1. Justin Rocket 2
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    Justin Rocket 2 Contributing Member

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    How do you open your novel?

    Discussion in 'The Lounge' started by Justin Rocket 2, Oct 19, 2015.

    In the first 1000 words, what is going on?

    Do _you_ (not some royal you) open with a mystery (for example, the body is laying on the floor and two characters are talking about it, whodunit?)?

    suspense (for example, one of the two characters talking about the dead body is holding the smoking gun and pointing it at the other character)?

    character insight (you are using first person voice of the person holding the gun and he asks himself what is he, a single parent who grew up a ward of the state, going to do about his three-year-old child and why did he ever shoot the person on the floor and, oh god!, why can't he take it back)?

    horror (swarms of blood-sucking maggots armed with razor teeth fall out of the body on the floor causing it to deflate like a balloon and they begin moving towards the two characters who are ooking around and realizing how small the room is)?

    something else?
     
  2. Tenderiser
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    Tenderiser Not a man Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    I've never really labelled it but, from that list, character insight with a little bit of mystery thrown in? She's undecided about whether to go for an appointment. She doesn't want to go, but she knows she will let her friends and family down if she doesn't. But it isn't clear what the appointment is for or why she's reluctant. It's a little hook, but it's a hook nonetheless. :D
     
  3. Justin Rocket 2
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    Justin Rocket 2 Contributing Member

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    It sounds like you are discussing your current novel. Have you found your previous WIP novels to be "character insight with a little bit of mystery thrown in"?

    btw, don't feel like you're limited to that list. If I were to try to list all options, I'd be writing that list til the sun exploded.
     
  4. Tenderiser
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    Tenderiser Not a man Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    I don't have any others so I can't comment. I think they would be the same, since I strongly favour character-driven rather than plot-driven. Starting on something very strong action-wise would set up false expectations for the rest of the novel. I think I would always start with a character in a fairly normal situation with some kind of internal dilemma.
     
  5. Steerpike
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    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    Girl is forced to move when her parents lose their house to the bank. She's pissed. They're moving to a small town. There's an old abandoned barn next to the house, and since she's pissed she doesn't want to help unload the car, the stomps off to the old barn. Unfortunately, it is too old and the floor gives way. She falls into a hidden cellar beneath.
     
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  6. Lea`Brooks
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    Lea`Brooks Contributing Member Contributor

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    Not really sure... lol One story starts with the MC thinking about how disgusting her dinner is. Another starts with mourning the illness of a pet. Another starts with the MC in the middle of a tarot reading.

    So either I don't have a pattern or I don't know what category it falls under. :p
     
  7. Selbbin
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    Selbbin I hate you Contributor

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    Must... refrain from... obvious... joke... about... thread title...
     
  8. ADreamer
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    ADreamer Banned Sock-Puppet

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    Let's see

    The last novel I wrote, and finally coaxed myself to finish as I am horrible in that sense - fiction writing isn't my strong suit by any stretch and I usually do it between non-fictions or with writer's block for a non-fiction - in German under a penname started at a concert. Very typical, very boring actually.

    This fiction I have being chewing on for the last couple of months - turning it over in my head, have yet to write it down - is probably going to start a bit graphically. I am weighing the pros and cons between too graphic and as such making it too obvious a story.
     
  9. Link the Writer
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    Link the Writer Flipping Out For A Good Story. Contributor

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    Depends on the genre.
    You just click on the icon/open up the binder that contains your novel? :p *bum-dum-pssh!!*

    But seriously, I suppose it depends on what my novel asks for. Some asks for a sudden discovery, or an inner monologue. Others ask to open up in the middle of something, etc. It really just depends.
     
  10. Justin Rocket 2
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    Justin Rocket 2 Contributing Member

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    The reason I asked is that I think this is something I've just started learning recently. Somebody (I think it was Margaret Weis, but I'm not sure) a long time ago critiqued a really, really awful opening chapter I wrote and advised me to open on a high note. Since then, I've always been afraid of not injecting a gallon of adrenaline into the first paragraph. The problem when a novel starts with that kind of rush is that the author really has nowhere to go between the opening and the end of the first act. I want to get other writers' opinions on that.
     
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  11. Selbbin
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    Selbbin I hate you Contributor

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    A good way to find when a novel starts, is write what you want to write, read it back and get rid of everything before it gets interesting.
     
  12. Tenderiser
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    Tenderiser Not a man Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    I really hate that advice but it gets trotted out a lot. What's the point in having an opening scene full of adrenaline if the rest of the book isn't? You're just setting up false expectations and making the following chapters seem flat.

    IMO you should open on conflict but it has to be appropriate for the book. If it's a fast-paced action thriller then, fine, open with a car chase through Tokyo. If it's a coming-of-age story for a rich girl in Medieval England, it would be more appropriate to start with her meeting the man she's going to be forced to marry.

    I've tried to forget this nonsense about 'every single word in the first chapter must be INCREDIBLE. Every single sentence must HOOK the reader or publishers will use your novel as toilet paper!' and remember that readers are smarter than that. There needs to be something to keep them reading but they know they need a bit of time to get to know the characters/story and adjust to your voice. They give you that space.
     
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  13. jannert
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    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

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    I think the best practical advice I can offer (because it worked for me) is: don't worry about how to open your novel until you've finished writing it. Only when the whole thing has taken shape will you know what your opener should contain.

    Obviously you need to start somewhere, so just start writing with whatever you think is important. Then keep going. Once you get finished and start editing, the real work starts.

    Once your story is complete, then you craft (or re-craft) an opener that gives your readers a shove in the right direction. Your opener must certainly grab attention, but it also sets tone and starts the reader on a particular journey that will carry particular expectations. As the writer, you should live your entire journey first, before asking readers to follow.

    A good, experienced writer friend of mine says this about openers. Read through your completed MS until you come to the first sentence the story can't do without. That's your beginning. While I don't subscribe 100% to this theory, (a theory @Selbbin seems to share) it does have tons of merit ...and also allows for the fact that you're very VERY likely to write the wrong opener at the start. Rather than going over and over and over, attempting to achieve perfection before moving on—just move on as quickly as you can. It'll be obvious, once you've finished, what the opener should actually be.

    I think more time gets wasted by writers who prematurely agonize over this how-do-I-start issue than just about any other. Yes, your opener is crucial to getting reader and agent attention, and it needs to be pretty near perfect. But it does NOT have to be WRITTEN first! Writing it last is probably the smartest thing you can do.
     
    Last edited: Oct 20, 2015
  14. jannert
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    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

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    I don't know what your 'awful' opening chapter was like, but perhaps she meant you need to open on an interesting note. A high note may be the wrong phrase, if you think it means a good beginning requires action. Action involving characters we don't know or care about is just messy noise. And once the noise drops—which it will—you're right back at where you should have been in the first place. We need to get to know your characters before we get interested in their story. So start with them. Don't be afraid to start quietly, but give us an intriguing hook.
     
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  15. Aaron DC
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    Aaron DC Contributing Member

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    From the front?
     
  16. Aaron DC
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    Aaron DC Contributing Member

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    Book 1: I am going to start with a drop of sweat making its way down MC's forehead, to his nose, to hang there, annoying him. He's doing a physical test. Possibly character(s) insight?
    Book 2: no idea yet
    MO Novel #1 of 3: The opening scene and first question from an interview with MC's father. Character / setting insight.
     
    Last edited: Oct 20, 2015
  17. KaTrian
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    KaTrian A foolish little beast. Staff Supporter Contributor

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    @T.Trian and I are working on two WIP's now (we write together). The other one starts with an "adrenaline rush" (an arrest-gone-wrong), but so far beta-readers seem to have enjoyed what comes after, so hopefully it's not a huge mistake. The other WIP starts with -- omg cliché o noe -- one of the MCs waking up when the world is ending.

    Not all of our manuscripts start with action, though. In one MS, a girl finds a paralyzed woman by the side of the road. But I guess for the most part we try to open our manuscripts with some kind of dilemma or problem the character(s) has/have to solve or overcome or deal with. For example, because the arrest goes wrong, one team member dies, and he is replaced by a woman, who's the other main character. Now the team has to deal with a new member who's also a woman -- and almost immediately they're slingshot on their next adventure (which is basically the main story).

    I'm not sure into which of your categories they'll fit. Maybe they belong to the dreaded adrenaline rush category. :dead:
     
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  18. jannert
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    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

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    Nothing wrong with an adrenaline rush start, as long as the reader gets to know the main characters during the scene, and the adrenaline rush situation is important to the setup of the story. (Both of which you handled extremely well, by the way. :)) The mistake is thinking an adrenaline rush is enough to catapult a reader into a story. In fact, an adrenaline rush doesn't even happen if the readers don't know or care about the characters at all. Adrenaline only rushes when you care. If you don't care, and don't feel invested in the situation, it's just another newsreel of something happening somewhere you've never been, to people you don't know or care about. Ho hum. Next.
     
    Last edited: Oct 20, 2015
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  19. Link the Writer
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    Link the Writer Flipping Out For A Good Story. Contributor

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    Bingo. My creative writing teacher once told the class that years ago, she was critiquing a student's work and he told her, "It gets interesting later, I just can't figure out how to start it." Her response? "Start where it gets interesting." It doesn't have to be all "BOOM CRASH ACTION EXCITMENT!" but just at the part where the plot starts to kick in. Someone finds a cow in the trees, a note from long ago washes up on the shores stuffed in an old-timey bottle, start where it gets interesting.
     
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  20. KaTrian
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    KaTrian A foolish little beast. Staff Supporter Contributor

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    I agree, like everything else, it can work. It just takes a lot of work to make it work (well, for us anyway... but then, T and I aren't necessarily the brightest lightbulbs in the room :crazy:), so the author doesn't lose the reader in the confusion. Glad to hear you liked it; we've actually revised it to make it more character-driven (but the action is still there!). :)

    It is easy to think "oh, I'll just start with a firefight" and expect your reader to get hooked. Maybe this is why I'm spotting quite a bit of resistance to adrenaline rush beginnings here on the boards? Creative types often get frustrated with "rules" and somewhere along the line the rule of gripping beginnings became synonymous with <FIREFIGHT!> and we start to rebel, either 'cause our own beginnings don't include the obligatory firefight or we, as readers, don't like them and think what lunacy it is to start every book with <FIREFIGHT!>

    I suppose it makes sense to put a lot of effort into making the first pages as gripping as they can be because that's the only shot we have with the agent/publisher. They aren't going to read the brilliant middle or heart-crushing ending. Sometimes they won't even read the first 10 or 50 pages. The first pages we offer should show that we can write, that what we write is something they can sell and represent, and also give a promise of a good story.
     
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  21. Aire
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    Aire Banned Sock-Puppet

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    That the MC is an author is sitting in front of a storm lit [lightening, thunder] window considering how to start their own novel. All of a sudden they smack their head off the computer screen and/or keyboard to see if that'll put them out of their misery.

    I am thinking it'll be a comedy.


    On a side note, it is a venture I have considered doing since waking up at 2am in the morning with a thunder storm rolling through. I hate stormy weather, I always end up with pounding migraines the moment the barometric pressure starts dropping. And drugs take forever to do anything.
     
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  22. Tenderiser
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    Tenderiser Not a man Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    I'm only resistant to it when people (usually in how-to-get-published articles) say that all books must start with a huge action sequence that gets the adrenaline pumping. If you're writing an action-packed, adrenaline-inducing book, then go for it! If you're not, then why would you?

    I object to blanket rules because they're so unhelpful!
     
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  23. Aaron DC
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    Aaron DC Contributing Member

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    Starts thinking up rules for blankets...
     
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  24. Tenderiser
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    Tenderiser Not a man Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    Must be blue. I like blue blankets.
     
  25. KaTrian
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    KaTrian A foolish little beast. Staff Supporter Contributor

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    Yup. That's pretty much what I was getting at.

    "If your reader doesn't get a heart attack on the first page, your beginning isn't any good." But I doubt that's what agents expect, yet somehow it's become synonymous with a gripping, the-right-kind-of beginning in some writer's minds. Like, "I must have adrenaline pumping action or else my book is doomed."
     
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