The Other 5 Reasons Why Your Book Intro Might Need Another Edit


Last week’s video “introduced” the topic of different ways your book beginning might not be as appealing as it should be. Specifically, there were three reasons listed:

  1. There’s something crude in it.

  2. There’s too much backstory shoved at me.

  3. There’s no real diversity to the sentence structure.

Take special note of that second reason, particularly the last two words: “at me.” They’re important. And here’s why…

Every single reader has his or her own idea of what a compelling book intro looks like. That means my thoughts on uninspiring openings might not be Reader B, C or D’s.

That’s okay. You’re not trying to hook absolutely every reader anyway. You’re just trying to hook your intended audience.

As last week’s video noted:

Alas, there’s not a one-size-fits-all answer to go off of here. To a large degree, it depends on the genre you’re working within and whether your ideal readers want to be intrigued, thrilled, educated, delighted, freaked out, grossed out, transported or confirmed.

However, also as last week’s video noted, the eight problems listed between these two videos are pretty common gripes. With the possible exception of Reason #1.

So here are the remaining five. By the way, I’ve got a cold, which is why there’s no video this week, just a regular old blog post.

Sorry!

Dialogue is awesome, not to mention necessary in at least a novel. But it’s awesome and necessary alongside other story-building elements.

For example, it’s one thing to write:

“Tyrone!” Mama yelled. “Tyrone, you get down here this minute!”

I winced, already knowing two things, the first one being exactly what she was mad at. The second was that I was about to be grounded for a very long time. If I got back my typical teenaged privileges by the time I graduated high school, I’d be doing good. And that was three years down the road.

“Coming!” My volume was loud only so she could hear me. There was no enthusiasm or attitude in it other than that.

Maybe it wasn’t loud enough, because she yelled again. “Tyrone! I mean now, young man!”

I forced my feet to start moving no matter how much they’d rather stay put. “Yes, ma’am.”

It’s a whole different story intro when you remove those narrative fillers:

“Tyrone!” Mama yelled. “Tyrone, you get down here this minute!”

“Coming!” My volume was loud only so she could hear me.

“Tyrone! I mean now, young man!”

“Yes’ ma’am.”

Book introductions are for establishing at least a few wheres, whens and whos, if not some whats, whys and hows. And dialogue alone just doesn’t cover all that.

Not very well, anyway.

This is an issue many fantasy, sci-fi and historical fiction writers have especially. Because the setting is instantly unfamiliar to readers – taking place in some other realm, on some other planet, or at some other time – writers need to work harder to establish sights, sounds and feels.

It’s just that there’s a way to weave those setting details in without data dumping.

Work them in around and even through other story-telling elements, such as instantly establishing the plot, introducing characters and, yup, having those characters talk to each other.

Like we established in the last intro-editing tip, dialogue is important. Just not important enough to stand on its own.

Let’s get real here: The only people who like being lectured like they’re idiots are already brain-dead drones.

If you want readers to reach a certain moral or political conclusion by the end of the book, that’s fine. But don’t start it out by telling them how to think.

Invite them to journey with the characters as they learn whatever they’re supposed to learn. Readers are much more likely to come along if you do.

This can be the same issue as above, where the main character or characters are just too preachy. But it can just as easily be that they’re too:

  • Shallow or annoying, without any promise of growth

  • Stereotypical

  • Offensive

  • Unbelievable.

Your story characters are exceptionally important to hooking potential readers.

Don’t louse them up.

I just finished reading a story that had, on average, an editorial mistake per page. And yes, I was itching to give it a proper proofread.

But you know what? The plot, characters, setting and dialogue were good enough that I kept right on reading anyway.

Not everyone is so lenient in this regard however. And even I’ve had to turn books down before because the mistakes were just too prominent or distracting.

While a few typos are not going to kill your book, you might want to work extra hard at cleaning up your intro.

It’s your first impression, after all. And perhaps your only one.

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