One Novel Beginning To Avoid

I often judge writing contests for unpublished writers. Many times, especially when it's a Romance Writers of America contest, the writing is so good that I'm in awe. I've got to admit that RWA leads the pack in teaching the narrative techniques.

Unfortunately, there are the other contest entries where the writers haven't quite made the leap to writing publishable fiction. You can see that in the novel beginning.

Here's a tip, based on what I see in many contest entries, on one thing to avoid in your novel beginning.

Novel Beginning To Avoid

Opening with a dream sequence where all the action is in the character's head.

Novices think that opening with a highly dramatic scene in which the dreaming character faces her own specific horror, fraught with emotion and action, draws the reader in.

No. That's usually not the case. Here's why.

Upon opening a book, the reader does not know the character so the character's suffering does not move the reader. In fact, it can be a rather ho-hum experience for the reader who will more than likely skip ahead to find out where the real story begins. That's right, the real story--not a dream sequence which is just mood setting.

More About Why

As a writer, you must realize what you are striving for immediately is reader identification. You want the reader to say: "yeah, I understand that guy/girl. I like him/her. I'll follow the story for 400 pages to see what happens along the way."

The reader must "bond" with the character and care about the character. This is done by seeing how the character acts and reacts, by seeing the character's goals and efforts to achieve them, by getting acquainted with the character. You can't get acquainted with a dreaming character.

Save that nightmare or dream scene that explains the character's deepest motivation for later in the book--after the reader is already acquainted with the character and is willing to follow on the character's goal quest.

Takeaway Truth

Your number one priority in writing is to make the reader identity and like--or at least be intensely interested in--the main character.

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