As part of my industry reading, I’ve come across quite a few posts recently from both published authors and literary agents about how not to open a novel.
I think I’ve got Dadewalker’s opening down. It’s not a prologue. It’s a sneaky excerpt form the final chapter, the inspiration from which was taken from Twilight (so don’t tell me it doesn’t work). In fact, it’s a part of the bloghop going on right now, and was part of a previous bloghop, receiving great feedback, so I know it works.
But still, it’s frustrating seeing all these things we should no longer be doing in our opening pages. There’s a great big massive list, and I’ve only taken ideas from two people so far. It’s such a long list, of ideas for opening novels (really, there are heaps of old books published out there that start this way) that it’s been overused and probably burned the agents/publishers out. So let’s get to it, and read the long list of things we’re not supposed to do starting a novel. Some of them are obvious no-nos. Others are only recent because they’re overused.
From Nathan Bransford
- A character waking up.
- A character looking in a mirror.
- Extended dialogue with insufficient grounding.
- Action with insufficient grounding.
- Character does X and oh by the way they’re dead.
- Man sitting on steed in pouring rain.
- Woman standing on high wall looking out into the distance at something
- The city chase scene
- Aftermath of a battle
- Characters inexplicably getting sucked into a portal for no apparent reason
- A person gathering herbs in the forest
- A battle scene.
- A prologue.
- A distant third person narrative to start (ie. The boy, the old man, the healer)
- Clumsy incorporating of back story in your dialogue (see handy example)
- Launching your narrative via a dream sequence
- Heroine waking up alone with a man in her room
- Tired SF or Fantasy staples: i.e.: quest for a magical artifact, typical characters (dwarf, elf, the warrioress who doesn’t know she has magical powers), a modern woman who is really the savior on an alternate world.
- Starting your cover letter for your sample pages with: this is a 250,000 word manuscript…