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ALWAYS START WITH A BANG

December 20, 2017

I’m currently editing a book for a friend, and was pleasantly surprised that her first-time novel started the right way. With a bang.

So many times I’ve seen first-time authors make the mistake of starting a novel the wrong way.

FIRST PAGE READ

At our Las Vegas Writer’s Conference, we have a thing called First Page Read, where a panel of judges listens while someone reads the first page submitted by authors in the audience. When everyone in the panel raises their hand, the reader stops, wherever on the page that is. If the reader gets all the way through the page, that’s pretty good, usually.

Quite often, the reader never gets through the page.

Why?

NOTHING HAPPENS

The story starts out with nothing happening…at all.

There’s no hook to grab the reader.

Now, personally, I’ll give a book a good chapter before I give up. However, agents and publishers, who make up the panel, don’t always have time to do that, so that’s one reason for this first page read event in the first place.

When the story starts out with nothing happening, well, what does that say about the rest of the story?

THE STORY STARTS WITH A CLICHÉ

Here we go…

“It was a dark and stormy night…”

“Jane woke up and looked around…

“Frank looked in the mirror and saw brown eyes, dark hair…”

Oh please! Don’t even go there!

If there is a bang, the reader will never get there because the agent or publisher will stop reading before they get beyond the first sentence. The sample or entire manuscript will end up in the trash pile.

BACKSTORY

The story starts with backstory.

There’s a big stink about prologues. The trend now is that the prologue should just be chapter one and put the past date below chapter one and “present day” below chapter two, or whatever.

The thing about backstory is that something has to happen.

You can’t start with the character’s life story on the first page! That’s a great way to chase away the reader.

Why?

Because you start the book with nothing at all happening. No action! A prologue usually means nothing happens. It screams backstory.

Prologues are a style, especially with thrillers. However, according to trend analysis, a lot of readers skip prologues. I don’t know how “they” ever came up with this, but apparently it has been deemed “so” in the world of publishing so better take it to heart.

The thing is, only make the prologue chapter one IF, AND I ONLY SAY IF, the chapter starts with a bang!

START WITH A BANG

Always start your story, no matter what genre, with a bang.

It doesn’t matter what genre we’re talking about, either. Some kind of action or something dramatic needs to happen in the very first scene. You need to get right into the action on page one!

You should introduce someone, give some premise for the book, or get something going to set the tone right off.

Something needs to happen.

Period.

You have to grab the reader. You have to get their attention.

This doesn’t have to be a shoot-‘em up scene, or anything like that. It just needs to get the story moving in a way to draw in the reader.

You won’t do that by droning on about the history of the character.

You won’t do that by hammering them with tired clichés.

You won’t do that with minutiae about the scene.

You will do that by making something happen.

Period.

Start with a bang and grab the reader.

Happy writing!

 

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