1. United

    United Member

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    How do you start the first page of a novel (first person)?

    Discussion in 'Word Mechanics' started by United, Apr 12, 2015.

    What are some general ideas of starting a first-person narrative? What are your personal approaches to this?

    *And if you would like to share, what are ways in which you shouldn't start a [first-person] story?
     
  2. TWErvin2

    TWErvin2 Contributor Contributor

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    There are plenty of published first Person POV novels to gauge what appears to have worked for those authors.

    I don't think there is a 'right' or 'wrong' way to start a first person narrative.

    My novels written in first person just started by telling the story. Picking up in the action or narrative. Nothing fancy or gimmicky.
     
    Last edited: Apr 13, 2015
  3. EdFromNY

    EdFromNY Hope to improve with age Supporter Contributor

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    "Mother died today. Or was it yesterday? I'm not sure." - The Stranger (Camus)
    "Call me Ishmael." Moby Dick (Melville)
    "All hell has been breaking loose around here, and my peaceful retreat in the Executive Office Building may be coming to a sudden rude end." Inside, Outside (Wouk)
    "I wish I could tell you about the South Pacific..." Tales of the South Pacific (Michener)

    Just a few ideas from my bookshelf.
     
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  4. Lance Schukies

    Lance Schukies Active Member

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    what are they looking at, what can they hear, what are they thinking.
    try all 3 in the first paragraph.
     
    Last edited: Apr 12, 2015
  5. Tesoro

    Tesoro Contributor Contributor

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    I think the same advice for how not to start a novel goes regardless of first person or third:
    *don't start with weather
    *don't start with character waking up (or, God forbid, look at themselves in the mirror!)
    *don't start with description
    *don't start with back story or explainations
    *don't start with a hook that has no connection to the rest of the story
    *don't start with a passive character just sitting around waiting for something to happen.
    *don't start with something dramatic only to reveal a few pages in that it was just a dream.
    *don't start with a long prologue explaining things the reader needs to know to understand the story. (If you find when you've written the entire novel that you do need a prologue you can always write it afterwards.)
    Did I miss something?
    :)
     
  6. Lance Schukies

    Lance Schukies Active Member

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    When he was nearly thirteen, my brother Jem got his arm badly broken at the elbow. When it healed, and Jem’s fears of never being able to play football were assuaged, he was seldom self-conscious about his injury. His left arm was somewhat shorter than his right; when he stood or walked, the back of his hand was at right angles to his body, his thumb parallel to his thigh. He couldn’t have cared less, so long as he could pass and punt.
     
  7. Steerpike

    Steerpike Felis amatus Contributor

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    I agree that the considerations for how to start a first person novel are the same as for any other novel.
     
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  8. jannert

    jannert Member Supporter Contributor

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    Some good first-person novels start with some sort of insight, as given by the narrator. Mark Rice started his hilarious novel, Metallic Dreams with these lines:

    Dying is the fastest route to fame for an aspiring rock star. The dead man's melodies become profound, and rise into a realm beyond the reach of human criticism. In the stopping of a heartbeat, the rocker is transformed from decadent, depraved hedonist into misunderstood genius. Aye, death and musical stardom go together like Scotland and rain, but I didn't exit Earth as a strategy to boost posthumous album sales.
     
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  9. minstrel

    minstrel Leader of the Insquirrelgency Staff Supporter Contributor

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    I think, in first person, it's important to establish the voice of the character. Here's one of the great first-person beginnings I know:

    That's Mark Twain's Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, and the voice of our minimally-educated boy hero is lively, charming, and unmistakable. His character pops in the very first paragraph.

    One of the great advantages of first person narrative is that you can establish character immediately and strongly through the character's voice. I think it would be a mistake not to take advantage of that opportunity.
     
  10. peachalulu

    peachalulu Member Reviewer Contributor

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    I like to get the tone of the character fixed. As it's the one of the best things about working with first person. Playing around with the tone. In one story I started with the mc talking about himself in the third person to establish how distanced he was from himself. In another I had the mc talk about someone else to show that his obsession was the focus of the story.
    Mainly I want to give a hint of what's to come. Sometimes it's a scene, sometimes it's a bit of exposition before a scene. Like a warning of what you're getting into.
     
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  11. Link the Writer

    Link the Writer Flipping Out For A Good Story. Contributor

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    That's what I think too. Start off with a gripping hook, a decent conflict and a goal for the character to strive for. The only difference is that we're inside the character's head rather than out.
     
  12. aguywhotypes

    aguywhotypes Active Member

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    It was bound to happen, sooner or later.
     
  13. Ozzy

    Ozzy Member

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    My name is Gabriel Cook. I am the Revolution.
    It was dark and windy, but not quiet. It was never quiet. My father had tried to at least muffle the sound by hanging thick, wool blankets over the windows and doors. The raid noises always leaked through.

    These are my first 4 sentences of the first person POV I'm working on right now. I try to put something first that will 'hook', make the reader ask questions, so that they will continue reading.
     
  14. Komposten

    Komposten Insanitary pile of rotten fruit Staff Supporter Contributor

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    I generally don't write in 1st person, but when I do (like in my current WIP) I don't really start them off much different than my 3rd person stories. I begin the way I think fits the story best (while also capturing the reader, hopefully) and for this there really are no rules.

    My current WIP begins like this (very rough first draft, may change completely as I revise it):
     
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  15. Link the Writer

    Link the Writer Flipping Out For A Good Story. Contributor

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    That's making me want to read it already. :D
     
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