How important is the opening line to your novel? Some would say it’s a make or break scenario, and much discussion has taken place on many a message board over this very issue. Here are a few it’s probably best to avoid:
- Once upon a time. A startling lack of originality here, and heavily influenced by children’s fairy tales, which ain’t so good if you’re writing a political thriller. Or maybe . . .?
- Extended scenery and description. The vast majority of readers these days will prefer to be plunged into the plot, some action, or some insights into the character, not waves crashing onto rocks, or butterflies floating through meadows.
- A dream sequence. Unconvincing. Let’s face it, the dreams we have can be pretty wild. But they’re rarely connected to our everyday lives, so it’s tricky to build on a dream and make it believable.
- Giving too much away too soon. Okay, so you’ve got a killer plot, and you want the world to know the story. Too many details and too much back story can stifle the reader. Let your characters breathe, build tension, create drama page by page, but steady as she goes.
- Extended dialogue. Important to use this to drive the story and to characterise, but, unless it’s spectacularly good, too much dialogue at the start (or in other places) can cease to be natural.
When I began writing Sliding on the Snow Stone, I opened with a prologue – another device which has come under criticism by many commentators as inadvisable to use. However, I did! And I’ll be covering the use of prologues in a subsequent post.