Waking Up, Mirror Monologues, and Other Opening Cliches

I’ve got blonde hair that I usually wear up, and I love my peach shirt…

Writer’s Digest has a round-up of ways not to start your children’s/YA story, including waking up (no dream fake-outs), lamenting a summer of torture, and a personal pet peeve: “Looking at oneself and describing one’s flaws, usually with a self-deprecating voice.”

Does that mean you can never start with the first day of school or dead parents? Not at all. But opening scenes like these have to be particular to your book. If your opening could easily be inserted in any other book, you need to reconsider those first few pages. Maybe what’s unique about compelling about your story starts a little later and you can cut the first chapter. Maybe you need to really insert the main character’s voice in that first paragraph. Maybe it’s the first day of school but your main character’s doing something totally unexpected.

Have you seen any cliche openers done really well? Any that particularly irk you?

(image: Christine)

4 thoughts on “Waking Up, Mirror Monologues, and Other Opening Cliches

  1. L.S. Engler says:

    Your pet peeve is my pet peeve, as well. I’ve set aside so many books merely because that “look in the mirror, talk about my flaws” approach not only irritates me, but I find it boring and contrite to boot….

  2. Alanna says:

    Of course, “It was a dark and stormy night” is a terrible way to start a children’s book (silly Madeleine L’Engle…). 🙂 As I read the PW list, I thought of several books I loved growing up that started with some of those cliches. I also can’t stand the “look in the mirror, talk about my flaws” opening, but I’m sort of a sucker for the new kid and the summer of torture, as long as they’re done well!

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