This is Writing Tip Wednesday so as promised, we’re going to talk about best beginnings. The writer’s first task is to hook the reader. Starting with a murder is always good, but it’s not the only way. The key is to arouse the reader’s curiosity so they will want to turn the page to see what happens next. So I thought I’d give a few dos and don’ts for writing Best Beginnings for your book. Let’s start with the don’ts:
DON’T start with the main character sitting and pondering life. Today’s readers want action! And they want it from the first page.
DON’T start with description. There’s a place for description, but it won’t do much to hook the reader. Save the description for later.
DON’T start with a sunset–no matter how beautifully you can write about it. Or any other type of weather either! Unless you’ve placed your character in the middle of a blizzard or a hurricane and the reader sees the character fighting to stay alive.
DON’T start with back story or genealogy. Save it until after the reader cares about the character then scatter it in a sentence or two at a time–not a whole chapter at once.
DON’T start with a dream–no matter how exciting it is! Agents/editors list this as one of their biggest pet peeves. So don’t make them mad on the very first page. You want to hook them into the story so they keep reading.
On to the DOs:
DO start with action! More action and even more action! Today’s mystery/suspense readers don’t have time or patience for characters sitting around pondering life. They want action! Here’s a little secret–the beginning action doesn’t have to be directly related to the main plot.
DO surprise or shock your reader. You want a hook to draw your reader into the story. A big surprise or shock will do just that. It could be something your character says or does. I’m partial to having the main character say something shocking.
DO introduce conflict as soon as possible–even a little bit of one. Something to get the reader’s blood pumping.
DO have more than one character in the scene. As the saying goes–the more the merrier. And that’s true with writing. By having at least two characters in the beginning scene, you have more flexibility with creating action and conflict.
DO place the reader firmly into your story world. Help the reader to visualize what’s going on–but doing it sneakily. That means you do need some description but keep it to a minimum.
In my upcoming release, REDEMPTION, the book begins with a conversation between twin sisters. It starts like this:
You’re retired from the spy business. Remember?‛ Patti stood with hands on her hips, demanding an answer.
“I was never a spy and…” Jamie paused. Nothing she said would satisfy Patti. “I don’t want to discuss it.”
It’s not every day you hear someone say they are retired from the spy business. I think that’s enough to make the reader want to read a little more to find out if she was or wasn’t a spy.
So got any questions about BEST BEGINNINGS or do you want to share the first 2 or 3 lines from one of the stories you’ve written? Go for it.
UNTIL NEXT TIME… GOD BLESS & GOOD READING & HAPPY WRITING!
Thank you so much for this article on the Do s and Don’t s of starting a book. I think I’ve been doing it anyway, but so helpful to have it listed. I’m saving this article for future reference.
Greetings from Norfolk, UK – and big blessings on you!
Thanks, Barrie. I’m glad to know someone gets something from my posts. Next writers tips will be about Marvelous Middles.
Good tips, Lillian. I’ll highlight your post on the Christian Poets & Writers blog – http://christianpoetsandwriters.blogspot.com. God bless.