7 Ways to Create a Thrilling Novel Beginning - #WriteTip


Novel beginnings are tricky. Not to mention all the "so-called" rules you must follow. You need to "hook" the reader (agent) from page one and reel them in. If you want your work to LEAP out of the slush pile and get an editor's interest, then you must achieve that with the first paragraph.

You want to draw your reader in so quickly she’s already on page 10 by the time she dares to take a breath. Put your characters into the middle of terrible trouble, which can be physical, or emotional. Terror, sorrow, desire, rage, embarrassment—find an emotion and bring it out in the reader.

But, I can hear you say, how can my readers connect with my characters if they don’t know more about their background, their appearance, OR their goals, motivations, and conflicts?

First, trust your reader. If you’ve started your characters at point where they’re in the midst of trouble that is going to require them to risk something physically or emotionally, then the reader is going to connect to them right away.

So hit the ground running either emotionally or physically. You need to have that emotional connection established right from the get-go. Then your reader/editor will immediately become a part of the story and have a curiosity in seeing how the characters resolve their differences, confront their fears, and overcome adversity.

Okay, I just started reading this debut novel BEAUTIFUL CREATURES by Margaret Stohl and Kami Garcia, which is thick. At 576 pages, this is a BIG book no doubt about it. This Young Adult novel has gotten rave reviews and I couldn't wait to read it. (Cause ya all know how much I love all things supernatural!)

Okay, the book has a LOT of the so-called writing "no-no’s"

It starts with a prologue

The first chapter begins with a dream

Its 576 pages (word count has to be over 80k)

The first 22 pages have absolutely NO action, just describes in detail what the protagonist had for breakfast, his ride to school, the town, and his classes. Kind of slow.

But the writing is amazing and the preface helps you to get through all this description because you know eventually the plot is going to get interesting. So, far I'm enjoying it. And now that about 50 pages into it I’m having a hard time putting it down. It's an updated version of King's "Carrie."

It breaks the rule of your first YA novel having to be "under" 80k

It breaks the rule of having your story start with a dream

It breaks the rule of "not" opening with action

It breaks the rule about having a preface

Look, all I’m trying to point out here is that obviously there is always an exception to the rule(s). And I just found it remarkable that this debut novel broke some of the so-called rules. Don't you guys find it interesting, too?

I'm not saying my writing is good enough to do them either. I’m not referring to my work at all. I’m just pointing out that they did it in theirs and seemed to get away with it. The book is getting great reviews and the reviews I've read by teenage readers said they wished the book was longer, too. Which amazed me as well. Because I was somewhat daunted when I first picked it up—it’s so dang thick!

Just thought it was weird that as I'm reading this book last night, I'm thinking to myself, "What the heck? These writers aren’t following protocol!” LOL But you guys know I love a rebel! (he he)

You know what I’m thinking? I’m thinking it may have had a different opening. Perhaps they added the prologue and the dream beginning “after” working with the agent. I mean, who knows?

I’m going to email the authors and ask a few questions about this and I’ll post it here on my blog. I’ll let you guys know what I find out. How come they were able to publish a book and hook an agent, breaking some of the rules? (never answered my email)

Well, I for one wanna know! ;-)

What do you guys think? Now, take an unbiased look at your first page. How many questions are unanswered? If there are none or very few, then look at your first chapter and see where the real questions, the real excitement, starts, then put that at the beginning of your manuscript.

Feel free to post your favorite novel beginning!

QUOTE: "Slow writing with a lot of description puts me off very quickly. I like a first chapter that moves quickly and draws me in so I’m immediately hooked.” —Andrea Hurst, Andrea Hurst Literary Management

End Chapters Earlier.

We've all heard the axiom, "Start after the beginning and end before the end. Go to each chapter and cut down the last paragraph. It may not apply to every chapter, but more often than not, after you've gone through the chapter, you may find that by simply cutting out that last paragraph, the scene ends better. More drama. More tension. 

I encourage you to give it a try. Go to each chapter and cut out the last paragraph. Just do it. You can always put it back if it's not right for that scene, but try it. You just might find that it ends a little better.

The goals of any opening scene:

Successfully introduce the story problem/conflict
Hook the reader on opening page
Establish the rules (consistency throughout)
Beginning must be connected to the rest of the story
Forecast (foreshadowing) the ending of the novel

I hope this post inspires you to revise your own opener and create a thrilling beginning.


Also, read THE WRITER'S GUIDE TO A BESTSELLING NOVEL for more inspiration!

Awesome Tips on Crafting a Riveting Story that instantly Grabs Your Reader...

This manual offers amazing techniques for creating stronger beginnings and ways to write a page-turning plot for your fiction novel. Writers will learn how to make their first pages so intriguing with chapter “hooks” that the reader won’t be able to put the book down.

Easy to follow step-by-step instructions on creating a comprehensive plot with the three-act structure using the dynamic templates provided in this guidebook, whether you’re a plotter or more of a pantser. Each chapter provides comprehensive tips on storytelling, which every writer needs to plot like an experienced pro without a complicated outline.

Topics in this book include...

    6 Popular Genre Plot Templates
    3 Extensive Character Templates
    Tools to Create a Page-Turning First Chapter
    Advice on Writing Scene Hooks
    Simple Breakdown on Story Structure
    Advice from Bestselling Authors on Plotting

Also, writers will gain the tools needed to blend character goals within any scene to improve pacing, and instantly strengthen the narrative. Plus, bonus advice on self-publishing and genre word counts. Whether you’re writing an intense thriller or a sweeping romance, all novels follow the same basic outline described in detail within this book.

1 comment

  1. I like throwing people in the middle of my story. I get bored writing the every day stuff. I'm no Murakami, where even making spaghetti is super interesting. I wish I was but alas, I am lacking...right now.


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