1. D.C. Perry
    Offline

    D.C. Perry Member

    Joined:
    Feb 16, 2014
    Messages:
    23
    Likes Received:
    4
    Location:
    Blackfoot, ID, U.S.A.

    Bests Ways to Open a Novel?

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by D.C. Perry, Mar 7, 2014.

    Curious, what are you favorite ways that books have been begun? I personally think Brandon Sanderson is very good at that, but what do you think?
     
  2. GingerCoffee
    Offline

    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

    Joined:
    Mar 3, 2013
    Messages:
    17,604
    Likes Received:
    5,877
    Location:
    Ralph's side of the island.
    Bests Ways to Open a Novel?

    Depends, is it on Kindle or a hard copy?

    ;)
     
    thewordsmith likes this.
  3. thirdwind
    Offline

    thirdwind Contributing Member Contest Administrator Reviewer Contributor

    Joined:
    Jul 17, 2008
    Messages:
    7,351
    Likes Received:
    2,891
    Location:
    Boston
    Anything that keeps me hooked is a good opening. Of course, this is purely subjective. Some books hook me from the first few lines, like Camus' The Stranger:
    Others do it from the first line alone, like in Marquez's One Hundred Years of Solitude:
    And still others take a few paragraphs or even pages. I couldn't tell you an exact formula for what makes a great opening; all I can say is that I know a good opening when I read it.
     
  4. Edward M. Grant
    Offline

    Edward M. Grant Contributing Member

    Joined:
    Mar 18, 2012
    Messages:
    382
    Likes Received:
    66
    Location:
    Canada
    1984 is still one of my own favourites. The first sentence lulls you into a false sense of security, then throws you into an alternate world with the final word:

    "It was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen."

    The best openings can set up a character and world in the first paragraph, and leave enough mystery that I have to read on to see what happens.
     
  5. Peter Werme
    Offline

    Peter Werme Member

    Joined:
    Feb 27, 2014
    Messages:
    20
    Likes Received:
    5
    Location:
    Sweden
    You should either set the scene or the action at the very start, I would say.
     
  6. mammamaia
    Offline

    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

    Joined:
    Nov 21, 2006
    Messages:
    19,316
    Likes Received:
    1,014
    Location:
    Coquille, Oregon
    there are no 'best' or 'worst' ways... only ways that 'work' or 'don't work'...

    a good writer can start a novel any way at all and make it work, while a poor writer can fail no matter how s/he does it...
     
    thewordsmith likes this.
  7. peachalulu
    Offline

    peachalulu Contributing Member Reviewer Contributor

    Joined:
    May 20, 2012
    Messages:
    3,828
    Likes Received:
    2,382
    Location:
    occasionally Oz , mainly Canada
    Fancy hooks and first lines don't usually draw me in. When I pick up a book to buy, I usually turn to the middle and read a paragraph - if I like the style, or if the characters interest me, I'll buy it. I don't trust hooky beginnings anymore. Being on several writing sites I've seen books start with great hooks and then meander into ordinary or even boring tales. Some can sustain that initial thrill but a lot of times they can't. Most of the time it's because the beginning is all bells and whistles and doesn't match the rest of the book.

    The beginning I like the best is a no-lie beginning - no grand standing for an ordinary romance or a quiet drama. No flashy explosions if your going to spend 100 pages discussing the history of planet whatever.

    One of my favorite beginnings is Anne Tyler's Breathing Lessons in which Maggie, the older mc, is just pulling freshly fixed car out of a service station and crashes it (again ), thinking she's heard someone she knows on the radio. Considering she does kooky things like this throughout the book it perfectly prepares us for the character.
     
  8. Siena
    Offline

    Siena Active Member

    Joined:
    Jun 3, 2012
    Messages:
    249
    Likes Received:
    51
    I like to get the characters going on the journey immediately.
     
  9. Thomas Kitchen
    Offline

    Thomas Kitchen Proofreader in the Making Contributor

    Joined:
    Nov 5, 2012
    Messages:
    1,258
    Likes Received:
    422
    Location:
    I'm Welsh - and proud!
    In my own writing, most of my novels begin either with dialogue or a short sentence. It doesn't have to be immediately striking or strange, I just feel that short sentences work with my style (for the opening sentence).

    As for other books I read, it doesn't matter. I really do like dialogue, which is why I also like movies so much, but in the end, as long as it hooks me then it's no bother. However, I will be honest and say that I'd prefer it if I'm hooked a maximum of two pages in. I'll read for a couple of chapters more, but it will be a struggle, especially if I don't like the writer's style.

    But it doesn't even have to be the style that grabs you, at least initially. In one of my favourite series (a young adult guilty pleasure, I'm afraid; won't tell you which series :p) the first book begins with a boy in a classroom. It's pretty mundane for the first couple of lines, but instead of using punchy sentences to grab the reader, the author uses reader empathy with the character. It mentions having to write notes when the photocopier had been invented years earlier, and that hooked me immediately. I could empathise with the character, and that's one of the best things an author can do.

    So, opening don't always have to be action-packed. ;)
     
  10. JetBlackGT
    Offline

    JetBlackGT Contributing Member

    Joined:
    Mar 17, 2013
    Messages:
    465
    Likes Received:
    158
    Location:
    Coeur d'Alene, Idaho, United States
    The books I like best have at least one good death in the first two pages.
     

Share This Page