Rookie Mistakes ~ Opening Scenes

4 Jul

We’ve all committed these terrible atrocities at one time or another, I figure it’s good to get them out into the open. Todays “Rookie Mistake”?

Opening Scenes

1. The Dream sequence.

How many novels have you read that opened with a dream sequence? How many have you written? Don’t lie, we’ve all done it. But, there is a reason novelist steer clear from dream sequences (in the beginning at least). For one, they usually (if they are being used properly which, I might add, they usually aren’t!) are there to give us foreshadowing or to hint at something that is troubling the character, and with dreams it usually comes in the form of something abstract, and completely intangible to the reader.

At the beginning of a novel readers have no basis from which to care about your MC. So the abstract construction is a set up for failure. Your readers know nothing about your characters inner turmoil’s, readers want instantaneous gratification for picking up a novel, and far more often than not a dream sequence does not provide that. Not only is it cliché, but it also can become confusing for the reader leaving them feeling cheated. Bottom line, avoid the dream sequence beginning if at all possible.

2. The Mundane Mornings

Naturally are minds begin at the beginning and go to the end. Thus, it makes sense that we would automatically want to start writing our stories at the beginning of a day with are character, they wake up, note a large zit they have, eat breakfast, blah blah BLAH! Guys I could cry telling you about all the novels I’ve seen (and embarrassingly enough have started) this way.

NO ONE CARES that your character woke up. There is no purpose in the “morning scenes”. All I can say is DO NOT UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCE begin your novel with the “Mundane Morning” routine of your character. It will save your beta readers, a lot of headaches.

3. Character Description

Bangs-head-against-wall! UGH. I don’t know how many times I’ve seen this in critiquing work. It kills me. You get a whole paragraph of description in the first couple of pages. WHY!? Where is the action? the hook?

All I’m seeing is a rather boring speech about “Mary Sues” Cherry read lips and lean figure. Not enticing. NOT WORTH READING! Character description should be sprinkled SPARINGLY and precisely through out the novel. We do not need a full paragraph of description; it serves no purpose other than to bore us!

4. Info dump

Shoot me now. Even worse than a lengthy character description is that of an info dump in the first chapter. If you don’t know what an info dump is, then let me tell you. It’s basically a huge amount of information dumped on the reader, usually in a summary using passive voice. It sucks, it makes your eyes bleed….


5. NO Direction

Every scene in a novel needs direction, has to have a point all leading up to your climax. Even if your first chapter doesn’t have 1-4 you still may have to rewrite it. Even if it’s amazing; has suspense, and tension, and great flashbacks. Why? If it is not starting your character on a quest it needs cut.

        I’m not saying there needs to be an immediate trigger that flings your character into the heart of the conflict. I’m saying that the first chapter should be leading into that trigger it should have some foreshadowing or SOMETHING to show what the main conflict will be, whether it be a flashback, a bit of dialogue, whatever, it needs to show us where we are headed.

I hope you enjoyed me babbling about bad beginnings, I have made ALL of theses mistakes, so don’t feel too bad when you discover you have too.  Did I miss anything?


10 Responses to “Rookie Mistakes ~ Opening Scenes”

  1. The Illusive Man July 4, 2011 at 12:04 pm #

    Great post! I admit to doing all of the above! :/

    • nkeda14 July 4, 2011 at 4:39 pm #

      Sadly, don’t we all? LOL

  2. harmamae July 4, 2011 at 5:31 pm #

    Good advice! “It was all a dream” is a bad thing to end with too…
    Interestingly enough, Jane Austen began at least two of her novels with an “info-dump” (Sense and Sensibility, and Persuasion).

    • nkeda14 July 4, 2011 at 6:40 pm #

      Yeah but she’s Jane Austen… last time I checked I wasn’t Jane Austen.

      The way novels are written now, is different than it was back then too. Now it’s all about visual and sensory, I guess because of TV and movies and stuff.

      Jane didn’t know what a TV was. LOL

      • harmamae July 4, 2011 at 9:22 pm #

        Yes, I wouldn’t dare to try that myself. Some people I know have had trouble getting into her books because of that exact problem – but yes, like you said, she gets away with it because she’s Austen, and novels were different back then.

  3. peacesigngirl21 July 4, 2011 at 8:37 pm #

    Oh, gosh . . . I admit to being guilty of all of the above. And I’m terrible at spreading information throughout a book, which means I dump loads of information at a time. And I’m trying to make my book longer, so I’ve started the entire thing years before the main character realizes she’s not normal . . . but only for about the first three chapters. Then she’s going straight into the action. 😀

    • nkeda14 July 5, 2011 at 11:49 am #

      Hmm, well i’d have to read it to see what you mean, but good luck on your book 😀

      Just make sure your extra wording isn’t just filler!

  4. Anonymous July 4, 2011 at 11:27 pm #

    I’m guilty of all of the above, but mostly info dumping. It’s my curse. Haha. It’s funny, but it never seems like info dumping while I’m writing it the first time. I remember reading somewhere sometime that when you go back to rewrite your novel, you should consider completely cutting out the first chapter, because so many people write inconsequential things into the first chapter.

  5. gabriellan July 4, 2011 at 11:30 pm #

    I’m guilty of all of the above, but mostly info dumping. It’s my curse. Haha. It’s funny, but it never seems like info dumping at the time when I’m writing it. Then I go back and I’m like: “… you’re boring YOURSELF.”

    I remember reading somewhere one time that a lot of the time you can completely cut out the first chapter of an unedited novel and immediately make the story better. I guess a lot of people mess up their beginnings!

    • nkeda14 July 5, 2011 at 11:48 am #

      Yeah I guess its because we want to ‘get it all out’ when we begin writing. 😀

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