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Thursday, January 5, 2012

How to Start and Finish with a Bang!

Hoist anchor! There’s a reader on the line! Sure, the middle of your novel may be grand, but without a hook to catch readers, they’ll swim off to another, tastier story. There are plenty of books on the shelf as it is. OK. Enough with the finishing metaphor. My point is, if the opening of your story is bland, readers can only assume the rest will be too. Make it exciting. This rule holds true for the ending as well. What’s worse than reading a good book and it ending in the most predictable manner possible? Here’s a few simple do’s and don’ts to avoid a lackluster start and finish.
Do Use:
Action: As the saying says in the title: A Bang! Riveting action not only attracts readers to a story, but simultaneously leaves them wanting more. More is good.
Dramatic Dialogue: Plain dialogue won’t do. People don’t want to take part in mundane conversations, let alone read them. Be sure to use dialogue that is right in the thick of things.
Flashback / Flashforward: Timeskips can work wonders. Unless you say the time is different, readers won’t know you’ve employed this technique. It’s up to you, but I’m partial to keeping them guessing.
Symmetry: This is something that can be coupled with any of the other methods. I adore stories that have an equal weight about them. Whether it’s a cyclical or mirrored narrative, it works. 
Don’t Use:
Prologue/Epilogue: Some people swear by these. But I can’t find a literary device I detest more. If it belongs in the story, it doesn’t need external bookends. That is all.
Clichés: Please don’t start or end your novel with a cliché. Just don’t do it. See my previous rant as to why.
Description: You have an entire book to describe what’s happening. Make the reader’s entry and exit a thrill, not a bore.
Give-aways: Under no circumstances should you give-away important information too early or too late. Too early and you can kiss readers goodbye. Too late? Well they’ve already left.
With all that said, I hope you remember the golden rule: Keep it exciting. Oh and one more thing. This is easily the most important fact. Never. Ever—
Oh, reader on the line. Hang on.


  1. I agree with all your do's, great points. With dont's, writers beware. There is a time and opportunity to use any device, so long as you use it right. Love the take you did on this, keep going with this format!

  2. Thanks, and you make a good point. My posts contain my opinions and I will stick to them, but I welcome all other views. Different styles suit different writers.