There are so many bad ways to open novels, and the above is only one. A normal day. Someone wakes up and does normal, everyday boring things. Why would we want to read that story?
There is the answer – no one will read that story. If it’s a normal, boring day, it’s what they live with every day, so why waste time being inside a story that is someone else’s normal boring day.
Worse yet, is the info-dump to start a story. Told where it is, who they are, and what’s on the menu. It doesn’t matter what genre. Any story that starts with a dump of information is losing the opportunity to get the reader attached to the people within that story.
That’s what the writer wants, isn’t it? To get the reader to love those characters they’ve spent so much time creating?
So why wake them up in a boring, normal day, or tell us about them as if they’re a photograph in an album, or give us backstory that isn’t action, or telling us about the weather, the town, the mountains, the river, the weird house.
To make the reader care, it’s not a matter of making the character likable, it’s about making the character someone who’s just like us – but about to be in big trouble, and we can sense that somehow.
Open with something happening, with action or dialogue that creates a question in the reader’s mind. Open where the real story begins, not somewhere so far back that the real story takes several chapters to rear its head – no reader will wait that long!
A chance meeting that sets up the story journey; a secondary character who’s watching the back of the main character, a discussion that leaves the reader with wide eyes and a dry mouth, seeing questions and needing a hint about what the answer might be. Start the story with something in the first line or first paragraph that provokes that intrigue.
If a writer wants to get people to read their stories, they need to know where to start the story, and how. Don’t disappoint the reader who’s paid money for your words, only to be disappointed so badly they will never pick up one of your books again. It won’t matter how many you write, or how much you improve after that one, that’s one reader you’ve lost, and by effect, all the other readers she may have told about your story. She’ll still tell them, but it will not be of benefit to the writer, because it won’t be good – it will be something that stops others taking a chance on that writer.
Open the story with a sense of something about to happen. Open the story where the most interesting things are happening in immediate scene. Open a story with a compelling hook. Make the reader beg to know more, to keep reading.
Can’t go wrong with that, unless the spelling and grammar are worse than a toddler’s.
Writing a novel isn’t easy. It requires a lot of skills, one of which is understanding why the reader reads a particular story. The writer needs to open their story so that even if the reader isn’t likely to read in that genre, they will at least mention – favorably – the work to another reader.
[see what these guys have to say – they know what they’re talking about! Oh, and they’re looking for stories, too.]