Friday, April 26, 2013

First Chapter No-Nos

I found this very interesting (and helpful) blog post about How Not to Start a Novel. It's basically a bunch of quotes from editors about the things they see in first chapters that make them toss the manuscript in the wastebasket immediately. Some of them are kind of surprising- not surprising that editors wouldn't like them, but surprising that some people even do them.


I don’t like it when the main character dies at the end of Chapter 1.

People do this? Sure, George R.R. Martin can get away with killing a POV character in the first novel, but even he waited until nearly the end of the book to do it. The first chapter?  No wonder the editor feels cheated.

Characters that are moving around doing little things, but essentially nothing. Washing dishes & thinking, staring out the window & thinking, tying shoes, thinking.

Well, this is what I do all day, but my life is totally boring and I would never subject a reader to that.

 I don’t like an opening line that’s ‘My name is…,’ introducing the narrator to the reader so blatantly.

It worked for Herman Melville...but that was more than a century ago. Also, it's really hard to find people who like Moby Dick (I mean, I do, but I'm a bit weird. And even I think it could have used an editor with a supply of red pens).

 In romance, I can’t stand this scenario: A woman is awakened to find a strange man in her bedroom—and then automatically finds him attractive. I’m sorry, but if I awoke to a strange man in my bedroom, I’d be reaching for a weapon—not admiring the view.

I have never read a book that started this way.  I don't care if he's freaking Michael Fassbender, I'd be sticking a shiv in his gut before I even looked at his body. Does anyone know of any books that actually begin with this situation? I'm curious. Maybe some did but the wise editors threw it out.

A rape scene in a Christian novel in the first chapter.

I can't say I've ever read a Christian novel but...goodness gracious.

 I don’t like descriptions of the characters where writers make them too perfect. Heroines (and heroes) who are described physically as being virtually unflawed come across as unrelatable and boring.

Yep, yep. I definitely could never relate to a beautiful person. On good days I try for 'not unsightly'.

One more not mentioned in this blog post: don't start a book with your main character waking up. It's waaaaaaay too common and it's too easy to exploit as an information dump. When I wake up I don't spend time gazing at my surroundings and contemplating my life; I'm too busy trying to sneak out of bed and get to the living room to work out before my son gets up.

1 comment:

  1. In manly literature, of which I have read (too) much, many books start with a man waking up with a beautiful woman. But the author takes pains to explain that they're developed a long-time relationship that's been nurtured and grown during the last couple of drinks.