“I don’t really like ‘first day of school’ beginnings, ‘from the beginning of time,’ or ‘once upon a time.’ Specifically, I dislike a Chapter One in which nothing happens.”
- Jessica Regel, Foundry Literary + Media
In today’s world of Amazon, Kobo and other e-readers, reader is a king as he or she has so many stories to select from. Today’s readers don’t have much patience or time, before they leave your story and start reading something else. And that’s why how you start your book has become quite important than ever. The first page has become the most crucial one, also the one which may decide your success/failure as a writer. I don’t have to tell that those first hundreds words may make or break your career.
All of us know what the importance of having a nice opening chapter is. The story’s opening is the first opportunity to capture a reader or an agent’s eye.
Let’s discuss how we must not start the story. What is to be avoided and what are the clichés.
Never start a story with a dream.
Want to see how it affects the opening?
Check this example from my first book ‘In Honour of the Heart’.
Ethan viewed the vibrant vivid colors of emerald - blue sea. Miles of soft white sand surrounded the beach. Shadows of green foliage of palm trees made the ocean water turn from aquamarine to indigo. Purple mountains in the backdrop were complementing the natural beauty. He put a fresh canvas on his easel to capture the nature when He heard a scream, "Help! Help! I am drowning".
His gaze fell to soothing, calm water. Something moved. A head bobbed up for a second before sinking again. Two arms flailed in the air. Waves were not strong. Did the man become disoriented due to pressure? He was going to drop further in the murky depths of water.
Ethan threw his canvas on one side and started to run towards the sea. As he reached near, he found that it was a lady. He started to sprint.
But before he can reach; another man went ahead and jumped in the water. He swam with powerful strokes. Strong current swept her away. Ethan didn't know what to do. Should he plunge in the freezing water or wait ashore?
Before he could comprehend, that man succeeded in saving the woman and he was carrying her in his arms. Now they were in front of Ethan. They were coming towards him. He didn't want to stand there and let them spot him. But he couldn't stop looking at them. Ethan increased his pace. But his legs hit a big rock and he fell.
Ethan cried out in pain and scrutinized his hurt toes. His eyes opened wide when his agony echoed in the empty hotel room. He looked at the floor with a jolt. Sweat trickled his body. His heart pounded in chest. Ethan still breathed faster and sat paralyzed.
Reader invested so much of time in catching descriptions and actions in these first few paragraphs, just to know by the end that it was only a dream! He/she will feel cheated.
You all must have read many books which start this way. Did you feel disappointed after reading it? YES? Exactly, that’s what I mean.
Such opening may feel that the writer didn’t have any better idea than this. However, if you are sure, you have to use the dream sequence as it has an important part in the book, think hard. Is there any chance you can do it differently? Does the dream reoccur frequently? Then it’s entirely another thing and you can play around it to start your book differently.
Avoid that Alarm Clock Buzzing:
Opening the story with your hero/heroine waking up to the sound of an alarm clock is a big no-no. The same applies to the doorbell ringing, someone shaking her from the sleep, or blazing sun waking the character through the open window. This has been repeated thousands of times before and it clearly indicates that now you are going to take your readers to the slow, dull journey of your character’s daily routine. Perhaps it will take a long before you actually start the story and your reader will be yawning by that time. Nobody has hours to just invest in such slow opening. There’s no wonder if he/she selects to close your story!
Wait. But you will argue that that is how people start their day, after all and it makes perfect sense to let your readers glimpse into the innate world of your character before actually starting a story.
Doesn’t it seem logical?
Yes, most of the beginners (even I am guilty of the same. My first book starts with exactly the same scene! LOL, even I was learning at that time! ) do it this way and that’s why, it must be avoided big time.
There are other situations too which should be avoided at all cost. Do you know any? Do post them below and I will be continuing this discussion in the next chapter.
YOU ARE READING
Why do we write? I write because words drive me crazy if I don’t. At times, I am physically compelled to grab a pen and jot down my thoughts on paper. I write because it allows me to express my thoughts in a skilful way. I write to be the characters...