Saturday, June 1, 2013
The Pitfalls of a Great Opening
A great opening is supposed to hook the reader, snag the editor, and send writers on their way to fame and fortune. It's good advice, but what about the rest of the book?
I'm a book reviewer. In some ways it's like being an editor. You get the chance to see a lot of books and sometimes you're able to select the books to review on the basis of the first few pages. When I open the book, I'm on the lookout for interesting characters and a plot with lots of tension and conflict. Setting is important, but it's the icing on the cake.
So I open the book, read the first few pages. I love it. It has everything I'm looking for including an unusual setting that I'd like to know more about. I read about the first third of the book, if I'm lucky, and things start to fall apart. The characters engage in more reflection than action, the plot begins to drift, and now it's a chore to pick up the book and read the rest. The ending is often worse. There is a plot resolution, but no twist to make it interesting. Even worse a character crawls out of the woodwork to solve the problem.
Of course, all books are not this way, but too many are. I wonder if as writers we're taking the advice of editors and writing teachers too much to heart. Yes, you need a terrific opening, but if the opening is the best thing about the novel, you run the risk of leaving the reader, or worse the reviewer, disappointed. I am hopeful that with self-publishing authors will begin to look beyond the great opening to have a complete novel that doesn't disappoint.