Dear Editor…

Dear Editor,

Where do I start… Where do I start…? No, wait! That’s the problem! I’ve been told that my characters need to burst on to the page with passion and power, but I’m getting them on the page and together as soon as I can already! Where else might I be going wrong? Any advice?

Thanks!

Daisy

Hi Daisy,

Starting your story can either be the most intimidating moment, or the most exciting – or even a strange combination of the two!

First of all, you have to get over any self-doubt. And then you have what seems like an almost impossible mountain to climb. But remember – these are the very things that make writers what they are: dedicated, determined, and perhaps just a little crazy sometimes (in a good way!). It’s not easy, but if it was then it wouldn’t be worth it.

However you start your story, whether it’s with a firm idea, an image or moment in your head that kick-starts it all, or whether you need to write a few chapters and get to know your characters before you start feeling that excitement, remember there’s no right or wrong way. And whichever way you start writing, remember it doesn’t always have to make the final cut!

So once you have your story in place, go back to the beginning. Look at the first line, look at the first page and take a temperature check…

Is it going to be a 90 degrees scorcher of an opening, passionate, explosive, shocking? Or is it going to be a stormy ‘batten down the hatches’ kind of opening, intriguing, dark and powerful? Or perhaps is it a little more lukewarm shoulder shrug of a day, laden with internal thoughts as characters ponder their rather unsatisfying exes on their way to work for yet another dreary day in the office?

If you don’t need sunscreen or an umbrella, you might want to take another look at the opening to make sure that it packs the punch that it needs to. So here are some good tips on how to make the start of your story as ‘grab-your-reader-by-the-throat’ as possible.

First Lines: ‘You’re fired.’ Or ‘Would you like to explain what you are doing in bed with my fiancé?’ Think about a line of dialogue that will immediately immerse your reader straight into the heart of the action. Something that packs a real punch.

Bringing the characters together ASAP: What if the hero is the boss who has literally just fired the heroine? Or the fiancé who has just been caught with another woman? The first meet is always tricky, but doesn’t mean it can’t be fun. There are more options than lifts, funerals, car crashes, on a girly night out – not to say that these don’t work. They do! And well! But think about what makes your characters unique, what ties them together, and that will help you find the right moment to bring them together.

Emotion: Extreme emotions translate so beautifully onto the page so how about opening at either the worst or highest point in your characters’ lives so far? Emotions drive action, action drives pace and readers do love pace!

Make an impression! Whether it’s a line of dialogue that will make people laugh, or an opening that sees the hero about to jump from a plane, aim for an opening that will stick in editors and readers’ minds for all the right reasons!

If you can work these things into your opening, the outlook for your first chapters will be sunny!

Happy Writing!
The Sold Editors x

Do you have a question about your manuscript that you’re wrestling with? Or have you been given feedback that you want more clarity on? If so, drop us a line at SOLD-Blog@harlequin.ca and we’ll answer your query on the next ‘Dear Editor’ feature!

3 replies on “Dear Editor…”

Hello,

My question is:

Are there any rules around using a brand name product in a fictional novel?

Stating a care was a Honda or the heroine uses an iPhone?

Thanks,
Yvonne

I’m not an editor, but in the book I’m reading now, the heroine’s son has an iPod that he’s listening to music on and it uses the brand name.

Hi Yvonne,

For published fiction, there are definitely products that have registered trademarks and copyright concerns. Some products/organisations may pursue infringement more strongly than others. However there are also products that have become part of general use of language e.g.’she was typing on her iPad’ and plasters or elastoplast. But the general rule of thumb would be to avoid if and where possible. Technology is a particularly interesting one as whilst using the most up-to-date terminology now makes a book feel relevant, the question we always ask ourselves is whether it might date the book down the line.

Hope that helps!

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