I love writing openings. For me, it’s the best part of the novel, when everything’s fresh and exciting, when nothing’s gotten bogged down with complications.
Every once in a while, though, I struggle to come up with the right beginning. And I know I’m not alone.
When trying to craft the perfect first page, here are the things I keep in mind:
- Avoid overused or boring beginnings. Having your character wake up might seem like a natural start, but it’s usually not very interesting. Of course, there are exceptions, and if your character wakes up under intriguing circumstances, this could work.
- Avoid fake starts. Take starting with a dream as an example. A lot of new writers try this, and a lot of experienced writers caution against it. A dream might seem like an easy way to make things exciting right away, but readers are trying to figure out what your character’s world is like. A dream at the very beginning is just going to confuse things. And if readers find the dream interesting, they might be disappointed when it ends and the real story begins. Other fake beginnings—such as starting with a story within a story or during a role playing game—are just as problematic.
- Avoid pointless action. We all want our opening pages to burst with excitement, but that excitement has to be meaningful. Starting with a battle when we don’t know who’s fighting or why isn’t necessarily going to hold our attention.
- Introduce your characters. The first pages need to get readers invested in the main characters. Show readers who your characters are, and make sure those characters are interesting.
- Include tension. The tension doesn’t have to be a fight to the death, but there should be some sort of mystery or problem. Hopefully, this problem will help develop the character or foreshadow the plot. Ideally, it will do both.
- Develop the tone of your book. Is the story supposed to be funny? Romantic? Adventurous? Try to convey this in the first pages.