From author and former agent Nathan Bransford and current agent Kristin Nelson, here are some terrible ways to begin a book.
A character looking in a mirror: I know what you’re thinking. Namely: “How in the heck am I going to show the reader what this character looks like when it’s a 1st person narrative? Hmm… Mirror!” Don’t do it. There is another way.
Extended dialogue with insufficient grounding: It’s difficult for readers to ease into a new world and get their bearings. It’s even more difficult to feel grounded when you’re watching two characters talk and you’re not exactly sure who they are.
and from Kristen:
1. Characters inexplicably getting sucked into a portal for no apparent reason – This is mostly a YA fantasy device and yes, I realize there is long tradition of portals into other worlds in young adult fiction (Chronicles of Narnia and all that).
All I’m saying is that portal needs to be really necessary and not just an excuse to transport characters into another world so you can now finally tell your story
2. A person gathering herbs in the forest – Honestly, it can’t happen as frequent as I seem to see it in opening chapters.
If you don’t read the rest, you may choose one of the 15 other starter no-no’s.
Link to Nathan Bransford
Passive Guy barely finished this post before he was sucked into his mirror while shaving and is now fighting a nearly-irresistible compulsion to pick the herbs that grow in the forest on this distant star.
Thank goodness the forest has good WiFi so he can respond to comments. PG would really like to trade his basket of herbs for a Big Mac. If he ever gets back home, he’s throwing his razor away and growing a beard.
That’s strange, there’s a wardrobe in the forest. It’s big enough for PG to crawl into.