Saturday, September 21, 2013

The 10 Worst Story Openings







*disclaimer* I did not come up with all this all by my lonesome, it kind of evolved from things I read by other people when researching how I should start something I was writing, and I noticed a lot of people were saying pretty much the same things. I know I’m cynical and I know there are bountiful exceptions to these “rules.”

1. Waking up.
BEEEP BEEP RIIIING RIIING, the alarm clock jerks 14 year old Jessica Parker out of a sound sleep. She groans and fumbles to shut it off. Her mom calls from the next room, ‘Hurry up Jessie you’re going to be late!’ Jessie wills herself to get up, and get ready for school. She looks into the mirror at her frizzy red hair, which always turns into a rat’s nest after sleeping. As she begins to brush out her tangled locks, her annoying little brother comes running into the room making noises and holding Tonka trucks above his head, yelling ‘Jessie, Jessie! Look at my trucks!’ Ugh, thinks Jessie, why me?”
Yeah. You get the picture. That actually hurt a little bit to write. Don’t use the alarm clock, just don’t—unless you want your story to sound like it was written by whoever made the opening to Rebecca Black’s “Friday” music video. It won’t grab anyone’s attention. Did it work in Groundhog Day? You bet. Will it work in your story? Probably not, unless it’s extremely original, like the alarm is set to specific song or sound (like a Barney song waking up a 40 year old man, or a person’s voice saying a specific sentence) that is somehow relevant to the character or story. I don’t know, even that is risky. This type of thing is just so overused, I’ve seen it a ridiculous amount of times. In my  own naivety I’ve used it a ridiculous amount of times, (though I must say, I usually do it in a creative manner). Is a waking up scene possible to write in an engaging attention-grabbing way? Absolutely. I’ll probably even do it again some time. Just be really careful with this one... it’s so easy to be cliché! An article entitled “11 Ways Not To Start Your Novel” from darleyandersonblog.com lists specific clichés you should avoid:
A dream. Particularly a dream that starts out like a normal scene and then weird things begin to happen before, oh twist, it turns out it was all just a dream
Anyone ‘sitting bolt upright in bed’, ‘burying their head deeper into the pillow’ or the sheets being ‘drenched with sweat’
Onomatopoeia. Alarm clocks, ringtones, knockings on doors – leave them out
Any of these phrases: ‘Breakfast is ready’, ‘you’re going to be late for [x]’, ‘sleepy head’, ‘wakey wakey’, ‘rise and shine’, ‘up and at them’, ‘just five more minutes’ and any variations thereupon
The smell of breakfast rousing your protagonist from their slumber/bed
Your protagonist getting out of bed to look at themselves in the mirror (assuming they look the way they would on any other day and haven’t, say, aged several years from the last morning they remember)
Your protagonist being even slightly hung-over
Your protagonist waking up on the first day of anything in particular


2. Weather/landscape description.
These used to bore me to death when I was younger. I’d crack open a book, see a description of rolling hills with mountains in the distance and purple mist, and slide the book back on the shelf. Essentially, you should avoid anything like this:

“The [adjective] [adjective] sun rose in the [adjective] [adjective] sky, shedding its [adjective] light across the [adjective] [adjective] [adjective] land.”


3. Clichés like “once upon a time in a land far away.”
This is an obvious one, but apparently people still do it. Heck, *I* used to do it when I was way younger. Unless you KNOW it’s a cliché and you are doing it to be witty or funny, skip it!


4. Description of the town/kingdom/planet/etc.
World-building can be fun, but in general it’s too early in the story for readers to care about the kind of cars people drive in your world, and their system of government, and how the town got started, or the races of people that live there. Don’t slam a Wikipedia page about your setting at the reader, it’s your first page for heaven’s sake!


5. Detailed character descriptions or back-story.
Don’t clutter the opening—the most critical part of your entire book—with unimportant details. In all honestly, how important is the color of the characters eyes or hair? Does it tell us anything about her desires, struggles, or personality? Not likely.

“I dislike endless ‘laundry list’ character descriptions. For example: ‘She had eyes the color of a summer sky and long blonde hair that fell in ringlets past her shoulders. Her petite nose was the perfect size for her heart-shaped face. Her azure dress—with the empire waist and long, tight sleeves—sported tiny pearl buttons down the bodice. Ivory lace peeked out of the hem in front, blah, blah.’ Who cares! Work it into the story.”
- Laurie McLean, Foreword Literary

Hinting at back-story is fine, but do not delve into a lengthy description of what happened before the story started, we want to know what is happening now. Don’t start with a biography—telling where your character was born and where they went to school and who their best friend was and how they grew up with so and so, and then got a job doing such and such, and became emotionally scarred because of this or that, etc.


6. Prologue.
Maybe I’m the only one, but I always used to just skip prologues and then read them after I was finished with the book. Prologues are just another cheap way of stuffing a bunch of back-story in. However, I know a lot of successful famous books have used prologues, so they’re not always unacceptable, but if you can, work in the information somewhere else—maybe even if you need to have a flashback later on. Readers are put off by prologues that they don’t understand and have visibly little to do with the actual first chapter.


7. Addressing the reader directly.
Something I’ve noticed a lot of people say is that you should not start off by addressing your reader, like “Welcome to my story. If you’re reading this, you might be wondering...blah blah blah...”. I would agree that most of the time this is a bad idea, for one, because it puts up a barrier of self awareness that keeps the reading from being drawn into the story. However, I think there is definitely some potential to have some fun with this kind of opening if it’s done in a creative way.


8. Telling the reader your work of fiction is a true story.
Do not tell us it’s a true story, we already know it’s not. Acting like it’s a true story is fine, but don’t outright tell us, like “This really happened many years ago” or “this is the true story of how I became...” Trust me, telling us your fictional story is true is only going to remind us that it’s not. Your readers probably aren’t five year olds. In Rick Riordan’s series, The Kane Chronicles, he acts like the story is a factual account of events that really happened, even saying it’s a transcript of a digital recording. And it kind of works for that story, but you’ll notice he never outright claims it to be true—this makes it more believable.


9. An outlandish shocking zany hooker.
Everyone tells you to write an attention-grabbing opening sentence, right? This leads many beginners to start with things like, “When I woke up that morning, I had no idea my little sister would turn into an alien and try to kill me” or “‘I shall kill you all!’ cried the ghastly bat-like creature as it rose above my school’s football field.” It’s crazy, it’s out-of-the-ordinary, it’s sure to hook a reader, right? Wrong. It’s boring. It’s red flag amateurish and sounds desperate.
Note that this is not bashing the sci-fi, fantasy, or horror genre. I’m all for creepy stalkers, magical water dragons, and starship battles—but aliens that turn into flying pigs with glittery blood shooting out of their eyes is not creative, it’s stupid. Guess what? Just because your story has some supernatural happenings doesn’t mean you don’t have to be realistic. As a reader, I truly want to believe that what is happing is real, but if it starts off as too crazy without easing into the whole supernatural fantasy world thing, I will have a hard time doing that.
Although, to be honest, I’m grateful when people do open this way, it allows me to instantly know I shouldn’t waste time reading it. If your book actually is about that crazy uncreative stuff in you mentioned, you’ve probably got more problems than a bad opening line.


10. Things the reader does not understand.
One of the main offenders of this is rule is when people start off with lengthy unexplained dialogue. Don’t have a bunch of dialogue with no tags. Sometimes even one sentence is too long with no context for the reader to understand it in. We want to know who is speaking, where they are, and who they are speaking to.
As a general rule, don’t start us off with things we don’t understand. We won’t be curious and want to solve the mystery of what the heck you are talking about, we will be confused and bored and look for something that doesn’t seem like it needs a prerequisite to the first page. It is like when you’re in a class that’s way over your head in school and you don’t understand a thing, so you’re really bored.



Something I’m fond of quoting when it comes to art is—and writing is certainly an art—once you know the rules you can break them. What this means is, if you already know the “right” way of doing something and know you could do it well if you wanted to, but you still want to deviate from the standard, go ahead. But you’ve got to be honest with yourself: is your use of a cliché so much better than anyone else’s that it hardly counts as a cliché anymore?
Rules are made to be broken; it is in the nature of writing. Do what you want, do what you like the best, and chances are other people will like it too. Or maybe you don’t even care if anyone else likes it! Just don’t get stuck with a lousy opening just because you were lazy or didn’t know you were sabotaging yourself.

Think about it, what would get you to keep reading? Do that. Not sure what would keep you reading? Try this: go to your bookshelf, and look at the first one or two sentences of your favorite books. What are their strengths and weaknesses? How could you do something similar with your story?


Wanna learn how to hook a reader and see examples of GOOD opening lines? Click here!

89 comments:

  1. Hi! I just found your blog through Pinterest, and I thought this article was really well written (I have done a few of these opening unknowingly), and one of the first things I happily noticed is that you're a Christian, and besides that, a writer, an artist, and you're interested in *happy squeak* cinematography! And then Do Hard Things and Eragon and Percy Jackson and The Hobbit... and do you really do screenwriting? :D

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    1. Hey there! I'm so happy you liked the article :D And yeah, I'm into all that, haha! Alas, a kindred spirit! And yeah, I've actually got a screenplay I've been on hiatus from working on, but it's 75 pages so far. And I took a screenwriting class for my online college.

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  2. Hi,
    I found your blog on Pinterest. I have read several of these openings. I do read the prologues because I am aware books will expect me to know what happened in the prologue.

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    1. Glad you happened upon my blog! Now that I'm older I don't skip prologues the way I used to, but they can still feel too slow to me if they are lengthy prologues. I'm the kind of person who like to jump right into the story ^_^

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    2. I love prologues! I don't know, I just find them to be cool. I always read them.

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    3. Really? What do you think is cool about them? I mean, I know they DO have useful purposes or people wouldn't use them!

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    4. I'm working on a story at the moment that opens with a prologue so I kind of grimaced when I read that. It takes place two weeks before the main story and I did it because I want the story to be from ONE character's point of view, and she was not present at the event in the prologue, but it's important to understand the motives of the main characters and antagonist...arghh, even writing this, I sound like I'm making excuses to not come up with a way to incorporate it creatively into the main narrative...

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    5. My sister's novel starts out with a prologue too...And even though I actually loved her prologue (because it has an exciting action sequence) I kind of worry about it, because it starts with someone who is not the protagonist, and it's set years in the past. It could be a bit of a problem if your prologue doesn't start out with the protagonist, IF that causes the reader to misunderstand who the story is about at first. I'll give you this though, a prologue that starts only two weeks from the start of the main story doesn’t seem to be as much of a problem for some reason. You might want to try working in the event into the main story, like hearing about it from someone who was present perhaps? But if your prologue isn't overly long and the reader doesn’t' mistake the main person in the prologue as the protagonist, I bet it's fine.

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    6. I've seen a few prologues that have left me confused for awhile but I've also read ones that I really love. Most of the later are in the Redwall series, sometimes they're about events that happen before the story starts and other times they're notes from the Recorder of the story.

      I'm also using a prologue in my story so I also cringed a bit at that but I don't think there's another way for me to do it. It would be way more confusing with out it I think, but who knows, I might change my mind in editing :)

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    7. I was debating whether or not to write a prologue as I never read them. I posed the question to about 80 people I know- 'who reads prologues'. I was surprised to find an overwhelming favorable response. Lesson learned: not everyone does as we do. Does that mean every writer should use them? No, but it does mean it's a matter of preference so don't discount them because you don't like them. Be careful in your writing to not make your opinion appear as fact. You're doing a great injustice to your readers by doing so. Reading one or two of your blogs, from the tone, I thought you were a very experienced writer with several published books. I was surprised to see that it appears you've never been published and at your age, even if you started writing at 8, how much experience could you actually have. Your articles are good, just save the lofty tone for 20 years from now when you may have actually earned it.

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    8. @Jeannie Thanks for your comment! Firstly, I don't claim to be some sort of experienced expert so I don't know why you would be surprised to find out that I am not. These are just my opinions. Some agree, some don't, and that's okay. I'm glad you think some of my articles are good, and I actually have reduced the "lofty tone" since writing this article. I was trying to make it somewhat comical/amusing but it's hard to make fun of clichés without sounding pompous. I'm still working on finding a balance.

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    9. My story has always begun with the prologue. It isn't very long, but extremely integral to the whole line. I have always loved prologues and epilogues..... and this story is the only o e of tbe series that has the prologue.

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  3. I teach creative writing, and one opening I often see in student manuscripts is the "character alone in the car, driving and thinking." This is a really static opening. Put your character in conflict with another character. And by conflict I mean one character wants one thing and the other character wants something different. Conflict is not the same as violence, which leads me to the other opening I hate: "Oh look, a dead body!"

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    1. That is awesome you teach creative writing! I'd love to give that a try someday. I think you're right that having some sort of conflict is really important, it helps gives tension and hold the reader's attention. Haha, "Oh looks, a dead body!" falls under the "An outlandish shocking zany hooker" catagory, in my opinion. Not that I'm against violence in books, but anybody can throw in a dead body or some blood to pretend like it's an exciting story.

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  4. Great post! Very interesting, helpful, and well-written. :) Figuring out how to start can be tricky, so this is really great advice.

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    1. Why thank you! I'm so glad you thought it was helpful ^_^

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  5. I can agree with you on a few of these, but some of these I also disagree with. I mean, of course, in the fact that many famous or beloved authors have used these sorts of beginnings, yet the books still sold and are still so precious to our hearts. From prologues to landscapes to the description of the location and its people - Yet, are we to say that they're wrong? Are they the "exception to the rule"? Rather, is there even a rule to begin with, when writing fiction itself is a way of letting your imagination roam on paper?
    Now, I've used plenty of these in my own experience as an author. Looking back on my writing, I see where some of them were VERY bad choices. Prologues, while can be used when necessary, are certainly slow starts to any book. Especially when paired with "this is my story". I also once used waking up (paired with sound effect) for a casual short story I was writing for myself, but it certainly wasn't one I enjoyed. I found it tedious, but I wanted a glimpse of what living with the one character would be like for my main character. (It certainly made its point. MC is a saint for putting up with him. Ha-ha!)
    Landscaping was the one I had the most problem with, on your list. Personally, I like reading of the landscape right off the bat. It sets the scene, which in my opinion is very important for a beginning. While "the golden sun set on the tiny town of sleeping villagers" may be a cliche (and a bit wordy), there are many 'scene setting' beginnings that could be good to start a story with.

    Personally, I would have liked to see you give some examples on what a good beginning is, by your standards. It would have been interesting to read, and it might help your readers/beginning authors understand what would be a proper beginning for their story.
    However, I did find your blog well written and you certainly made a few good points. Your examples, when used, were used at the proper time and made their point well. I also found this an interesting read, to say the least, and certainly put enough thought into my mind about my current and past story beginnings as an author. I will definitely be pondering this through the night.

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    1. I started writing this because I was trying to figure out how to start my story, and I discovered that all three openings I had written for consideration were advised against by various people. Writing is ultimately a subjective art, which is why I suppose an author really has to pinpoint what the purpose of their story is, and who the audience is. Like I said, “Rules are made to be broken; it is in the nature of writing.”
      I agree that it is important to set the scene early on, but it’s hard not to be cliché with a landscape description. Of course, setting the scene does not always have to be the FIRST thing, it could come in the next paragraph, or next sentence of the opening, after the “hooker.” I should probably also note that my mindset is that of a YA writer and reader, whereas older readers may have different tastes.
      Perhaps I will take your advice make a post in the future with some suggestions as to how to write a GOOD opening. Though I better be careful or I may end up praising types of openings I just bashed, haha. But I think it would be a good learning experience, for me and my readers. I’m so glad you found it well written, and I appreciate your comments!

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    2. I'd be interested in reading that post :)

      I agree that a lot of my favorite books and authors have used these openings and they work. Lemony Snicket for instance talks to the reader all the time and starts his books by telling you not to read them, he also tells you that its a true story. As I mentioned in my other comment Brian Jacques used prologues all the time in his Redwall series.

      I think maybe its just harder to make these openings work and most of us beginners make a mess of them. We see them in books we like and then try and use them without really knowing how.

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  6. I should have just put all my thoughts into one comment but I guess I'm a bit scatterbrained tonight.

    I think #5 was the one I've seen the most, mainly in Fanfiction (something I read way too much of) one of the things that will make be leave a story without finishing even the first page is a character description like that. Especially if its a female character with RED hair. For some people try and make their characters original and interesting by giving them unusual hair/eyes/skills so much so that it has become common.

    What your character looks like really isn't that important, I can't remember what most of my favorite characters looks like, its who they are that makes them memorable.

    Okay, sorry, my rant is ended now. Oh great post by the way :)

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    1. Thanks so much for your insightful comments Rita!! Haha, you are so right about the character with RED hair. Especially if she is gangly, with green eyes and freckles, haha.

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  7. Oh, I hate prologues! Never read them. I am struggling with the opening to my Children's book right now... thanks for the great article.

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    1. Yeah, haha! I've kinda learned to read them myself, but I'm so tempted to skip them!
      So glad you liked the article, and best wishes with your book!

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  8. I had to laugh at these. Reading fanfiction gives a girl experience with every single one of these openings, sometimes even all at once. Those are the stories that make me want to stop reading fanfiction, before I find one that renews my faith. I know I'm guilty of #6. But it's a prologue disguised as a story within the story, so I think that makes it a little bit ok.

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  9. I say learn them all and then break em, just like any other rule. Being aware that your story opening is somewhat of a cliche can be empowering if used correctly.

    But a well put together list although my own short novel starts with the main character waking up with a slight hangover, laugh out loud, what can you do.

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    1. I would probably agree with you Ray, "learn them all and then break em".
      Thanks for your comment!

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  10. This article pretty much sums up everything we learned at Critique Night during a writing conference I attended -- we had agents, editors, and authors in a panel and they'd read one page from someone's manuscript and explain why it didn't work. We didn't have any giant bats or alien sisters, but everything else you mentioned was featured in someone's work! Nice job of summing everything up in an easy-to-read article.

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    1. Really! That's great, thanks so much for commenting! That is really awesome, even though, of course, I'm not nearly as experienced as those people, haha!
      I'm so glad you liked the article and it's good to know I went over the same stuff as the editors and agetns and such!

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  11. So helpful =) Thanks for posting! I totally agree about the alarm clock thing! So many books start out with that and it is just so old and boring I never read books that start out like that or with a lengthy landscape scene.

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    1. haha yes! i think that is the MOST overused opening!

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  12. Fantastic post! I'm pinning this one :) Alex

    tobebeautifulingodseyes.blogspot.com

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    1. Great! Thank you so much for pinning it! :D
      I'll follow your blog it looks cool ^_^

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  13. Beautiful site and I really enjoyed this post!

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  14. Great text! I found some of these boring things in many good books, the kind you need to give some effor to go throught the end. But it's helpfull for me anyway.

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  15. Great text. I like to read the begine of famous books to know how the story starts. Many of them have those cliches all over. I adore your blog, we have a lot in comom. Gonna visit it more. And sorry for my bad english.

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    1. Yes, you are right that sometimes good books have boring openings....hopefully that doesn't stop too many people from reading them! Glad you found this helpful and thanks for your kind comments! Your english is great ;)

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  16. I also stumbled into your article through Pinterest and really enjoyed it. I have had a story in my head for years, but I just haven't been able to get it out. I have no idea how to start it, now I have some ideas how not to start it. Lol! Thank you for your article.

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  17. I also stumbled into your article through Pinterest and really enjoyed it. I have had a story in my head for years, but I just haven't been able to get it out. I have no idea how to start it, now I have some ideas how not to start it. Lol! Thank you for your article.

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    1. Yay! I love when people find my stuff on Pinterest ^_^ Glad this gave you some ideas! Don't be afraid to write a draft of your story, I bet it's awesome and well developed if you've been thinking about it for a few years!

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  18. I too, found this article on Pinterest. I am a 16 year old aspiring writer and I've been using Pinterest as a means of learning the ropes. I have many novels in the works, but i haven't seemed to be able to get past the first couple chapters before i dead end, or think of a new idea. However, the one I'm working on currently, defies that routine. That makes me think it might go far! It starts with a flashback but it is kind of like #1, being somewhat dream-like as the reader won't know it is a flashback until it reads "End of Flashback". I don't think there is really any other way to start it. But I am open to any ideas or suggestions! Anyways, I had no idea how cliche some of these really are! I'm glad to know what to avoid in the future. Thanks for writing this!

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    1. Hi there! Thanks for your comment ^_^ I'm a teenage aspiring writer as well! Er, I AM a writer, but I want to be a better one, haha!

      I totally know what it's like to have the problem of not getting past the first few chapters! One thing that has helped me a bit is aiming for short stories instead of novels, which causes me to move the plot along faster and then write more if I want to. Although they turn into Novelette's instead of short stories =p Also, sometimes I'll start on a few, then determine to FINISH the one that seems most promising.

      Sometimes it might be better if you can incorperate the flashback a little bit later into the story so that's not what you're starting out with (I've seen Rick Riordan do that sort of thing). And while it's great if you can incorperate the needed info without a flashback at all, sometimes that's more nonsense than it's worth. You may want to lable the flashback a "prologue" so that the reader doesn't misunderstand the current context of the story, but that may not be needed. Don't sweat it too much, I'm sure it's good!

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  19. Thanks so much, I'm sure this will help with my own writing for years to come...

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  20. Thanks very much. I really enjoyed the post, and I'm sure this will have a positive influence on my writing for years to come.

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    1. Thank you for your comment! I really hope it is helpful in the future :D

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  21. Good post. I enjoyed this. ^ ^ I committed some of these cliches early in my writing and I've encountered more while critiquing. There are so many more creative ways to open and I think it's funner to be more creative anyway. ^ ^

    Stori Tori's Blog

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  22. Oops, I'm guilty of a few of these. Better shape up. Good tips!

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    1. I think everybody's guilty of these at some point! But hey, sometimes these openings can be done well!

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  23. These are actually quite helpful! I'm always looking for ways to improve my writing. Thank you.

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  24. Thanks. That was helpful, informative, and fun! =D

    (Pinterest lead me here, btw).

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    1. Thank you! Ah yes, Pinterest ^_^ everybody comes here from there, lol!

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  25. As many readers have commented, Pinterest led me here and I'm glad!

    I'm an aspiring writer at the age of 15, and boy do have I almost and did really omit many of the worst openings! But I could argue about #2 regarding lengthy and descriptive openings. I love those kind of openings because as a reader, I can imagine myself on the setting and spectate or even join in the story as one of the characters. But hey, descriptive openings may be beautiful, but it is boring too if the description of the setting doesn't involve the characters much.

    Also, prologues are different from story introduction , right? Cause if it is then that mistake blinded me for two years xD

    Aaaaannnddd I just want to say that this article helped a lot for both comedic and learning value. I'd use them so I could break-- no, bend rules for myself! ~ - insert evil laughter-

    This article has really been helpful, so thanks!

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    1. That's great! I appreciate your comment ^_^
      Prologues often do differ from story introduction. And introduction could be more like a Foreward.
      Glad you found it helpful and amusing! :D

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  26. Hi, I found this article through Pinterest and I find it very help. I think it might just have helped me come up with an opening for my book. I just have one thing to say, I don't think prologues are as bad as you've made them seem. I see prologues as a way to give readers information before they actually start the story. For example, "The Raven Boys" by Maggie Stiefvater has a prologue that fits for the story. That's the only problem I had. Other than that, I think this is a great help for writers.

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    1. You could be right! I think prologues are one of those things where a lot of people hate them but a lot of people don't mind at all! It can be a tough call.

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  27. As I read the header to #9, I thought of how wonderful a story about "an outlandish shocking zany hooker" would be. Just think of all the naughty hijinks she'd get into! ;)

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  28. Cringing slightly because my NaNoWriMo novel starts with a dream, unsure how to proceed because the book is centered around dreaming.

    I have watched my friend do the "write-one-page-with-the-character-waking-up-and-looking-in-the-mirror" and the the"write-one-page-and-get-bored" thing.Is there actually an appropriate time to tell the readers what the character looks like if it's only one thing at a time, spread through out the story? like, "she ruffled MC's brown hair" and stuff like that in the fifth chapter? I don't understand how writers do that so seamlessly!

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    1. Centered around dreaming? That sounds interesting! A dream opening is rather cliché but it could be forgiven if that's the focus of the whole book! I think there IS an appropriate time to give a brief character description, perhaps in the first few pages, and then work in more extensive details later. To be honest, I don't know how writers seamlessly work in character descriptions either...but it is probably safe to do if it's brief and not the very first thing on the page.

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  29. Interesting article, but I have come across these 'golden rules of writing' type posts before. Oh dear, lol, well I guess 'rules' are there to be broken! I personally like prologues if they add something to the story and aren't just there because the author couldn't edit their story without one. But I must say, as a lover of landscapes and nature as well as fantasy, I also like books that start with landscape/scene settings. I've read so many fantasy novels recently that just plunge straight into a battle/action scene without the reader having a chance to work out where they are or worst still, without giving the reader a chance to actually care what happens to the characters. If I don't care about the characters I'm not going to read on, so those books get left on the shelf for me. I must say, my own novel breaks one of these 'rules' and does have a description at the beginning setting the scene and the epic nature of the book. Lol, I guess at the end of the day variety is the key, it's probably a bad thing to have too many books of either type as we all have different reading tastes. :)

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  30. thank you!!! this was so helpful & informative. First time writer at the age of 58, and learning so much. I am writing about famous musicians that either myself or someone in my family has seen over the years (since the 60's) at a fake venue. Am I able to use the names of real musicians, as long as I do not say anything horrible about any of them?

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    1. Yes, you can totally use the names of famous musicians! Authors do it all the time. The only thing you want to avoid is saying something false about the musician and making it seem like it's true. Even in a work of fiction, it can be misleading if it's not clear that it is meant to be a fictional element.

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  31. I am one of the many who has found your blog from Pinterest. This is really helpful not to just normal stories, but i had a friend who did these for a fiction story report and she got a really bad grade for such a terrible opening. I felt bad for her. Anyways this is really helpful! Thank you!

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  32. I am a13 year old girl with a dream to be an authour, and I am writing a book called 'The Ghost King' and it's all about Greek mythology. My main character, Drew, tells the story. He's a demigod (a mortal whose one parent is a god or goddess) and I start it by him saying ''My name is Drew Fletcher, son of Hades. Yeah, I said it. I'm the son of the Greek God of the dead and wealth...'' do you think that this was a good way to start? Thanks for the pointers!!!

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    1. Reminds me of Percy Jackson! Yes, I think opening by introducing your book's premise is good!

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  33. I love that u r a Christian like me! I have personally asked Jesus to save me, I believe HE died,was Buried and Resurrected from the dead on the third day. Christ calls us all to repentance from our sins,which is change of heart and mind, and to trust in Him as Lord and Savior. I thought ya'll should hear the good news, and what it means to be a Christian.
    Thnks
    Selina Ozuna

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  34. This is great! I really dislike cliche novel beginnings, and your blog gives some great pointers. It has given me some ideas to revamp the start of some of my novels to make them more interesting and to hook readers in from the beginning. Thanks!

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  35. Great post Laura,
    Would you mind if I were to use this pose as is on my Writers blog? I run the Northeast Tasmania Writers Group Blog and would appreciate your allowing me to use this as is . I would of course link this to your blog ensuring you were fully credited. Bill J.

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  36. This is a very interesting article. I knew that some of these things were cliché to write but I never really knew why. And the thorough explanation is very helpful. Thank you :)

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  37. Very good article. I think all of the rules you wrote here are not written in concrete. Reading and writing are so subjective, but you do have to learn the basics or there could really be problems. It also depends on what you intend to do with your writing. If your doing it for yourself, write it as you want. Just my two cents. Great job.

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  38. It's easy for beginning writers to bristle at these suggestions, but they're spot on. If you want to say, but I've seen other writers do it, you may want to broaden your reading. Another variation on
    "waking up" is waking up in an empty room with no memory and now the character has to put the plot together. May make an intriguing game, but a story, not so much.

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    1. Yeah...I think a lot of story openings became overused because they WHERE good, but have since become boring since people have seen them too many times.

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  39. In my story, "Samantha", I describe Sam as looking like a frightened rabbit caught in the headlights. One reviewer saw this as cliched. I must confess that I don't regret using that particular wording and guess it just goes to prove that what one reader likes others dont. Kevin (newauthoronline.com)

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    1. I think the reviewer was referring to the phrase "deer in the headlights" which is pretty common...but yes, people can have different tastes!

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  40. These are fantastic! <3

    Sophia xx | theinkpotgirl.blogspot.com

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  42. This is great and all, but you have to know that this is your opinion. If someone were to read this, and some of these things are in their story, they could think that no one would ever read them, making them lose confidence. I know many famous books that have many of these cliches in there. While I agree that people should be creative when starting their books, calling it "boring" may hurt a new writer's feelings. Maybe saying "It's alright to write it this way, but to make it more interesting and unique, you could do it this way." Just a small critique but it's still an interesting article, don't get me wrong.

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    1. Yup! Like I said, rules are made to be broken! :)

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  43. Hello, there!

    I just found out your blog through Pinterest, and it's so nice to see other christian discussing and doing writing! But I must confess, this post was a little painful to read, once the first example on your list it's exactly what I used in the begining of my first novel ever. Well, made me think more about it, and I thank you for that.

    But I was wondering: what about a post listing good ways to begin a novel? I don't know, feels like the natural sequence. And even more instructive than a "how-not-to-do" post. I'm sorry if you already did, maybe I just haven't seen it. After all, you write this first one three years ago rs.

    I'll try to follow your work from now, and I'll pray for your sucess. God knows we need more christian values on books and midia! I also study Social Comunication, you see. And before I say goodbye, I must apologize for any grammar/spell mistakes. I'm brazilian and my English is a little rusty (:

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  44. One thing that immediately puts me off a book is when there's a list of characters. If the story is that busy, I don't even want to bother.

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  45. I've seen these before, and I often "warn" writers when I beta read for them if I see these kind of openings. I don't say, "You can't do this" I just say, "You might want to be aware, this kind of opening bugs the crap out of people sometimes."

    The one that I'm a little more lenient on, (as a lot of people have already said) is the prologue. For me, a prologue has to have a good reason, and has to be written really well. I don't use them often, but one example of prologue use in my work that I enjoy is in a trilogy I am working on. The first book doesn't have a prologue, but book two and three both do. The prologues tell about something that happened in the previous book that the protagonist was unaware of. They give insight and additional information to some of the other characters and explain why something has changed in this book from what it was in the previous book.

    Since I know a lot of people just skip the prologues, mine are basically a related short-story. They provide their own entertainment, have closure, and give more information to the novel, but if they're skipped, the reader will not be confused by missing that information. Personally, I love both of my prologues.

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  46. I find that prologues or the first of several short parts in a story can be frustrating. Especially if the characters you initially commit to then disappear. However one of my favourite books does just this is a way that works very well, as said initial character echoes in a way throughout the later story. To be honest, prologues are one of those techniques that work if they're truly necessary, but have to be executed in a particular way, otherwise yes they feel irrelevant and just delay the true opening.

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  47. Love this!!! I'm actually drinking chai tea right now, well, more of a chai latte, but that doesn't really matter. :) Loved your blog! It is so true. These actually all make sense, of course, but I mean, I love reading and writing, and sometimes it is just so hard to write something without knowing how to start it. I have tried prologues before, the endless description lists, and to be honest, they have put me to sleep before. Major red flag. It also gave a name to some of those books that I just knew had to be good, or looked good, or even that I've read and very much liked, but ones that either took awhile to get hooked on or just seemed kind of tweaky the moment I started it. But thank you for writing this! It just put me in another glorious writing mood! :)

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  48. From a readers point of view, not really a writer, I'd have to say those 10 reasons could be why I open a book, read the first paragraph and put it back.
    Prologues are off putting most of the time; I want to get into the story quickly! I think you are spot on!
    First chapters that wander loose my interest though I understand the need to build a story.
    I, too would enjoy what your thoughts are as to good openings. Maybe I will see it on Pinterest where I'm reading this.

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  49. Hey, I found this through pinterest, and it helped me quite a lot in starting my first draft! I'm currently editing the story of a friend of mine who constantly uses 'laundry list' descriptions as a beginning. I try to tell (him/her) that it won't spark any sort of interest within the readers! Hopefully this blog will get through to my fellow writer!

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  50. This was really informative! Thanks! I'm guilty of using many of these myself!

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