Wednesday, August 7, 2013
IWSG: Killer Openings
Now, down to business. I want to talk about killer openings in novels. And when I say killer openings, I don't mean awesome beginnings, I mean the kind that will kill your novel because readers will stop right there and move on to something better.
Here's a top 10 list I've compiled from some writers' and literary agents' opinions (combined with my own). Some of these are general and some specific to sci-fi or fantasy.
1. The dream
Starting with a dream is not shocking any more. It's been done and people expect it. If you're going to try to toy with my mind, do it in another way, I beg of you!!
2. The backstory
There's nothing that will make me shut a book faster than the info dump. I want to be thrown into the action, not have the world explained to me.
3. The looking in a mirror
There has to be a more creative way to explain what your main character looks like.
4. The dialogue
Too many people talking at the beginning just gets confusing, and it can be boring if I'm not invested in them (which I'm not, because I just met them).
5. The getting sucked into a portal
Narnia did it, and it was neat. Do it in a new way and I'll be impressed.
6. The gathering herbs in a forest
I remember a literary agent I'm familiar with complaining about how sick she was of reading fantasy stories that start this way. Don't. Just don't.
7. The educating
This a no-no particularly in YA and MG, but I'd argue for adult too. I don't want to be aware that I'm being taught something... I want to read a good story! Take me straight to the action.
8. The battle scene
This is a problem because, once again, I am not invested in the characters yet and I don't know what's at stake. Why should I be interested?
9. The distant, third person narrator
In fantasy, often the Boy or the Old Man. I also dislike the narrator we first meet disappearing after a chapter or two to be replaced by the main character. Just start me out with the main character!
10. The prologue
Vastly debated among amateurs and professionals alike, I am definitely on the con-prologue side. I've never read a book that had a prologue and couldn't be started at Chapter 1 without missing ANYTHING important.
And there you have my list. What do you think is important to avoid and important to get right in a first chapter?