How many novels start with the main character sleeping, dreaming? Not many? That’s because opening a novel with a dream has been deemed cliche by powers that be–and they’re right. Only Snoopy can get away with opening a novel with a cliche.
But if you can add a twist to the cliche, you’ve got yourself a winner.
any years ago, Western singer Chris LeDoux came out with a song about men nesting down for the night during a cattle drive. In the song, a storm rumbles in and causes a stampede in which the main character is trampled. Then he wakes up. He’s just realizing the relief that his experience was a dream when lightning flashes, and his buddy yells, “Hey! Stampede!” The music plays out the rest of the story, and by the last note, the audience realizes the main character died as he had in his dream.
For these lyrics, the dream begins the action and is a major component of the story. If a novelist were writing about how her MC lives out the dream illustrated at the first of the book, or how the character has a series of dreams, each worse than the first, and each becoming reality, then the author can start with the dreams because they’re part of the action. Otherwise, they’re cliche and not a wise choice for beginning a novel.
It’s usually best to start with the action that begins the story–and it doesn’t have to be high-voltage like a car chase, or a murder. I’m currently reading Rooms, by James Rubart. The only serious action occurring on the first page is the MC tapping a letter against his palm while he contemplates its contents–someone he didn’t know built a multi-million dollar house and gave it to him. The house plays a major role in the rest of the book. The action presented on the first page, calm as it seems, is the catalyst to the rest of the story.
Action, deeply related to the story, is the best way to open a novel.
Now for this week’s drawing~~~Dum-da-da-DUMMMMM! (Sorry–bad imitation of trumpets blaring):
Thanks for participating in the drawing, everyone!!!