Dos and Don’ts for Starting a Book
Don’t use more than one exclamation point ! — Okay two at most — on the first page. As a reader I will assume you don’t know how to describe emotion in words!! No doubt, I will be wrong some of the time, but my experience suggests that I will be correct the great majority of the time!!!
Don’t change fonts in an attempt to pique my interest. As a reader I’m interested in words, not software mechanics.
Don’t introduce a new character every page and a half. I will be unable to remember and tell them apart.
Don’t start chapter one with a scene that would fit very well in the middle of chapter three. A friend and quite a good writer once started her book with a very well written description of a woman coming home and playing with her cat. She got consistently good feedback from critique group members until it came to me. I told her the opening would probably entice the entire universe of six people who speak English and are absolutely fascinated by the idea that a woman might have a pet cat. (And, being a forgiving soul, the writer still talks to me.)
Don’t ignore or be completely bound by traditional grammar. Poor grammar, (as well as spelling, punctuation, and formatting) is a turn off but a skillfully used sentence fragment or irregular grammar in dialog that fits a character can be powerfully effective.
Don’t “head hop” from one character’s point of view to another’s rapidly unless you have mastered the technique. Going from unknown baddie to heroine/hero can work extremely well, especially if large sections of the book are told from each point of view and if the transition between them is clear.
Don’t make your heroine the least interesting person in the book. If she floats along passively like a twig in a flowing stream why would anyone want to spend time with her?
Don’t repeat my frequent mistake of not giving enough information about a character. Just because I know all about my characters, their history and how much pocket change they carry, does not excuse me from sharing needed “obvious” information with readers.
Don’t repeat my other frequent mistake of changing a character’s name in mid-story.
Finally, don’t ask why there aren’t any dos.
What persuades you to put a book down before you finish page one?