Saturday, May 2, 2009


Every Friday night, our family goes out on the town. (And by that, I mean Carl's Jr, followed by Barnes and Noble, and making it back home by 8:00. I know, I know, we're outrageous party animals.)

At any rate, on our trip to B&N last night, I was reading in a very interesting book. It was called Hooked: Write Fiction That Grabs Readers at Page One and Never Lets Them Go by. Les Edgerton. It's a great little book!

I've been pondering openings for some time now. To me, one of the surprising things about the whole querying agents business was that, even if they request your book, if the opening doesn't grab them, they probably won't read the whole thing. So, you can have amazing parts to your story, a fantastic love triangle in the middle, an explosive ending, but in your quest to get an agent/published, it's the opening that matters most.

In brief summary, the crux of Edgerton's book is that every opening should have five things.

1. Initial Surface Problem. There needs to be some kind of problem in the first chapter. Problem=fun to read.

2. Inciting Incident. or in other words, the catalyst that puts the whole story in motion. Think Harry Potter getting the letter inviting him to Hogwarts. (Check out Lady Glamis' blog for several detailed posts on this subject.)

3. Introduction of the Story Worthy Problem. Meaning the BIG problem, the problem that the whole story centers around.

4. Setup

5. Backstory

Both of those have to be done with great care. Not too much. Not too little. (helpful, right?) :) But, he goes into much more detail in the book of course. On all five of those things. I'd really recommend you all check it out.

One last thing. I'll end with Edgerton's list of red flags in an opening, or things that make an agent/editor want to put the story down immediately.

-Opening with a dream
-Opening with an alarm clock buzzing
-Being unintentionally funny (melodramatic, poor sentence structure)
-Too little Dialogue
-Opening with Dialogue

Just one person's opinion, but something to think about for sure. Anyway, happy writing! :)


  1. Very helpful. My WIP opens with a dream - I might have to reconsider that.

  2. Oh man! Can I be in your family? I want to go to Carl's JR and Barnes and Noble every friday night! You are so lucky! What a great post. LOL! Pride & Popularity opens with dialogue! LOL! Maybe that's the problem the book is having??? Jenni

  3. Awesome advice, Renee. After redoing my first book 5 times now I think I might actually have the winning opening chapter. Wahoo. That feels good.

  4. Sugoi and Jenni-See, I hesitated putting those "red flags" up, because I didn't want anyone who did have those openings to feel bad. I personally think that any one of those openings can be done well. It's really all subjective.

    I mean, it's always a good idea to try and open with a scene as original as possible, but I don't think any rule is absolute.

    Kasie-Thanks. I wish it was my personal advice. :) I'm just a writing book junkie.

  5. thanks, Renee. My beginning so plagues me. I try to change it to match what the agents and editors say, but whenever I read books, they very seldom begin like that. So I'm confused. I think this business sends out so many mixed messages it's just really hard to know what they want!!

  6. I love seeing things layed out like this. It really makes it easier to reevaluate my first chapters and see how I'm doing. P.S. I love your night on the town! For us it's In and Out followed by the Target (or "the red store" as my son calls it).



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