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On Beginning a Novel

Anonymous asked: “Do you have any advice for how to best begin a story? I want to create an opening that is engaging and exciting, but it’s hard to balance that with introducing characters and making the reader care about them. Any tips?”

You might be asking more than any one writer can help with. I don’t think there’s necessarily a formula for a good, engaging beginning. There are a few things though that can help. First, let us meet the character and then find out what they want. 

Character introductions can be a struggle, really I think it works best if you can show us who this character is by placing them in a situation right off the bat that will give us context. For instance, I love the opening chapters of Labyrinth Lost. I can’t say I loved the rest of it quite as much, but the opening introduces you to the character Alex, it shows that she is a bruja and also what that means to her. She is a daughter and a sister – her family clearly means the world to her. I recommend checking out the preview on Goodreads. This was a very strong opening. You quickly get a sense of her life, what she cares about, and a quick glimpse of what she wants. 

You need to show the reader what your character wants early – what your character wants will direct the plot. It also will very quickly help get the reader on their side. Reader want motivated characters to get what they want. 

The last thing you need is an inciting incident. This is the thing that kicks off the plot and launches the character into their journey forward. What big thing happens that sets off your characters? It helps if this thing is wrapped up in the central conflict. 

If your still struggling with beginnings, I recommend looking at books in the genre you’re writing in that have been published in the last 10 years. Even just going on Amazon and reading the first chapter of a few different books might help generate some ideas to get you going. 

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