I have been writing for quite a while now, yet I still don’t have a formula for writing the perfect first page that will captivate every reader. Rather than brainstorming for hours the best way to start a book, I thought I’d come up with five ways not to start a book. After all, if you don’t know what to do, you can at least try to figure out what not to do.
1. Don’t have your MC wake up with amnesia. Although it might work for some people, I personally believe that if you’re trying to interest someone your best bet is to avoid confusing them. The first page of a book is the writer’s chance to audition for the reader, to catch their attention, and just imagine how things would go at an audition where the person auditioning doesn’t seem to know what their act is.
2. Don’t have long and lazy description of the landscape. I suppose there might be certain circumstances where describing the setting right off the bat could intrigue the reader. For instance, if you opened with “the fire rapidly engulfed the forest, painting it a bright mix of red and yellow”, there is a decent chance you reader is going to want to stick around to find out why the forest is on fire and if someone or something is going to stop it. Still, if you continue on for the next several paragraphs talking about nothing but how the fire eats away at the trees and turns the grass into mere ashes, your reader might get sick of waiting for answers and decide to put your book down, which is never a good thing.
3. Don’t describe your MC’s everyday, mundane life. Now if your main character’s everyday life is super exciting, like say every morning they jump out of a plane and parachute into the ocean, it might not be a bad idea to start with what is normal for them. On the other hand, if your character is a cool, albeit normal person, you might be better off starting with an exciting event in their life. No one wants to start a book and be greeted by teeth brushing and shoe tying.
4. Don’t have your characters whine. At the beginning of the book the reader isn’t attached to your characters, so it isn’t too easy for them to have sympathy. I’m not saying you can’t ever let your character express their pain, but doing it right at the beginning might give the wrong impression. After all, would you tell a person you just met your greatest woes?
5. Don’t act like the reader already knows something they don’t. This don’t applies to the whole book, not just the beginning, and it is a really good thing to remember in order to avoid confusing the reader. There is a balance between immersing the reader into your world and assuming they know just as much about it as you do. You shouldn’t give the reader an explanation for every little thing as soon as you introduce it, but you also shouldn’t give a detailed description of something brand new and act like the reader knows what it is.
Alright, so that is all I have for today; the muse has been emptied. I hope you enjoyed the post!