Still trying to make a grand entrance

This last week or so I’ve been struggling with getting a manuscript sorted out. Working out what to put in that important bit between the title page and the end of chapter one. A story, like riding a bicycle, is fine once it gets going; it’s the getting started that’s a bit wobbly.
My own efforts are taking on a less confused shape, but getting as far as this hazy, almost there stage has made me think quite hard about the advice that is given to inexperienced writers.

You must never start a story with:
The weather
A dream
No dialogue
Moving house, school, job
Complaining about something.

You must start a story by showing one of the following:
The concept behind the story
The conflict
The character of the mc.

Of course, you have to bear both sets of directives in mind and reconcile the dos and the don’ts. So, for example, in theory you can’t show the character of the mc if he/she is defined by being a persistent complainer, the conflict if it involves moving house, or the concept if it happens in a dreamworld.

How do you judge a story’s opening? Do you need action from the first sentence? Do you wilt if there’s no dialogue before page three? Do you sigh if you get dreams, alarm clocks, removal vans, or teenage angst in the first paragraph? Does a smart/clever/wacky opening line make you wince? How do you feel about the weather?

I honestly can’t say that I have a phobia about any trope. Maybe that’s why it’s taking me so long to get my own opening pages right.

Published by

Jane Dougherty

I used to do lots of things I didn't much enjoy. Now I am officially a writer. It's what I always wanted to be.

11 thoughts on “Still trying to make a grand entrance”

  1. Rules are there to be bent, or even broken. What counts is how you use the weather or a dream to open the story. Depending on how fast or slow the opening is, do you need dialogue straight away.? Not necessarily. If you can show what’s happening, rather than telling, then it should draw the reader in. You can tie yourself up in knots if you stick rigidly to the rules. After all, they’re just someone’s opinion, be they right, wrong or just guidelines.

    1. Yes, it would actually. And now you mention it, that’s exactly what the short prologue does. It’s the start of a series that follows on from The Green Woman, so when the story proper starts, I feel I have to catch up on the main characters. I’ve been trying to work it so that it doesn’t sound like one of those awful letters that some people send round at Christmas to all their friends and relations.

    1. The setting is a rather primitive fantasy world. I’m not sure they would be very comfortable with letter-writing 🙂 But thanks for the idea; it’s a good one maybe for another story I have in mind.

  2. I agree with Kate. Rules are made to be broken. I’ve read some wonderful books that begin with a dream sequence. Twilight began with Bella moving to another state. Whether you like it or hate it, you have to admit the book did pretty well in sales. Good luck! 🙂

  3. And you know what to do with all those rules, don’t you, Jane? Dump them. You start your story the way you think is best. Heck, you can always alter it later.

  4. Vonnie and Tricia, I hope I’m not a conformist, and I will end up starting the way I want, not the way that is recommended. If all writers did as they were told, there would be very few different books around, and a hell of alot of carbon copies.

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