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We each have our own way of starting the first chapter. And there's people telling us different things about how to start them.
Some say we should open it with a pow, make the reader want to continue! No one likes dull, everyday-life starts!
Others say its perfectly fine to start off calm and ordinary. Build up some background and hint at the upcoming tension. Many great movies and novels do this.

My question to you guys is.....what do YOU think is right?
Which is the better option for novels?

Do you start off action-like or peaceful?
Would either of these openings turn you off if you read them in a book?
Personally, when I start out a story I act as if the reader already knows what I'm talking about.
For example-

"Jenna is pregnant. I'm not sure whether that's a good thing or not."

The reader doesn't know who Jenna is, the story behind her pregnancy, and why the main character seems torn between feelings about it. This makes the readers interested, where I fill this information in for them later in the story. Which makes them want to flip the pages to learn more. I find this has always worked for me. :]
You need to start with a hook, but don't get confused; a hook can be anything that makes the reader want to continue, it can be intrigue, hints of conflict or tension. There really is no point starting your story like a boring diary, talking about useless facts that no one besides The writer cares about because people read to escape the boring drivel of everyday life, not relive it in story form. A hook is an absolute necessity. Action just happens to be one of the easiest ones to pull off.
Diamond Rika's avatar

Blessed Fairy

I like to start mine in the middle of some sort of action because I feel it pulls people in faster. However, I've seen it done successfully both ways.

For really great examples, I love the Dresden Files. One of them opens with "The building was on fire, and it wasn't my fault." It's kind of an inside joke referring to Harry Dresden's tendency to set things on fire but even if you didn't know that... you'd probably read it because you'd be like "...wait ...what?" xd
I think it really depends on the story when it comes to the beginning you choose. For example, I don't think a romance novel would typically start out with an action scene,but a story that requires a lot of action would almost be expected to start out with a fight or something. And most mysteries start out with the murder sequence or a scene directly after it.

The beginning should set the mood for the story; maybe not show what the story is about just yet, but at least let the reader know what type of story it's going to be. Of course, like Cogent Dream said, it should be something interesting. The mundane life beginning can get boring real fast if you don't have the dramatic change start showing up quick enough.

With that said, all of my stories start out with some kind of conflict that's apparent in the first chapter . If not the main conflict, then it's a smaller one that leads up to it.
They both are. Either one can be interesting.

You should focus on that int he first chapter (and the rest of the story.)
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I use which ever type of opening fits the story best. I've used mood/tone builders, action scenes, and once opened with the main character's thoughts on something that hadn't been made clear to the reader yet. It's not necessarily what the opening is, so much as how you write it, that will keep the reader reading. The right wording can make even the most mundane things interesting.
Diamond Rika's avatar

Blessed Fairy

Kairi Nightingale
I think it really depends on the story when it comes to the beginning you choose. For example, I don't think a romance novel would typically start out with an action scene,but a story that requires a lot of action would almost be expected to start out with a fight or something. And most mysteries start out with the murder sequence or a scene directly after it.

The beginning should set the mood for the story; maybe not show what the story is about just yet, but at least let the reader know what type of story it's going to be. Of course, like Cogent Dream said, it should be something interesting. The mundane life beginning can get boring real fast if you don't have the dramatic change start showing up quick enough.

With that said, all of my stories start out with some kind of conflict that's apparent in the first chapter . If not the main conflict, then it's a smaller one that leads up to it.
I used the term "action" pretty loosely there; I should have said "in the middle of a scene." I've been known to open chapters and stories mid-conversation as well. smile
Diamond Rika
I used the term "action" pretty loosely there; I should have said "in the middle of a scene." I've been known to open chapters and stories mid-conversation as well. smile


lol Oh, it's fine. I understood what you meant. I was actually thinking in terms of an action movie when I used it in my post though. XD

Hm, a curious thought just popped up: is 'action' a book genre as well as a movie genre? I'm pretty sure it is but I don't remember ever hearing it when referring to a book.... *google*. Oh, it is. I would think that since so many books incorporate action in them, it wouldn't need it's own genre.... oh, well. :3
To me something needs to be going on. Something that will interest the reader and to some degree set a general course for the story. Could be as minor a game gone bad that sets off the end of the world (Norse Code) or a fleeting being destroyed and a main character captured (Conqueror's Trilogy).

Different stories require different starts, but the constant to me is something has to be going on. Some will require a bigger start and others not so much. Some will require one in order to contrast with what's to follow it.

TLDR: It depends.
Diamond Rika
Kairi Nightingale
I think it really depends on the story when it comes to the beginning you choose. For example, I don't think a romance novel would typically start out with an action scene,but a story that requires a lot of action would almost be expected to start out with a fight or something. And most mysteries start out with the murder sequence or a scene directly after it.

The beginning should set the mood for the story; maybe not show what the story is about just yet, but at least let the reader know what type of story it's going to be. Of course, like Cogent Dream said, it should be something interesting. The mundane life beginning can get boring real fast if you don't have the dramatic change start showing up quick enough.

With that said, all of my stories start out with some kind of conflict that's apparent in the first chapter . If not the main conflict, then it's a smaller one that leads up to it.
I used the term "action" pretty loosely there; I should have said "in the middle of a scene." I've been known to open chapters and stories mid-conversation as well. smile


Doesn't have to be mid-scene as long as something interesting develops before the reader gets bored.

However, as readers tend to be a picky bunch these days, I would recommend getting to the "interesting bits" sooner rather than later.
Diamond Rika's avatar

Blessed Fairy

Cogent Dream
Diamond Rika
Kairi Nightingale
I think it really depends on the story when it comes to the beginning you choose. For example, I don't think a romance novel would typically start out with an action scene,but a story that requires a lot of action would almost be expected to start out with a fight or something. And most mysteries start out with the murder sequence or a scene directly after it.

The beginning should set the mood for the story; maybe not show what the story is about just yet, but at least let the reader know what type of story it's going to be. Of course, like Cogent Dream said, it should be something interesting. The mundane life beginning can get boring real fast if you don't have the dramatic change start showing up quick enough.

With that said, all of my stories start out with some kind of conflict that's apparent in the first chapter . If not the main conflict, then it's a smaller one that leads up to it.
I used the term "action" pretty loosely there; I should have said "in the middle of a scene." I've been known to open chapters and stories mid-conversation as well. smile


Doesn't have to be mid-scene as long as something interesting develops before the reader gets bored.

However, as readers tend to be a picky bunch these days, I would recommend getting to the "interesting bits" sooner rather than later.
That's just how I prefer to start mine. I've done it other ways too, but I always like my mid-scene starts better. biggrin
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We each have our own way of starting the first chapter. And there's people telling us different things about how to start them.
Some say we should open it with a pow, make the reader want to continue! No one likes dull, everyday-life starts!
Others say its perfectly fine to start off calm and ordinary. Build up some background and hint at the upcoming tension. Many great movies and novels do this.


Respectfully, I'm going to disagree with the point in bold based on nothing but personal preference. I've seen this done very effectively by a small number of writers - done effectively to the point that, in some instances, these books still go on to have films made and sell a decent number of copies. The most notable example of this is American Psycho which has chapters that start off with the likes of:

"Courtney Lawrence invites me out to dinner on Monday night and the invitation seems vaguely sexual so I accept, but part of the catch is that we have to endure dinner with two Camden graduates, Scott and Ann Smiley, at a new restaurant they chose on Columbus called Deck Chairs, a place I had my secretary research so thoroughly that she presented me with three alternative menus of what I should order before I left the office today."

Of course, this is done, in part for effect and I'm well aware of it, but then, I've become quite disdainful of action-packed books as it is. Like I say, it's a matter of personal preference, but I feel as though it can work, if executed properly. It can't always be pulled off.

Naturally, what I'm working on is being able to pull it off. Again, personal preference.

Sometimes, it is better to start with a 'bang' as it were, but I've admittedly, never felt entirely comfortable doing this. I'm really not sure why this is. If I look back, I can count the number of chapters I've started with 'action' of sorts (not counting those where the point of view shifts) on one hand.

But, I'm nothing if not willing to experiment. Currently, I'm going through a phase of working with the kinds of things people don't want to read - telling rather than showing, no action, no plot - and trying to make them work for me. Of course, there are only a handful of these things that can be made to work, and they often depend on all the other elements of the writing anyway.

Rambling. Basically, I start chapters with 'dull, everyday life' starts, and they get duller and duller until someone calls their drug dealer and another someone finds out they've contracted an STD.
Diamond Rika
Cogent Dream
Diamond Rika
Kairi Nightingale
I think it really depends on the story when it comes to the beginning you choose. For example, I don't think a romance novel would typically start out with an action scene,but a story that requires a lot of action would almost be expected to start out with a fight or something. And most mysteries start out with the murder sequence or a scene directly after it.

The beginning should set the mood for the story; maybe not show what the story is about just yet, but at least let the reader know what type of story it's going to be. Of course, like Cogent Dream said, it should be something interesting. The mundane life beginning can get boring real fast if you don't have the dramatic change start showing up quick enough.

With that said, all of my stories start out with some kind of conflict that's apparent in the first chapter . If not the main conflict, then it's a smaller one that leads up to it.
I used the term "action" pretty loosely there; I should have said "in the middle of a scene." I've been known to open chapters and stories mid-conversation as well. smile


Doesn't have to be mid-scene as long as something interesting develops before the reader gets bored.

However, as readers tend to be a picky bunch these days, I would recommend getting to the "interesting bits" sooner rather than later.
That's just how I prefer to start mine. I've done it other ways too, but I always like my mid-scene starts better. biggrin


Yeah, I find mid-scene is so much easier to draw the reader in. Personally, that's what I do too.
[x] Bob-IT [x]'s avatar

Dapper Sex Symbol

There is no 'right' way to start. It's all about style and personal preference, if you favor one specific story archetype and can actually work it, then do it, regardless of what other people say.

Personally, I tend to start in the middle of something. I don't like starting my stories with the morning and bedrise. I prefer to to make it seem like you're literally coming into the middle of someone's life (not necessarily the story I'm telling [but I like to do that, too]). The middle of a phone call, or text conversation. The middle of a dinner. Things like that.

That's my preference, that's what works for me.

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