Today’s blitz is for Canvas Bound by Laura M. Kolar! This blitz includes a guest post and a giveaway opportunity for a chance to win a $25, $10, or $5 Amazon Gift Card. Enjoy!
How Not to Start a Novel
Guest post by Laura M. Kolar
In the beginning It was a dark and stormy night Long ago and far away It was the best of times, it was the worst of times Call me Ishmael
You get the idea.
A question I get asked a lot when I tell someone I write, is how do I start the story? How do I know what words to put first on the page? This isn’t easy for me to answer because every story is different. Normally, I write linearly, as in page one to ‘The End’, but the last two stories I’ve written as the scenes have come to me and the beginning wasn’t the first thing I wrote.
I have found it helpful to figure out who the key characters are in the story and what I want the reader to know about them right away as opposed to something I want the reader to find out as the story unfolds. For example, if your main character is a mechanic, you could start the story with them staring at a pan of dirty oil and remembering or noticing something intriguing that gives the reader some insight into the character’s personality. But later you find out they’re not really a mechanic, they’re in a witness protection program and only know about cars because they were some mobster’s driver.
One thing I’ve never done is start a story with dialog, though other authors like this format. I personally feel it’s a bit too abrupt to start with people talking and not even know who they are in order to get a feel for how the dialog should be read, happy, mad, psychotic. A couple I started with what’s considered a ‘cliché’, the girl woke up from a dream, the boy stood in front of a mirror (they’ve since been changed). I’m not saying that’s right or wrong (I’m not saying any of this is right or wrong), but I’ve heard that agents and publishers shy away from these types of beginnings. I think mostly because they’re not very original ideas.
Some writers like to introduce secondary characters right away and some like to hold off a few pages or even a chapter. Also, if you’re writing from two points of view, deciding which character to start with is a whole other dilemma because you kind of have to start two separate stories.
Then, once you’ve gotten through all of that, you have to actually sit down and write the first words. Are they funny? Are they thought provoking? Do they make any sense at all to anyone but you? The very first book I wrote started, My name is Charlie Murphy and I just got dumped. Is it good? Is it bad? I suppose that depends on how much you want to know about Charlie. (By the way, he’s a super sweet guy. The kind every mother wants for her daughter.) At any rate, if you haven’t figured it out already, the first words are quite possibly the hardest to write.
Then again, Once upon a time has a nice ring to it.
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