Starting a story

by Melissa

Question: Maybe this is stupid but I'm reading a book on how to write a novel and apparently I am starting it wrong. It's supposed to start with a scene but in my novel it starts with Jude talking/writing. I originally did that b/c at the end you realize that Jude is actually writing his pieces for Katie. Now I'm thinking maybe I should just do strict multiple first person (Jude and Katie) and give flash backs here and there. but then I don't have a cool ending. If I start with Jude's thoughts/writing it won't "hook the reader" and I need to do that so the editor will keep reading.

Answer: I generally don't critique manuscripts or passages on this site, for the simple reason that there are not enough hours in the day to handle all the requests I would get.

However, I can try to respond to your question.

A scene is a good way to begin a novel because it gets the reader quickly involved in the action. It's particularly great for action driven stories and genres. However, it is not the only way. In novels that are more character-driven, readers can also be hooked by an intriguing character or voice or observation. In fact, many brilliant novels do not begin immediately with a scene. Look around at other books in your genre to see what some of the possibilities are.

Second, I should point out that you could transform the opening you sent me into more of a concrete scene. The kid throwing up in the cancer ward who wants to play sports - there's potential for a scene there.

Try to remember that there are no hard and fast rules, just guidelines and tips other writers have discovered and passed on. Even the best story theorists I know would say that your passion and instinct are usually more valuable than strict adherence to any rule. Treat the rules as possible ways to improve your story, especially if you get stuck, but don't be a slave to them.

What matters is that you hook the reader, not that you hook the reader in a particular way.

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