opening your story–where to start your novel

Alrighty then. You need a whiz-bang a-number-one first sentence that draws your reader in. Makes him/her sit up and and say, “Thank you sir, may I have another?”

That’s a given.

But where, exactly, in the story, do you start?

HINT: Not at the very beginning.

Little Red Riding Hood does not start with the first time Little Red takes a basket to her grandmother, or the first time The Wolf eats a kid.

Harry Potter doesn’t start with Voldemort killing Harry’s parents.

Catcher in the Rye doesn’t start with Holden Caulfield’s arrival at Pencey Prep.

Your reader does not want to wade through all the backstory to get to the interesting bits. That’s your job.

Begin your novel on the day that is different.

Look at the point in the story these kidlitters chose to start:

In the Path of Falling Objects by Andrew Smith: The day Jonah and Simon leave their home to meet up with their brother and father.

Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins: Reaping Day

Escaping the Tiger by Laura Manivong: The night Vonlai and his family cross the Mekong River to escape Laos.

Plunge your readers into the thick of it, and don’t explain everything.

Give them a reason to turn the page.


About Lisha Cauthen

Lisha Cauthen writes YA novels for guys that girls like to read too.

Posted on April 18, 2011, in writing and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 8 Comments.

  1. Great post! I so agree with starting the book where there’s action, a hook that will draw the reader to turn the page. 🙂


  2. OMG! You don’t how perfect this was to read. I do start on the day that is different, but I was missing some of the “normal” that would SHOW us how this day was as different. Couldn’t have the MC saying “Gosh. This is different!”

    Good Stuff!

  3. Laura Manivong

    : ) Wise words.

  4. Well stated; great post! Who doesn’t love to sift through and figure out why! Thanks for sharing~

  5. Great choice for an O-word! I like the way you put it. It might even have given me an idea for how I can fix the beginning of my story.


  6. Thanks for the feedback, guys. Go forth and write your buns off!

  7. I wish I’d read your post earlier today so I could have WRITTEN my buns off instead of EXERCISING my buns off! I am now prepared for tomorrow, though…

  8. Heather, now you will be a great writer AND so gooooood lookin’.

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