Opening Dialogue

Discussion in 'Writing Discussions' started by Jerry, Mar 8, 2018.

  1. Jerry

    Jerry Apprentice

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    What's your feeling (albeit) the rules or no-no's on first lines in the first chapter that open with dialogue - expressed or in thought. I don't have my character wandering aimlessly, looking around (or god forbid the ol' looking at themselves in the mirror) contemplating life and or their surroundings... But if it is introspect, self-discovery, which can be a specific theme expressed in the story, is it allowable?

    Rules... those damn rules. o_O
     
  2. Insolent Lad

    Insolent Lad Lore Master

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    Nine of my sixteen published novels start with someone saying something so, obviously, I've nothing against it. But its not very introspective, for the most part, but segues into some sort of action. As long as it doesn't slow things down right at the start (which, I think, is one of the arguments against---the other being, I guess, that it can confuse the reader), I see nothing wrong with opening with dialog.
     
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  3. Penpilot

    Penpilot Staff Article Team

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    Of course it's allowable. IMHO, never ask for permission. Just do what you think is right for the story. The only rule is make it good. For the most part everything else is secondary.
     
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  4. Jerry

    Jerry Apprentice

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    Right on. It isn't paragraphs of expo or backstory - or a long introspection, or mental reflection (as I understand some agents despise), so I think I'm in the right 'frame of mind' and keeping it as is. I fret too much on rules that stifle my writing freedom. I guess if it speaks and hopefully, a page turner... ink on.
     
  5. skip.knox

    skip.knox Staff Moderator

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    The only no-no is to do it badly. There are a thousand ways to start a novel and every one of them can be done badly. Along with others, I say just write. Write badly; edit well. With each iteration you will do the first better and the second quicker.
     
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  6. Jerry

    Jerry Apprentice

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    Ditto!
     
  7. Yora

    Yora Mystagogue

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    The one thing I wouldn't want to read is two characters talking about something they both understand very well, but which remains so unexplained that the reader can't hope to have any clue what they are talking about. Mentioning some names and events that are seemingly important but are not getting introduced yet is fine, but the reader should get some basic level of understanding what is going on.
     
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  8. T.Allen.Smith

    T.Allen.Smith Staff Moderator

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    The only golden, unbreakable rule of fiction writing that I'm aware of is that whatever you're writing must be interesting. Even that is subjective.

    Additionally, don't fall into that "first line" trap. It might be a first first line that hooks the reader. There are certainly some great examples out there, but a first line can't carry all the weight for long. There must be more that piques interest following soon after.

    Truth is, most readers will give you at least a paragraph, if not a few pages to a whole chapter to hook them. Yes, you do want your reader asking early questions, but how many times have you stopped reading a story because the first line didn't blow your socks off? I'd think that's fairly rare.

    Make sure what you're opening with is interesting. Give yourself time and space for the hook.
     
  9. pmmg

    pmmg Dark Lord

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    I am for whatever works. And sometimes that may just be something that ought to be against the rules. Opening with Dialog is okay with me. Are there any rules? Truth is, I am not sure, cause every rule has exceptions. That is where we all get to practice our art.
     
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  10. Chessie2

    Chessie2 Staff Article Team

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    One of my books starts out with dialogue and I believe it's my strongest piece yet. There are many reasons why that don't necessarily have anything to do with starting out in dialogue. It's simply this: I trusted my creativity and it allowed the story to start out with a bang. The MC opens up in dialogue talking to herself in front of a mirror: a huge no-no, right? Well, it was an avenue that I used to show the readers immediately who she is and what she's up to in that first scene.

    So, trust your gut. The only rule in writing books is to engage the reader. Use every tool in your box and ignore every voice other than the ones in your head (characters, and your own creativity more importantly).
     
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  11. Demesnedenoir

    Demesnedenoir Dark Lord

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    First draft, who cares. Final draft it might mean something, but beta readers will clue you in. To me, opening with dialogue is fine, but if there’s a page of dialogue (as a reader) I get skittish. I might flip forward to see if this is a trend, because I’m not big on dialogue dominated stories. Maybe I read too many screenplays... who knows, LOL.

    So long as the dialogue gets me into the story, I’m good... same with every other type of opening, LOL.
     
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  12. skip.knox

    skip.knox Staff Moderator

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    Opening with dialogue:

    "Tom!"
    No answer.
    "Tom!"
    No answer.
    "What's gone with that boy, I wonder? You TOM!"


    Howzat? Not even dialogue but monologue.
     
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  13. goldhawk

    goldhawk Lore Master

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    Start with conflict. Show the reason why your MC wants change. Anything is acceptable as long as your show your MC is about to change.
     
  14. T.Allen.Smith

    T.Allen.Smith Staff Moderator

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    Not all MCs change. Some stay constant as the world changes around them.
     
  15. goldhawk

    goldhawk Lore Master

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    Not all MCs grow but they resolve the internal conflict, which is a change.
     
  16. skip.knox

    skip.knox Staff Moderator

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    Agreed. I'm thinking of Augie Marsh, for example (Saul Bellow, The Adventures of Augie Marsh), though I have to admit I was disappointed in the ending precisely because he had not changed, despite his many adventures. But the book itself succeeded quite well.

    And of course an unchanging lead is standard fare for spy thrillers, most adventure novels, and detective stories.
     
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