The Ultimate Guide to Writing Incredible Novel Openings

The vast majority of manuscripts are rejected after the editor reads the first page. You have only one chance to make a first impression, remember?

If the author cannot immediately grab the attention of the reader, no one will look for clever thoughts and wonderful feelings in the book. The destiny of all manuscripts with a weak beginning is the garbage can. In this article, we will tell you how to make the beginning of your novel be winning, and what mistakes you need to avoid.

What Should Be Written at the Beginning of the Story – Three Basic Approaches

Starting your short story, you must kill not two, but three birds with one stone at a time, and answer the following questions of the reader.

Where Did We Go?

When faced with a new story, any reader asks a bunch of questions in his head. But mostly, readers want to know where this story happened. If the action takes place in ordinary reality, let it be felt. It is not necessary now to describe the interior in plain text. A few characteristic details along the way are quite enough. Even if you have an author’s universe, it’s not worth enriching the beginning of history with descriptions, but the unusualness of the world must be traced.

Why Is the Described Situation Interesting?

All stories are somehow similar to each other but differ only in trifles. There should be an interesting situation at the beginning of the story. And this situation may even be quite ordinary, but its details should be interesting and bewitching the reader.

What Is the Conflict?

Some authors believe that climax and conflict are one and the same phenomenon. The assumption is only partially true. Not every conflict is the culmination. But the climax is certainly conflict, however, this is the most important conflict in history.

Diana Adjadj, a writer at 3to5Marketing, states: “Conflicts are the engines of the story, and they are different: large and small, internal and external, deep and superficial. To start a story with something other than conflict is like trying to drive without starting a car. Also, I definitely recommend to try a thesis writing practice”

The First Phrase Is Everything

These first few words will determine whether the publisher and later, the ordinary reader wants to read your story.

Here are some ideas for a successful first sentence (we’ll see a stunning example below).

  • Portrait. You describe a portrait of a main or secondary character.
  • Action. The author immediately begins by mentioning a specific action or event. Starting with action is a pretty good option. This helps the reader to clearly navigate what is at stake. But here the originality of the plot and the writing style of the author play a big role.
  • Landscape. Be careful with this type of first sentence. Descriptions of the landscape should be relevant to all subsequent story, and should not occupy more than three sentences.
  • Detail. In the beginning, the author describes a detail with a symbolic meaning, which has an important plot role to play.
  • Autobiography. The story is conducted in the first person and tells about the past of the hero.

Three Main Signs of a Good Start to a Short Story

  • It must be dynamic. No “sheets” of descriptions on three pages.
  • The beginning of the short story should be easy. No need to force readers to immediately decide whether or not to be or to address the hero’s problem. The problem may appear in the second or third chapter, but not in the first and not in the prologue.
  • The introduction should be moderately mysterious and foggy. This may be a slight hint of the hero’s secret. But this “fog” should not be too thick. Together with the riddle, you need to give answer options in order to hook the reader and provoke to think about it.

An Example of a Good Novel Opening

Look at the power lurking in the first two sentences written by Gregory David Roberts in Shantaram.

“It took me many years and wanderings around the world to find out everything that I know about love, about fate and about the choices we make in life, but I understood the most important thing at the moment when I was beaten being chained to the wall. My mind screamed, but through this scream, I realized that even in this crucified helpless state I am free – I can hate my tormentors or forgive them. ”

See? There are all signs of a good start. There is an autobiography, there is a conflict, there is a description of the situation, there are intrigue and a hook. This beginning provokes questions.

Why was the author chained to the wall? Who beat him? Was he himself to blame for anything? What does he mean when he talks about freedom? What happened next?

The Bad Start Example

And here is not a good opening.

We do not know where fate leads us and where our path will end. That day, Jennifer walked through a golden wheat field. Heavy poured ears drove almost to the ground, having absorbed all the juices of their native soil over the long summer. The wind waved them, and it seemed that they were yellow sea waves. She collected cornflowers that looked like beautiful blue eyes.

You may reasonably ask what is wrong with this opening paragraph? Next, we will consider the typical mistakes of the authors when writing an introduction to the short story.

Main Mistakes Preventing You Opening to Be Really Successful

Banal Truths

You already know that no one knows where fate leads us. This was an example of the unsuccessful start of a short story, although you knew this without this article as well.

Long and Elaborate Descriptions

Well, you already read about the golden and wheat field that Jennifer walked along.

Story Stamps

John woke up, opened his eyes, and scaredly sat on the bed.

This is the banal beginning of millions of books. John is either suffering from a hangover, or trying to guess where he is, or relieved to realize that it was just a dream. All scenarios are as old as the world.

Too Much Romance

It remains to highlight the text with a pink fill. Even if you write a love story, its beginning should still be interesting, catchy and intriguing. You should not describe in detail what the main character thinks of love or a relationship that the reader does not know anything about.

People Who Mean Nothing

The first scene should not describe a large group of people. The reader will get confused in them and forget who is who. 

And here is an example according to the topic. Remember how many heroes are in the book 100 Years of Solitude? Yes, in the end, it’s really possible to forget who is who. But this book does not begin with descriptions of each hero. On the contrary, it begins with the memory of Aureliano before being shot.

All Sorts of Horrors

Even if your story is going to be bloody, you should not start with a description of the most brutal scene. Save horror stories for the climax – there they will look much more spectacular.

Inappropriate Philosophy

Many beginners immediately try to dump the main thoughts on the reader. And then there are abstract discussions about the meaning of being. Philosophical overtones should be traced throughout the text, and not just at the beginning.

What Is the Result?

The best way to write a good introduction is to write a few hundred bad ones. Therefore, analyze how great masters do it and simply develop this skill. And if you can’t come up with an intro right away, start writing from any moment to return to this later.

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