Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Common Mistakes #1

Most common mistake I see is authors starting the story way too early. They need to start with 'initiating incident', the thing that makes today different from yesterday for the characters. Starting with the 'before' picture does NOT work, because before was ordinary life and we do not want to read about ordinary life because we are living our own ordinary lives, thank you very much, and we bought the book for a taste of something different. Start with the action scene, start with the characters under threat and keep them under threat as the action and tension one wants to read their backstory, at least not in the first 50 pages.


  1. on Facebook, Stephanie Johanson (NeoOpsis Magazine) responded that
    While I agree that most beginning writers start their story too early in the story's timeline, I am not so sure I agree that a story has to start where the characters meet a disruption to their ordinary life. For some characters their whole life isn't ordinary. From the moment someone tries to strangle them with their own umbilical cord to the moment they take over a kingdom, their life might be completely unusual. But we don't want to follow someone's everyday life even if it is completely full of unusual events. The best stories have reason, direction, and change, and preferably something learned. So the advice that I like best is, if it doesn't move the story forward, leave it out.

  2. On Facebook, author Sally McBride commented: "Or writers who start with a brief precis of "What's happening" that reads like an outline, not any kind of narrative hook. It's really not starting anywhere at all."