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Season Four First Chapter Category Winner Announcement!
A first chapter about a detective trying to solve a dark magic mystery.
Congratulations to, our Lunar Award winner for the first chapter of her serialized novel, “Thorne: The Withering Shore”! We had a smaller number of first chapter submissions this season, but the quality was outstanding, on another level. Let’s discuss Cameron’s entry, why it stood out, and also recognize our two honorable mentions.
There is no secret ingredient to crafting the perfect first chapter. I’m continually surprised by the varied narrative choices writers make when opening a new serial, all of them pulling me into the story. But there are a number of key elements that give a first chapter a sense of completeness. The balance between this completeness, and a desire for the reader to know more, to already be invested, makes for an attractive combination.
In “Thorne: The Withering Shore”, we’re introduced to Rose Thorne (a great name), a woman who we can tell already is a tough beauty with a protected exterior. Rose also appears to be vulnerable in ways that are teased, but not quite revealed in chapter one. She has been hired by a client to investigate the woman’s husband for reasons that are questionable, and we’re automatically pulled into the narrative. We’ve got a central character in Rose, a purpose through the case she is investigating and a brewing conflict in a world of the occult.
Hinting at vulnerability is also a shared component of “The Theories of Haunting” and “Thief By Trade“, our two honorable mentions. All three first chapters for these serials are priming the reader to experience either brokenness or in the very least a fragile exterior. These are important characteristics for a protagonist because it helps the reader relate, and builds a solid foundation for multi-layered, emotionally complex relationships. Characters that are too perfect, too refined, too whole, make for a boring subject.
What’s most wonderful about “Thorne: The Withering Shore” is the reader is getting a taste of character, plot, setting and conflict. Nothing is left out in the first chapter, and that’s a difficult accomplishment in not much more than 1500 words. I’ve mentioned before that longer is not always better, even in a serial, where we’re given the freedom to expand our horizons beyond the short story. Cameron doesn’t spend any time lingering, which makes for a quick and exciting read.
Be sure to read this first chapter and our honorable mentions, and if you’re hungry for more, there are plenty to choose from among our varied participants. Drop by their Substack, leave a like and comment, and you might just discover a new favorite author.
Congratulations, Cameron, I will be in touch soon regarding the prize pack!
In the first chapter of “The Theories of Haunting”, written by, a mother must cope with the loss of her daughter through a ghostly relationship.
In the first chapter of “Thief By Trade”, written by, a thief keeps a secret from his closest friends and must make difficult choices in this fantasy heist.
(In no particular order.)
"Contract Marriage" by
"Outpost #9" by
"God's Gaze" by
"Children of Shadows" by
"The Deeds of Mercy" by
"Cirque du Macabre" by