Beginnings. When I open a book, I wan to be “into” it immediately. I want to be in the nitty gritty of it all, no explanations, no world building. Let me figure all of that on my own.
To me, the best stories just start. They don’t seem overworked, and yes, just as they tell you in the writing rule book, the best books start at the action.
My favorite books, or the most memorable books to me, all started without hand-holding. There wasn’t any time given to catch the reader up; we were just part of the ride. What we did need to know, we needed to figure out and we needed to do that quickly.
You might think this would confuse a reader, that they need to at least know where they are before they are whisked away by the character on some mission, but I completely disagree.
Having the reader slightly disoriented in the beginning is nothing but a good thing to me. Why? Because he or she is going to try to figure it out. They will automatically (in most cases, if done well) be engaged more so in the story because they were getting caught up in the action before they had time to realize why it was happening.
Here are the perks to starting “in” in the story:
1. Immediacy, the character is in the weeds trying to do something, and the reader is coming along, from the inciting incident.
2. No time for the reader to become bored with the world you’ve built.
3. They will look more at the details that they are given to figure out the world around them. If you leave them just enough breadcrumbs to have them follow the leader (your MC), they will follow, regardless of if they have heard of the place, your world.
4. Immediate investment, the reader will, by following the character, be invested in how the character will do, because they don’t have time to worry about he background, the little details. They only have time to worry about the plot at hand and how the MC will get out of whatever we evil writers put the characters into.
Here are some immediate examples that come to mind for me:
The Hunger Games series by Suzanne Collins: The reader in me was into it from the 1st page. The FIRST page. The writer in me kept flipping back to the front and asking myself, am I really this into a book already? Did I literally become invested in the first, oh, three pages? Yes. Yes, I did. [Which also makes me scared about the movie because my investment makes me emotionally attached, I’m afraid]
The Vampire Academy series by Richelle Mead: In the first book, the MC and her best friend are being caught from running away. You hear them freaking out that they’re being found and brought back to blah blah blah, read it.
Tenderness by Robert Comier: A young, attractive teenage killer is being released from jail; a girl with a history of wicked obsessions that have to be met becomes fascinated enough to have to find him. (I didn’t do this one justice. I LOVE this book. So much. No words.) The point is, we see them, the MCs, and we know them because we are with them intimately before we get the run of the mill descriptions.
We All Fall Down by Robert Comier: (Yes, he’s on here twice because he’s amazing): We start with a break-in, as the teenage robbers. They run a muck; you feel the chaos; you see a girl be broken during (=READ, no regrets afterward for time spent).
These books did beginnings well*. What books grabbed you? Did they do any or all (or none) of the things I listed? Let me know by comment or email.