, they may not stick around. Usually, the earlier you hook your reader, the better. The hook is not the plot point. It might be the inciting incident or it might not. As long as it captures the reader’s imagination and makes them want to find out more, you’re good. The hook should be emotional or intense. It promises a rewarding experience if the reader just keeps turning the page.
Who’s that interesting hero over there?
That’s right… introduce your hero. We want to get to know him or her. Within the first two or three scenes, ideally. We’re dropping in the middle of their lives … are they happy? Fulfilled? Working in a dead-end job? Stuck in a loveless marriage? What are they hiding? What are they afraid of? What? We want to know.
What’s at stake?
Once that plot point drops at the end of part one, everything we’ve come to know about our hero will be in jeopardy. Does he have a daughter he truly loves? Does she dream of a future with her one true love? Whatever it is, it might be gone once the plot point comes. Stakes are super important. The plot point will change everything, challenge our hero and all they hold dear. If the stakes aren’t worth it, there is no story.
Duh duh DUH… foreshadowing!
What’s coming up? Can we sense some kind of change in the wind? Foreshadowing does just that, whether you choose it to be sudden or subtle. Whether it’s something ill or good, foreshadowing can make the reader thunk themselves in the head and go, “Of course! I should have seen this coming when that thing happened on page 36.” Foreshadowing shouldn’t necessarily be understood at the moment, but it becomes clear as crystal later. All we know is we knew something was coming.
Preparing for Liftoff
All the scenes in part one need to unfold so they lead to the first plot point. This includes their pacing, their focus, and their context. If we need to understand how jet propulsion works, this may be a good place to lay the groundwork in some manner… but make it part of the story.
Keeping these things in mind will fill your part one and keep it on track toward your first plot point.