Beginnings can either make or break the readers view of the story. It is said that the average person takes five seconds to form an opinion on a person or place after the first view, the same can be said with books. Readers often know what they're in for within the first five pages, so grabbing their attention from the get go has to be the main objective of any writer.
Instead of focusing on what makes a good beginning, let's have a look at some of the
- It was all a dream...
I bet you can probably name several books that start like this. The writer definitely captures the attention of the reader, drawing them inside the events of a fast paced action sequence. You're sitting on the edge of the seat, wondering whether the hero will make it through (yes, it's only the first chapter, but still they could die... it's been done), and then... and then... the character wakes up.
All the events that the reader's been following turns out to be nothing more than a dream. So, everything that you've learnt up until this point is worthless and will never be brought up again... so please enjoy this cute animation of a kitten with a duck.
- The silly little prologue that makes no sense with the rest of the book and never comes back...
Just like the dream, but is slightly - somehow - relevant. Some fraction of it may (or may not) appear somewhere throughout the story at which point you'll find out that it was not as near impressive as it was made out to be.
These beginnings only aim to set up a hook and reel the reader in with promises of big character drama towards the end of the book. Often they are actually a foreshadow of the events that will take place near the end, so when you finally do get up to that point, the writer can head in a totally different direction just so long as they make a brief mention that this happens.
- Phone book disguised as introduction
Once upon a time in the land of Fousuold, in the Barony of Reefutal, King Juujikli consulted his beloved advisor Suolaoud in the matter of Luernua who was betrothed to Juljike after the tragic death of Wearouljdo four Faaulke moons ago...
This kind of beginning often happen in fantasy stories and is as easy on the reader as swallowing a banjo. Long lists of places, people and customs are rattled off in quick succession like a machine gun loaded with tape worms. If anyone finds any logical reason for mentioning this many people, places, and made up words that require the reader to collect them and create their own dictionary all in the first paragraph please let me know, I am dying to find out.
- How I spent my Summer Vacation
Dramatic event that happened long ago in the retelling of the MC's past. Here, the reader is led to believe that this event had a serious effect upon the characters and plot. In truth it is just an effort to create a backstory that won't be able to fit into the bulk of the book so it is shoehorned at the beginning.
Yes, the event may prove to be important and may have altered the character (much like being dropped into a vat of radioactive chemical waste would), the true reason it can't be fit into the rest of the book is because it's practically useless to the story that's being told.
- THE PROPHECY
So, your MC is the "Chosen One". For messaihic figure press 1... for deadly battle of intertwined foes press 2... for the only person in the world to stop Armagedon press 3... for dramatic tale of true love press 4... for character getting up, going through an utterly pointless life and dying in a meaningless, undignified death at the end press 5... thank you and have a nice day.
Prophecy. The easiest way for a writer to join together the tangled threads of a plot, especially if the character has no true purpose and is just ambling through the story. Occassionally this style can be done well, if planned ahead.
These beginnings usually take the form of Prologues written in fancy italics and doesn't even involve the MC or anyone of specific nature... although most of the times it is the bad guy learning the prophecy that starts the story.
Don't get me wrong, some of these beginnings can be beneficial. Some times they're just not. I can say that I've been guilty of using a couple of these every now and again... believe it or not, I rewrote the entire beginning of my MS to eliminate the dream sequence opening. Have you ever done any of these beginnings? Or, are there other beginnings that you see that you hate, on the other hand, do you like some of these beginnings (because it's okay if you do)?