There And Draft Again

A Fellowship of Fantasy Writers

Opening your Fantasy novel right January 13, 2013

If you’re writing a Fantasy novel with the intent to have it traditionally published or to self-publish it, you need to have a stellar opening. Your first pages are what will grab the agent or the reader and make him want to read more. In order to avoid having agents reject your book or readers put it down, here are a few tips to start your novel right…

–          Start with an epic first line. Hook you reader with your first words. Consider these examples:

“A mile above Oz, the Witch balanced on the wind’s foreward edge, as if she were a green fleck of the land itself, flung up and sent wheeling away by the turbulent air.” WICKED by Gregory Maguire

“There was a hand in the darkness, and it held a knife.” THE GRAVEYARD BOOK by Neil Gaiman

They are both from best-selling books and they make you want to read more. Your first line needs to be just as good, whether it “hooks” your reader with humor, surprise, beautiful writing or suspense.

–          In your first page(s):

  • show don’t tell
  • ground the atmosphere and setting of your story
  • give a clear picture of your world but don’t overdo it (avoid “info-dump” at all costs)
  • give a sense of who your characters are by showing their motivations and emotions: make them interesting and complex
  • inject voice in your writing
  • don’t mistake action for tension
  • include your inciting event

–          A note on prologues: many Fantasy writers, especially the ones who are trying to get published for the first time, seem to include a prologue in their novel. Yet agents hate prologues and readers skip them. So before you query or self-publish, ask yourself the following questions: could your prologue be deleted from the novel without affecting understanding of the plot? If yes, why keep it at all, then? Is your prologue absolutely necessary to understand the rest of the novel? If yes, shouldn’t you include this information in the actual novel? (Yes, you should). Is your prologue mere info-dump? Is your prologue mere action? If yes, you don’t need it. As a reader and a querying writer, I promise you, your novel doesn’t need that prologue.

If you want more tips on starting your novel right, check out this blog:

Real Life Diagnostics: First Page Critique by Janice Hardy

 Do you find this checklist helpful? What are your tips to make your opening pages compelling? Feel free to leave us your comments below!



2 Responses to “Opening your Fantasy novel right”

  1. kathils Says:

    I *almost* added a prologue. Okay, fine, I did add one. My Beta smacked me up alongside the head and politely pointed out no one reads them. It became Chapter One. Why? Because it doles out some information that I felt the reader could really use. Don’t worry, it doles it out in a show, don’t tell manner. 🙂 However, doing so, I lost my original opening line (because that became Chapter 2) which I liked.

  2. I know agents hate prologues… but, but, but… what about the Wheel of Time? That had a great prologue. I read the prologues… I guess that’s at least one person.

    Saying that I haven’t written a prologue for my WIP. *high minded principles cave to pressure from the masses* Okay there is one in book three, but I’m hoping if I ever get that far people will already be hooked…

    Safer to say – yes a great first line is awesome. There is no better feeling than picking up a book and getting chills over the first line. One I really liked this year was from Andrew Davidson’s, The Gargoyle. “Accidents ambush the unsuspecting, often violently, just like love.” Really summed up the whole novel!

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