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  • Writer's pictureIan Brooks

What are Bad Ways to Start a Story?

woman looking at a page

Just as there are good ways of starting a story, there are also bad ways. Terrible ways, in fact. And if you start a story badly, there’s not much hope a reader will continue to turn those pages.

Why should they?

If you have made a reader think your story is confusing or boring or not worth it, then you have broken your side of the unwritten contract between writer and reader. The writer provides something interesting to read and the reader reads it, while hopefully paying for that story.

And if readers are turned off by a book at the beginning, it won’t be a success. Here are some ways writers should NOT start their stories.

Starting Too Early

Have you ever read a story or watched a movie and thought, “that was a slow opening”? Or how about “this should have ended ages back”? These are the parts of a story that are extraneous to the actual plot and could be cut out with a bit of careful editing.

Some stories simply start too early. This could be because the writer loves their opening so much they feel they have to include it, or because they genuinely think it’s important to the plot. Regardless of the reason, writers should take a serious look at the openings to their stories and decide whether they are starting too early or not.

Too Many Characters

Sometimes you start a book and are introduced to about 17 different characters in the very first chapter. It’s maddening, it’s confusing and it makes you want to sit down and have an aspirin or two.

No one is going to read on when they need a brain the size of a supercomputer just to remember which character is which.

All Action, No Substance

Opening with an action sequence is fine. But there have to be stakes. There has to be a human connection. Otherwise, it just becomes a series of explosions (or other standard action set piece) with no meaning or reason.

And if readers have no reason to care, then they won’t.

A Dream Sequence

It’s overdone. It’s cliché. It’s not a dream. It’s a nightmare.

Info Dump

A complete info dump is boring. Endless pages of describing the setting or the flowers or the hairy mole growing out of Aunt Betty’s chin are tiresome. Or if it’s endless world building with no purpose. Ugh.

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