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Writing

Five Ways Not To Start Your Novel

“Once upon a time in an enchanted kingdom…”

EEP. Stop. Halt. Don’t go any further. You may think it’s funny that fairytales all start like that, but trust me when I say a lot of novel starts in exactly the same fashion. We’ve simply replaced “Once upon a time” by equally annoying modern stereotypes.

When I start reading a book and it starts like any of the examples below, I won’t read past page one. Seriously. Unless the writing is extraordinary, something spectacular happens in the first page or it’s the best book in history, I won’t read on if it has a cliché start. So for the love of all things holy (and unholy) in this world, stay away from clichés.

MC wakes up

This is the most annoying novel beginning ever. I don’t care if he/she is waking up from a dream or waking up from a coma, or being brought back to life after being death for a thousand years (even though the latter may be enough to entice my interest) but don’t do it. This has been done a million times before, and it never works out. Unless you have your MC waking up in the middle of the zombie apocalypse, with zombies chewing his/her legs, this is not a good idea.

It’s even worse when you spend the next three paragraphs describing the alarm clock, the MC’s room, how the MC looks or why today is the worst day ever. Unless today really is the worst day ever because it’s the zombie apocalypse or the MC’s mother in law is coming over for a visit.

I don’t want to read all about how your MC wakes up, stretches his/her arms and yawns, unless he/she wakes up next to an alien, or has just spent the night battling a new paranormal species nobody has ever heard about but is plain awesome.

MC has a dream

Martin Luther King had a dream, and he’s the only one allowed to have a dream in the beginning of a novel. Got it?

Nothing as annoying as reading a scene and then having the BAM ‘MC wakes up’ moment. Seriously? I spent three pages reading a freaking dream? I want to burn this book, rip it to shreds or use it to feed the dog.By then, I won’t even care how interesting the dream was because HECK it was just a dream.

The only way to pull this off properly is to have a book based on the plot of Inception. Dreams within dreams. Or dreams that are more than dreams, as in, MC kills someone in dream. Apart from that, big NO.

MC is driving somewhere

Oooooh, wow, your MC is driving. That’s like the most interesting thing ever. Because it’s not like we all do that, every single day!

This is a cheap trick to give us some quality time in the thoughts of your MC, and figure out more about him/her. But it’s a cheap trick and it’s been done a thousand times before. If your MC is driving to the place where a loved one died, is about to cause an accident himself/herself or is about to drive straight into a group of flesh-eating zombies, then don’t bother.

Or, if your MC is driving a spacecraft to an unknown planet fifty galaxies away from ours. Then I’m game.

MC starts a new day at new job/town/school

All right, it sounds like a logical point to start your story. The MC moves to a new town, and is about to start a new job or go to school. It makes sense, but it’s not a good place to start, with your MC standing awkwardly in front of a class or coworkers babbling about their previous life.

This has been used so many times before. Why does your MC have to move before the fun begins? Or why not start the story after your MC has been in the new town for a week or two?

It’s a dark and stormy night…

Yeah, you’re out. Unless you end that sentence with ‘but *insert MC’s name* doesn’t give a shit because he’s too busy….” Else, you’re out.

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