In the beginning....
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I have noticed that most novels begin with a narrative. Is there some unspoken rule against starting your story with conversation?
  • LOVE that opening line Trishia!! I'd certainly care about a character audacious enough to wear Zebra pajamas.
  • Roberta, I've heard pros and cons....but right now I admit I have my heart set on this opening line: "You know, you're going to have to ditch those Zebra pajamas if you ever expect to sleep with that Frenchman," Carolina said ...... !ha!
  • I attended a writer's workshop once in which the facilitator advised against opening a short story with dialog. Something about getting the reader to care about the characters through the story first. I think.
  • Trishia, your question came to mind again while I was reading one of James N. Frey's books today (the "Damn Good" series). He likened the narrative opening to a movie's "establishing shot" (the one that pans over the scene before zeroing in on the characters and whatever they're doing). I haven't looked at an pre-movie novels to compare openings, so I don't have any idea about the effect of movies on novels. It might be interesting to look into that (making adjustments for popular stylistic techniques).
  • No such rule exists, and if such a rule were to be written you could be sure we would all challenge it happily. But the fact is that writing great dialogue can be challenging enough without adding the extra pressure of having to reel a reader in from the opening seconds. Done well, it could be very effective. Done poorly, it could drive readers away. Does anyone have any good examples of either to illuminate us?
  • Your question piqued my curiosity, so I grabbed random books off the shelf to have a look. You're right, most of them do being with narrative, which seems to fly in the face of the editorial advice I've seen to start in the middle of 'something.' (which I read to be in the midst of conflict between characters) Despite the prevalence of this type of beginning, I did find books that begin with dialogue: -- Donald Westlake's _What's the Worst That Could Happen_ -- Dorothy Simpson's _Element of Doubt_ -- Colin Dexter's _The Secret of Annexe 3_ -- Reginald Hill's _Death's Jest-Book_ -- Dick Francis's _Banker_ These are older titles (as I've restricted new purchases 'cause I'm runnin' out of room), so I don't have newer titles to compare. I trust the library to have new titles, but perhaps not as many of the older books. If there is an unspoken rule, perhaps 'we' can generate interest by pulling a Christie, a la Roger Akroyd. ;>