Last night, a few of my friends were discussing really bad anime that we could all agree were just poorly done. For each one we agreed on, there was always something that went wrong with the first couple of episodes. Despite what you’re probably thinking, I don’t mean the first couple of episodes were always bad.
In Canaan for instance, the first two episodes were so confusing that it was hard to get invested, in which I was left thinking I shouldn’t have to watch the whole thing for the beginning to make even a little bit of sense. However in Rolling Girls, the first two episodes were so insanely colorful and action-packed but the rest of the anime did not live up to the openers, in which I was left thinking I shouldn’t have watch the whole thing on the edge of my seat waiting for more comparable action and never get it. It’s no surprise that the first few episodes of anime, or any series for that matter, make or break the series. But that applies to writing as well.
First couple of chapters, or even the first few paragraphs set the tone for the entire work. Let’s forget about the subject matter for a second. If I open a book and I just can’t stand the writing style or it feels like everything is dragging on, done. The first little bit is like signing a contract with the reader, setting the ground for what they can expect for the next several hundred pages or whatever. Which is precisely why I’m finding myself still not satisfied with my intro.
A strong intro doesn’t necessarily mean full clarity on the state of affairs or even a bunch of action, but it should also be representative of what’s to come. The audience won’t mind being fooled by purposeful mystery but don’t fool them into genre if the work doesn’t fit into that genre. Intended mystery es bueno, unintended ambush es no bueno. Give them what they want from start to finish.