When you’re looking to start your story, one of the biggest questions you’ll face is how.
Below, are five of the greatest ways to open your story ever. Readers love these, agents and editors love these, and if you want your book to be a bestseller, you really need to get on it.
- Looking in the mirror – what better way to get your reader in your character’s head than by describing the exact way your MCs eyes sparkle, those flecks of yellow swimming in bright green orbs? The way their tiny nose sits perched in a sea of freckles, and how their rivers of chestnut hair cascade over their shoulders.
- Describing the weather in huge detail – you’ve heard the advice, ‘ground your reader’. So, as soon as you can, you need to explain the exact way the sun is sending golden kisses to the clouds, or how the rain is beating down on the hot pavement, steam rising up to meet the droplets. The more purple prose, the better.
- Waking up – I mean, isn’t this how we all start our day? Makes sense our characters would, too. The last thing you want is for your reader to miss something important, so walking them through your MC’s morning shower, their coffee brew, and their exact outfit choice will make sure your reader knows every detail of your character’s lives. Bonus points if you can take up the whole first chapter with these mundane events.
- All of the action from the very first sentence – bombs, explosions, running from a serial killer! Give me intensity from the very first sentence, make your book Hollywood-level action! I don’t need to know or care about your character right away, we can all relate to free-falling from a cliff-face.
- Backstory – every reader needs to know about that one time your MCs, cousin’s, step dad lost his job. Or how your character really hates dudes who drive red cars, except that one kid who lives down the block and seems kinda cool, despite the fact he hates hotdogs which are basically your MCs favourite food ever. Load your reader up with backstory and they’ll know your story as in-depth as you do.
TRIPLE POINTS if you can combine a few of the above. Let’s face it we all love reading that the MC just woke up and those last two explosive action filled pages were all a dream.
*This list is not comprehensive!
**This post is clearly in jest. We totally recommend against these things as an opening, and if you choose to do them anyway, proceed with extreme caution.
Now, we are not implying you can’t mention the weather, shoot a glance at a reflection or even blow up a building, but there is a right way and a wrong way to go about it.
This 1st Chapter breaks many rules if you take them at face value. It mentions the weather several times, ‘It was seventy-five degrees in Phoenix, the sky a perfect, cloudless blue.’, ‘Forks exists under a near-constant cover of clouds’ and ‘ landed in Port Angeles, it was raining.’ are all written within the first two pages.
There is backstory, ‘It was from this town and its gloomy, omnipresent shade that my mother escaped with me when I was only a few months old. It was in this town that I’d been compelled to spend a month every summer until I was fourteen. That was the year I finally put my foot down; these past three summers, my dad, Charlie, vacationed with me in California for two weeks instead.’
Twilight also presents with another of the frowned upon openings not mentioned above, Extended Dialogue. Opening with two people talking that the reader has no clue who they are can make it even harder for the reader to feel grounded.
So how did Twilight get away with it?
The key is to know why you are breaking the rules. The weather is important in Twilight, the juxtaposition of light and dark, sunny and miserable, it is key to the overall story. As too is the Dialogue between Bella and her mother, their relationship is shown in the interaction between them even if we don’t yet know what they look like. The backstory is important to point out how where she is headed links to who she is, and is kept brief enough to not take from but rather adds to the grounding of the reader.
So now that you are sufficiently confused about what you can and can’t do to start your story, remember there is one thing that you should never forget and that is, it is your story.