I don't know about anyone else, but I hate beginnings. I never know where to start or what to say. They say you've only got ten seconds to hook a reader, and I believe this 100%. When I read a book and I'm not instantly drawn into the story I find it very hard to want to continue (even though I often push on and hope that it improves).
On various blogs there are various suggestions as to what a novel should not start with:
- Dialogue - the reader doesn't know why they should care about the character.
- Starting too early - find the place in the story with the most dramatic tension.
- Dream sequence - a reader will feel cheated if the first chapter turns out to be nothing but a dream.
- Prologue - this seems to be the biggest no no in novel beginnings, both agents and publishers hate them.
- Too much information - don't load the beginning with all the character's back story.
- Endless description - don't start with describing what time of day it is and how the weather's like, nobody wants to know.
- Using a cheesy (cliched) hook - getting the readers attention is the desired goal, but don't use a cheesy hook that screams out "look at me".
Kristin Nelson has a great post about why prologues often don't work
With so many things stating what 'not' to do, how can a novel start that will draw the reader in? One of the most important things to starting a story is to establish that the protagonist has something significant at stake.
So, how do you choose how to start your novels? Do you try to avoid any of the things listed above?