Author: Robin Rivera
Robin trained as a professional historian and worked as a museum curator, an educator and historical consultant. She writes dark young adult fiction, with diverse characters. She's currently querying a novel, and working on two new manuscripts that started off as NaNoWriMo projects. You can follow her on Facebook(https://www.facebook.com/robin.rivera.90813) or on Twitter @robinrwrites. However, Pinterest (https://www.pinterest.com/RRWrites/) is where her inner magpie is happiest of all.
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25 thoughts on “5 Common Story Openings Done Wrong”
Thank you for these great tips. I recently read a murder mystery, where the writer told who the murderer was 3 charters into the story. Needless to say, I didn’t finish the book. What was the point? I have used opening #5 for my latest book, and it was a small scene from about the middle of the book. But it did work.
Thanks for stopping by. I’m glad you liked the tips. I hate it when books start by giving too much away. I will stop reading if the mystery is gone. I’m glad #5 worked out for your project. Happy Halloween!
Hi, I fell in love with your blog during the A to Z challenge and regret not visiting more often, but I was trying hard to visit as many blogs as possible . I bookmarked your blog as one I didn’t want to miss , after the challenge ended. I’m so glad I did. This was an excellent post on how openings can go wrong . I like your fresh approach on the topic. I’ve read many posts that offer wise information about what to avoid in our opening, but many of them shared the exact same advice . You’ve given us several scenarios that I haven’t seen covered in other articles . I like that you’ve demonstrated ways the opening can work, but also when it doesn’t . My biggest pet peeve is an opening that starts with a bang or a death , but one that ends up having little
to do with the actual story.
You are so nice. I’m always interested in opening, I think I’ve written at three posts on them. I think they set the tone of the whole story. I’m a huge fan of the bang, when it keeps on happening!
A to Z is a great place to find new blogs, but a bad time to try and follow new blogs. I ended up bookmarking the ones I wanted to keep up with too. I’m so glad we found each other during the challenge. : )
As a mystery writer I loved this post. Have used a couple of those openings if you count my WIP. Thanks for following my blog. I think I’m going to love yours.
Thanks, Noelle! I’m glad you stopped by. A to Z was crazy busy. I still feel like I’m in a slow motion recover phase. Good thing it’s only once a year. : )
Those are certainly good ways to open a story, but you do have to be careful with how you use them.
I’m glad you liked the post. : )
I have a little story in the works, which I think I might publish as a small 2 or 3 piece series on my blog that does start with death. But as death will lead us to want to know more, go back in the persons past…
Death can be a great hook, you just have to make it work. If you’re using it as the start of a story that is about unraveling the dead person’s past it sounds like it might be good opening. Good luck with the story.
I review for a blog and have seen a lot of openings. Some are really fantastic and grab you right away. I’ll always remember the opener for The Book Thief narrated by Death.
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I love that opening! I’ve talked about it in blog posts before. It’s very unique. I’ve done quite a bit of research on openings, and when the writer nails it, it’s magic! But it’s not magic that happens often enough. : (
I cringed reading #1. I have a character die in the first chapter of my next series. However, I think it was a wise decision since the series is about kids who can see ghosts! Well, I’ll find out if it works when I publish the book!
I think death is the most common opening around. Just think about how many books for kids start out with the death of one or both parents. It’s mind boggling! But don’t cringe, just make sure you’ve used the death in the right way and made it relevant to the story, which it sounds like it is. 🙂 Also that you keep it age appropriate.
Great examples, Robin. I agree with all of them, and I also like this point at the end of #4:
“This opening needs to show (or at least hint at) a creditable story complication, the evil hiding behind the mask of beauty, and that shake-up needs to happen pretty fast. Without some discord even a paradise grows dull.”
If done right, this approach can work really well. It’s sort of the way I went for my WIP’s opening scene: It starts off normal to introduce the character and show why she’s admirable / likeable – and then on Page 4, the complication that launches both the internal and external conflicts. I think it works… I hope it works. I’ll find out for sure once my beta-readers have it, I guess. *lol*
Four is a tricky one. We want everyone to like our characters, but we don’t want them to come off as so perfect they’re annoying. It’s all about balance, and finding the right approach for each story. All of these opening are potentially good, you just need to find the right place to pull back.
Good luck with the betas, I can’t wait to hear how things are going.
Thanks! It won’t be for a while; I’m still revising the WIP. But I can’t help but think ahead to future stages from time to time. Does that happen to you too?
Absolutely! I’m a freak about planning ahead. And I tend to worry about everything. One of my resolutions this year is to stop second guessing myself so much and to learn to trust my writer instincts.
Have I ever used one? Of course! In my first novel I opened with a dream, that was really more of a vision, but still. Then I changed it to an argument between spouses — and that bombed because it made my protagonist look like a jerk. The worse part was, it was published in the local paper. The article now hangs in my sun room — my husband is my loudest cheerleader and he refuses to take it down — reminding me how terrible my writing was back then. LOL
Oh, boy! I know exactly what you mean. One of my first short stories, which is also out in the world in an undisclosed location, (hides face in hands) had this big argument that went on and on! It was a total mess. Stock opening are stock for a reason, we’ve all fallen into their trap at one time or another.
#5 is particularly dangerous, because we are told to start with action… but that kind of action means nothing because we don’t know the character yet. D’oh! Great list. 🙂
In YA books #5 is the go to opening, it’s used in tons of highly successful books in one variation or another. The tricky part is to make sure you use it in a way that reveals the characters and stays consistent with the rest of the book. I can’t stand reading books that open with a big bang of action and just get slower and slower! I feel cheated, like the author tricked me into thinking the book would be a thriller.
Ooo! That’s how I feel when a book opens with awesome action and then turns into a slow romance. That’s not what I was hoping to read!
It can be frustrating when you get thrown into the action and then the event isn’t followed through. It’s like reading a book backwards! I’ve read many where the action is slow to start, and that’s okay of you get what you were hoping for by the end 🙂
Great tips. They especially help during either the planning or reflection stages. A kind of check-list; things to look out for. We’ve been taught so many times how important the introduction is – to lead with a hook, but it still needs to be prevalent to the plot.
Thanks, Mel. A hook is great, but not when it’s misleading to the reader. I think it’s a tone thing with an action opening, if you want to lead with that, just keep it coming!