What NOT to Write in Your Story Opening


Writers, you need to wow the reader from page one, especially if you are trying to get an agent or editor in traditional publishing. So here are a few tips of what NOT to do in your opening.
Never start your story with:

1. The "to be" verb variations: what a waste of space. If you can avoid the "he was"/"there are" constructions, please do. There are myriad verbs out there--strong, potent, visceral verbs that are just waiting to be adopted and molded by a loving author!

2. Falling asleep or waking up: overdone and boring, and a real snoozer! Very few writers can pull off a character sleeping without putting the reader into a coma. Your story probably has a better place to start than sleep.

3. Dreaming, which is not the same as waking up/sleeping: not because it's boring, because dreams can be vivid and exciting, but because it's trite and we don't know the character well enough yet to give a rat about their psychological dramas. Try starting in their real world first, then contrast that by moving to the dreamscape world and contrast the two. Then the reader will feel the tension!

4. The weather or storms or skies: this is what folks talk about when they got nothing else to say. Frankly, it's a lazy way to start your story. EVEN IF your story is about weather, it's always better to open with a character we can start to care about.

5. A line of dialogue: we don't know anyone in your story yet, so we have no reason to care about what they say. Most times we don't even know who's talking, so it's speech by an "empty head" and agents/editors dislike that.

6. An inciting incident: we just aren't ready to jump off the cliff with your character yet. If you jump into high action too soon, we haven't built up momentum/tension/fear/anticipation with you yet. Let us be with the characters a few minutes and start to care about them before you throw us to the wolves.

7. The word "it" or "something" or any variations of the two: again, wasted space, wasted words. We need to be wowed, not bored with your opening language. And poor choices in words convey to agents, editors, and even the general reader that you are not a seasoned writer.

8. Adverbs to boost your boring verb: if you have to add the adverb, you probably chose a weak verb to begin with, and editors/agents will think you are a freshman writer. Master writers go for strong verbs.

Use this list to challenge yourself to write stronger, more sensory and verb-oriented openings. Good luck!

The Editor Devil