I think it’s safe to assume that most writers write and rewrite their opening chapters a lot more times than they’d ever spent on the middle and end part of the novel. Because really, if you can’t get your readers interested in the first chapter, you can’t get them to reach the awesome climax and ending you have in store for them. Lots of pressure, right?
So, how do YOU start your novel?
Here’s a list of no-no’s I’ve heard from agents and other writers:
1. Don’t start with your character waking up. Or being woken up by the sound of the alarm clock going off. Or being woken up from a nightmare–which really goes to #2.
2. Don’t start with a dream. Or a nightmare. If your aim is to hook the reader with a heart-stopping scene, and then wake up the character just as he was about to be eaten by a *Sasquatch or whatever…let me just tell you the truth right now: You’re going to piss off your reader.
3. Don’st start with a boring scene where nothing happens to your character. If it’s a day-to-day scene: A is getting ready for school, A eats breakfast, A drives to school, A goes to her first class, etc. Why would we read about your character’s routine? We’ve already got normal, boring routines going on in our own lives, and we don’t need to pay $$ to read about it.
4. Don’t start with the weather. Seriously. You’re not one of those people who sidles up to an acquaintance during a dinner party and goes, “Hey, what do you think of the snow outside?”, are you?
5. Don’t start with a high-action-packed scene where the character’s world is already being blown apart, and said character is facing likely odds of being mincemeat if he doesn’t run away from Sasquatch… I mean, c’mon, give your readers a chance to KNOW your characters and CARE about them, before putting them all in jeopardy. If we don’t care, we’d be perfectly content to let Sasquatch get his dinner on page one.
*Sasquatch probably doesn’t eat people. Or maybe he does. I don’t know. *shrugs*
What other no-no’s can you think of? Also, I want to say that some authors have broken above rules and have managed to succeed. They’re masters, ok? They can do it. You and I, however, we gotta work our butts off to make a novel worthy to be read by all. And if it means following a few rules, so be it.
Ever heard of the Bulwer-Lytton literary parody contest? It’s a yearly contest looking for fake and real worst opening paragraphs to novels. Here are a few “winners” for deliberately terrible sentences (taken from www.innocentenglish.com):
When she sashayed across the room, her breasts swayed like two house trailers passing on a windy bridge.
The goose waddled slowly, heavily, across the road, exactly the way my mother-in-law would if she were a goose.
Kathy, who had bound her breasts and cropped her hair, and lied about her gender to join a monastery of Jesuits in northern Kentucky, until she was discovered one night in the shower, winced as the dentist pulled her tooth.