I’ve always been a fan of fantasy films and shows, although I’ve barely been able to get through a fantasy novel, save Tolkien and Jordan, but when The Witcher was coming out, I was excited because of the trailer and a coworker at the time was an avid gamer with nothing but praise for the video game franchise.
The Witcher started out as a fantasy novel by Polish author Andrzej Sapkowski, titled Blood of Elves, in 1994 and since then The Witcher saga has developed into a video game franchise as well as the Netflix show released in December 2019. The show has a richness and a grittiness to it while still employing many facets of a fantasy world. The organizing of the show was slightly confusing at first, as the pilot episode served as an prolouge to the rest of the show.
The pilot episode kicks off with the main character Geralt, played by Henry Cavill, defeating a monster, which is his job. He then enters a city in order to cash in on the monster, but is refused due to nobody having any use for what the monster has to offer. He eventually finds a buyer but discovers it’s also a job offer to kill a human (which he doesn’t do) and leaves.
By the end of the episode, he takes out about a half-dozen bad guys employed by the woman he was to kill, as well as the woman. With her dying breath she tells him where his destiny lies. The episode ends shortly after him leaving. During the course, there has been a secondary storyline weaving through of a princess named Cirillia (Freya Allen, The War of the Worlds) who has to escape her beseiged city. It is hinted that she is somehow special but no real explanation is given.
I mentioned the organizing of the storyline was slightly confusing because the first episode is set in a present time-frame. As the season goes on, it bounces between Cirillia, Geralt, and a sorceress named Yennefer (Anya Chalotra, Sherwood), the events are not set in the same time period, however. The story involving Geralt and Yennefer are in the past, while Cirillia’s adventures are in the “present.” Once you understand that, the series is amazing.
I had spoken about writing a novel like a show, using the episodes of a show to be the chapters of your novel, and The Witcher is a fantastic example of this. The reason Cirillia is so important is relatively unimportant, at least at the time of discovery, so if the story were to start at that point, there would be no hook.
By placing the pilot episode at the clinching point, or the crisis, it draws the viewer in and now you’re invested. You want to know how Geralt and Cirillia are destined for each other and it hooks you for the ride. The opening chapter should do the same thing for your book.
The first chapter of the book needs to have the hook it takes to suck the reader in and not want to put it down. By the end of the chapter, they should feel the need to binge read your book. There needs to be an investment by the reader to the character(s), and the character(s) need to be relatable at some level so the reader has something to invest into. The relationship between a reader and character is a two-way street.
We live in an interesting time where the shows being put out are invaluable to writers as a guidebook to how you should write your stories. Whether it be a standalone novel, series, or a short story, entertainment is entertainment. All entertainment follows a general relatable guide.