Bad Novel Beginnings

We all love a good book, and we know that the first sentence is crucial. That is the big kaboom that will either draw your readers in, or tell them that this book is just not for them.

Don't start your book with . . .

. . . A backstory/prologue/flashback.

Experienced writers and newbies alike need to be careful of prologues and flashbacks. Right now we want to know what's happening with the characters right now. If we get a big long history about someone who we have no clue about, it doesn't have the same impact. Even if you're trying to connect the prologue to a later scene in your novel, from personal experience I find that I forget who was in the prologue, and someone has to point out the connection for me to see it or I have to read the entire novel first. It's not fun.

Instead of giving us a big long backstory about how Ted bought a fish and that led him to buy the lightsaber and begin his journey to conquering the world, just weave his history into the story. A bit of dialogue here, some description there. It'll flow a lot better when done well this way.

. . . A dream.

There's nothing worse than having a character have a really intense adventure right off the bat, only for us to be told a few pages later that he/she woke up. That takes away all of the suspense and edge that you worked so hard to build. Even if it also connects to a later event, chances are we won't remember it or we just won't care. We as readers are impatient and greedy. We want suspense, and we want it now.

Try incorporating a dream at a later point if you really insist on having it. I would advise staying away from those prophetic dreams because of how cliche they're becoming, and because of that, they just aren't that exciting anymore.

. . . An alarm clock.

That's middle-grade fiction that has the main character groaning as they stiffly get up for school after oversleeping their alarm. YA readers don't want that, so stay away from that for your big beginning.

. . . Dialogue.

I'm really hesitant to put dialogue into this category. Don't get me wrong, dialogue is fabulous and helps build tension, excitement, and a whopping ton of emotions. But when a random person is saying, "I just love sunshine!" I tend to be a little confused. I don't know who's talking, why they're important, or what's going on. Is this a maniacal homicidal human who's laughing as the sun burns his enemy's favorite ant farm? Is it a bird who's just loving life? We don't know! That's why it often doesn't work.

* * *

Those are just some things that I noticed when floating around the book world of things that bother me about novel beginnings.

What do you think?

That is all.


  1. I think that is why I got bored with the Candy Apple series. They all sounds to typical. The stories are interesting but they have some things that are too common from other books.

    1. That could be. I think a lot of the books that I put down are because I get bored and the concept is pretty cliche.


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