Saturday, April 6, 2013

Cliche openings and other things that I've seen a lot of recently

It is very common to run across a number of submissions that have similar openings. I wanted to share what I see a lot of, and what will probably dissuade me from reading further.

1. We first see the character when they are waking up and going through a routine.
2. A dream. This sort of goes along with number 1.
3. Flashback.
4. A very descriptive/wordy opening that is all telling. The imagery may be well written, but it's always important to consider how everything you include works to move the story forward, or helps with character development. Is there another way to establish the setting?

Another thing I find quite often is a prologue. While prologues can be great, it's always a good idea to ask yourself if it is absolutely necessary.

Pet peeve: I've recently read a number of YA submissions where the characters attend a party, which I totally understand, but I didn't really see the significance, why the scene was important, or how it helped move the plot forward/tied into the rest of the story.

- Everything should tie together. I've come across scenes that really don't serve a purpose. I would always recommend considering why something is important, and how does whatever it is affect later events? Always think of cause and effect...even with character motivation!

When you read so many queries that have similar themes, they tend to all start to sound similar...with a similar voice, similar characters, settings etc. If the pages don't stand out, we won't want to read any further.

I would love to hear your thoughts. Thanks so much for reading!



Sam F. said...

Good point about the parties! I hadn't thought about it before, but they can be very unnecessary.

Anonymous said...

I have to chuckle b/c I had a (non-writer) friend read my novel recently--which starts with the MC running away from someone in the forest-- and she said, "It's a little much right off the bat. How about he wakes up in the forest?" (Um, thank you for the advice, sweetie. But I'm gonna hafta go with NO.) ;-)

ALR said...

But what if it WAS all a dream? ;-)

AnnLaBar said...

Are queries ever too different or too weird? Are you attracted to really out of the box ideas? I wonder how many rejections a book like Life of Pi received.

Kim (YA Asylum) said...

I agree with your list. It's really hard to write a good starter. In my opinion, once you finish the manuscript it's a lot easier to figure out if the opening is right. It's also easier to find the right opening that way too. When you're done writing, you know what's important for the reader to know right away.

Great post!

Sarah said...

I've noticed a lot of dream/waking up openings in the books I've been reading lately. You raised an interesting point about parties in YA!

Michael Henderson said...

I notice that a lot of young writers use very long and tedious prologues as a way to establish the world in which the story takes place. I hate that. One of my novels has a prologue of about three sentences because I wanted a hint at what is coming. My other novels don't use it.

Never start with a dream

Never make it all a dream

If you use a dream in a story (which I have done) make it short and sweet, and make it meaningful in the story.

Good post

Brittni Chenelle Wilson said...

Great post. I just saw an interview you did on a blog called Falling For Fiction. It had a lot of awesome information. Thank you.

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