Ipromised myself i would not stoop to cliche, but…
My first line has my protagonist waking to a rumble of distant thunder. The storm being a metaphor for turmoil she is going through. does Joe Reader care if you break the “no weather, no waking” first line rule?
Perhaps it has become cliche because it works so well to start a story at the start of day?
Ipromised myself i would not stoop to cliche, but…
Is it daytime or nighttime? If it’s a dark and stormy night, stop now.
It’s not exactly a subtle opening. I’d think twice about moving on to line 2. If your surname is Bronte, you can get away with us. The rest of us… maybe not.
Ha! No, not a Bronte! Here it is:
Julie woke to the rumble of distant thunder, a remnant of last night’s sudden storm. It was still dark but she knew sleep had gone the way of the rain and would not return. A ghost of moon hung just above the treetops in the lightening sky as she dressed, left a note on the table and got in her car. By the time she reached her destination, the sun shone bright and hot, but she still felt dark and clouded.
Author’s choice. It’s your story. Below is quite an interesting read:
This is a difficult question @Joyful because everyone is correct.
It is yours to write how you want.
It definitely helps if you are an English Victorian novelist that
influenced standards for said cliche writing styles, 1st Baron Lytton and Brontes alike.
Here’s the thing. We are still reciting their words. Almost 200 years in syndication. So, yes something about that really worked at that time.
Rules for good writing are there for a reason. Mostly to save us from ourselves, but it really depends on what you are writing. After all, what is a rule if it is not meant to be broken?
For example, @Danielw had offered a week of writing where we mimicked the author’s writing that we admired as a skill-building exercise.
I could see this working well there or if you are a modern writer that just enjoys writing in a gothic victorian style (like Laurie R. King’s, Russell and Holmes series) that enjoyably transports the reader to another time in literature.
Whatever you decide @Joyful, just keep writing.
You can play with your intro later if you like, but for now, let the night be as dark and stormy as you like if it helps get your story written. No one will be the wiser.
By the time the draft has sat in a drawer for a few weeks, you’ll have enough distance to read it like a stranger and either say ‘heck yes’ or ‘heck no.’
I open with the weather often enough. 1) It gets it out of the way, 2) As a component of setting, I have it if I need it, 3) Frequently stunned by the number of comments lamenting the lack of “what’s going on” (expose). . . around them. What might be troublesome is using it for metaphor. People are fussy about that.
I think it depends on what type of book you’re writing, and your book’s theme. The excerpt you shared hooked me. I would continue reading. It sets the tone and reveals the mood/mental state of the character.
It was in a drawer for a week. when I pulled it out I added this opening paragraph! LOL
Originally, I had her already at her destination…
Julie had some thinking to do and had come back to her roots… Just yesterday, she had discovered a terrible truth that struck her with such force it splintered her reality. It turned over and over in her thoughts with no clear path of resolution, so here she was, parked in front of the house where she grew up.
@Joyful Bravo! I love what you added. You have my full attention with this paragraph as the opening. The rest that you shared before is good to keep your readers hooked in.
Although beautifully written, the problem with your beginning paragraph is that it’s passive and it concentrates on the weather. You want your character moving the plot forward. I find this beginning has action: “A ghost of moon hung just above the treetops in the lightening sky as she dressed, left a note on the table and got in her car. By the time she reached her destination, the sun shone bright and hot, but she still felt dark and clouded.”
Thanks for the reply.
This is a good compromise!
Except there is no dark and clouded to go with her dark and clouded.
Thank you! I’m glad you enjoyed it. I don’t work in editing, but I did work for a literary magazine for years. This experience plus classes, podcasts, and agent critiques has helped me a lot.
In my opinion, this intro begins too far away from the beginning of the story. In this particular example, I don’t think it works well as an opener because we could just as easily learn about Julie’s mood from her observations or interactions while driving in the car. This would work best, I think, if it was a close as possible to her arrival at her destination. We’d then be propelled more quickly into the story where we can be shown why we care what her mood is instead of just being told about it in preparation for what is eventually to come. I think if there is time-skipping in the first few lines it is a definite sign the start is in the wrong place.
Another issue I have is how many questions it brings up in the reader’s mind that may distract from the question(s) the author wants them to have going into the next part. Will it be distracting if the reader is wondering who the note was for, how far she drove and what on Earth happened last night? The setup so far implies that her dark and clouded mood is a result of something that happened the previous night. Nothing seems to tie the previous night to her current destination other than a sequence of actions so far. There is no indication of dread or anticipation of her pending destination related to the previous night. All of the questions generated are related to the previous night and the note she left and nothing to suggest that those questions are going to be answered in whole or part at the destination. That leaves the door wide open for an unsatisfied reader.
I think the story would be stronger if it started with her at her destination and her reactions and observations in that scene were filtered with tidbits throughout the scene about the previous night without this preamble. If the two scenes (and I call them separate scenes because of the time and location change) are not really related then we don’t really need to know at all that her mood is a result of the previous night. We can be shown her mood in the active scene itself.
It’s not horrible and I would still give the author usually into the second chapter or so to recover. Beginnings are often awkward even in the best of books. I feel like it isn’t so much that it is a ‘waking up/describe the weather’ problem as a show vs tell problem and being outside of the story and too distant from the real start of things. It is essentially a prologue, as written, except it isn’t really even a fleshed out scene on its own. It is a lull between possibly a prologue scene (the night before) and the true first scene of the story. It doesn’t progress anything except time before moving to another scene location and time.
I do like the author’s descriptions in the sample a lot. The writing itself is a pleasure to read at the sentence level.