Dec 10 2008

Surviving to Page 2

Published by at 6:52 pm under Introductions,Writing Articles

Many manuscripts get nixed on the first page.  Here are a few things that publishers want to see early on.


1.  Is it easy to read through? If your first page introduces many characters, fictional words, place names and the like, the story is probably a slog.  If your first page is hard to understand, your manuscript is dead on arrival.


2.  “Do I care about this story?” The easiest way to make a reader care is to give urgent, pressing goals to a likable protagonist.  If nothing’s at stake, readers will probably find the story boring.  If the reader doesn’t care on page one, your submission is in grave danger.


3.  Does the author have a professional grasp of English? If the author has multiple typos on page one, they’re just going to assume the author is an amateur and move on to the next manuscript.  Making a good first impression is important. Rule of thumb: If the first page has 3+ typos, the manuscript will not survive to page 2.


4.   Does it look like the plot is going somewhere? If the first page gets bogged down in a geography lesson, or a winding prologue, or a lengthy exposition, the answer is probably no.  Pacing the first page well is extremely important.

76 responses so far

76 Responses to “Surviving to Page 2”

  1. Frank Murdockon 01 Feb 2009 at 5:55 am

    Hello. I’m new here and find your site incredibly informative. I have a book I have been working on for a few years now and would like some critique on my prologue. I’m not really sure of how a prologue is to be executed, but do know what I like in one. I tried to write mine in a manner that draws curiosity and compels the reader to want to continue. I believe I have done that, but I guess I’m nervous about what a publisher might think. Is there anywhere here that I could submit my prologue for some peer review? Thanks in advance.

  2. B. Macon 01 Feb 2009 at 6:00 am

    Hello! I just put up a review forum for you so you can post your excerpts and get comments more easily.

  3. Halfbakeryon 08 Feb 2009 at 10:37 pm

    Thanks for the tips. Actually, can I request a review forum as well? I’d like to share my story that I’m writing as well.

  4. B. Macon 08 Feb 2009 at 10:49 pm

    Sure. Here it is.

  5. S.V.Ton 16 Feb 2009 at 8:54 am

    I’d like to have my passage reviewed by you guys. I don’t know how to do it though.

  6. B. Macon 16 Feb 2009 at 8:56 am

    Umm, you can post it here or e-mail it to us at superheronation-at-gmail-dot-com . If you’d like a review forum, I can set that up for you.

  7. Koveon 04 Apr 2010 at 8:38 pm

    I’ve visited your site regularly for months now and the information I’ve gathered here has proven to be invaluable in the creation of both my characters and the world in which they live. I noticed that you set up a review forum for several of your visitors and was hoping you could set one up for me as well. I’ve never let anyone read any of my work and I’m hoping for some criticism, constructive or otherwise, to help me iron out some of the things I feel I’m missing from my work. Thank you for amassing such an amazing collection of advice and information for inexperienced writers such as myself.

  8. B. Macon 04 Apr 2010 at 10:31 pm

    Hello, Kove. I’ve set up a forum for you here. Good luck!

  9. Jeremy Melloulon 12 Dec 2010 at 5:52 pm

    So do you think that even if information about the world will be lost by not having a prologue it’s better to just start the story off and try to convey as much information as possible throughout the story?

  10. B. Macon 12 Dec 2010 at 8:52 pm

    Yes, Jeremy.

    If I could offer a few additional opinions…

    1) In most cases, I don’t think it’s much harder to develop a setting/premise by starting the story proper. Having the character available may help you make the story clearer to the reader and show how the protagonist ties into the premise. For example, if one of the main elements about your world is a mostly icy relationship conflict between humans and another species, you could probably flesh out the details of the relationship more effectively with a scene than with a prologue. In contrast, a prologue that describes the humans-dolphins conflict without using the main character would probably be flatter…

    2) People read stories, not settings. As a prospective reader, I’m less interested in the setting than in how the main characters and their goals tie into the setting. I think readers will give you more leeway to take your time building up a setting if you are working in some interesting details about the character.

    3) So far, the element of your story that strikes me as the most interesting is the idea of the priest in danger. I think it’s more important early on to establish that we should care about him. The other elements of the premise/setting, like the religious cult secretly bent on genocide, seem sort of secondary to that. As above, I think the more people care about the priest, the more they will want to learn about the cult endangering him.

    4) Establishing that the character is interesting/likable and that we should care about him is not mutually exclusive with establishing the premise/setting. For example, maybe the man in trouble comes to Elead with his startling revelation because there’s something really unusual/interesting/distinct about Elead.

    –Most obvious/least interesting: Elead strikes him as so honest/incorruptible that he’s the best person to turn to against an enemy with agents everywhere.

    –The man didn’t come to Elead originally, but comes to the Church to meet up with someone else. The man gets stressed, waiting for his contact, but the contact never shows up. The man correctly guesses that the contact has already been killed and he’s soon to follow. He turns to Elead because he has no other options and because it’ll catch the enemy off-guard. (In this scenario, I’d recommend having Elead be proactive; have him greet the man and ask him what’s wrong and if there’s anything he can do to help. The more active he is, the more interesting he will probably come across).

    –Elead impresses the man with some action, preferably something that sets Elead apart from other churchmen. For example, maybe Elead is a bit more streetwise and brave/adventurous than most of his peers–perhaps he really enjoys “unpleasant” churchwork like prison missionary work and preaching to drug addicts and/or other “undesirables.” If the man thought that Elead was his best chance, it’d make sense if it was because Elead showed a bit of toughness/bravery/steel. (Alternately, perhaps the man chooses Elead because he’s so sheltered/gentle that he’s the last man anyone would suspect*).

    –Elead has a conflict or flaw the man finds appealing. For a conflict, perhaps he’s having trouble getting along with his bosses and/or the Heralds because he does something they don’t like. (For example, perhaps he speaks out vociferously against some questionable behavior they’re involved in, even though his bosses may find it “undiplomatic” to criticize another religious movement. After all, the Heralds are just philanthropists that want to help people experience the call to faith, right? 😉 ).

    –For a flaw, pretty much anything could be appealing to the man with the disk under the right circumstances. Here are some flaws that might work:

    Maybe the priest is TOO optimistic about human nature, which might be refreshing to a man that may have been betrayed and is about to be killed.

    Maybe he’s TOO confident in the power of faith, which might be a plus in a situation as trying as this one. (If anyone is going to succeed, it’d probably be someone with an iron will and unshakable faith).

    *Maybe he’s TOO sheltered/gentle, which might be a plus because he’s the last person the enemy will suspect. (This would also raise interesting obstacles for him to overcome).

    Maybe he’s TOO trusting, and has only been involved in this anti-Herald counterconspiracy by accident, perhaps because the man took advantage of him. (For example, perhaps the man stashes the disc at the Church, figuring the priest is too unsuspecting to find anything amiss. The priest finds the disc and assumes that the man forgot them at Mass, so the priest leaves to return them, but finds only the man’s dead body).

    Maybe he’s TOO traditional, and takes moral stances that are very old-school. For example, maybe he condemns tobacco use or something else that few readers would find nefarious. The man with the disk is probably neckdeep in shadiness, so he might not be particularly principled himself, but he might reason that if the priest won’t even smoke a cigarette for fear of defiling God’s image, there’s nothing they could do to turn him against humanity. Note: if you were interested in a character that’s too traditional, it would raise some likability issues for the protagonist, but they could be surmounted. Hell, even a serial killer could be likable given the right motivations.

    PS: There’s nothing wrong with the idea of a nice protagonist receiving a mysterious quest from a soon-to-die stranger, but the plot might be a little bit more three-dimensional if the priest is getting played a bit, like using the church for safe-keeping or otherwise taking advantage of the priest’s kindness. It may be more believable and less contrived if the man’s initial plan was not to bet everything on a random priest carrying out a dangerous mission.

    Alternately, if the priest IS chosen by the man (rather than the priest getting entangled through his own actions), I’d recommend having the priest get selected because of something he does that distinguishes him from other characters. It’ll make him more proactive than a passive Chosen One.

  11. B. Macon 12 Dec 2010 at 8:57 pm

    Hmm… Perhaps I need to work more on conciseness. Your original question was 39 words and I wrote more than 850.

  12. Jeremy Melloulon 13 Dec 2010 at 1:53 am

    Please, don’t! This is awesome. I didn’t take all of your advice, it wouldn’t be possible haha, but I reworked a lot of the story now and it feels a lot better. It’s more complex and I’m using an alternative beginning I had – I originally had doubts about including a prologue and have decided to go ahead without it.

    I think Elead’s become a much more interesting character now and even though you don’t know the entire story (where would the fun be in that? 😉 ) your tips have helped me look at the plot & character(s) in a different way and really helped me out!

    Thank you! I still feel like there are changes to make, as there always will be, but it feels a lot stronger than I knew it could be.

    I did read the article on making characters likable and it has been helpful. Right now I’m struggling with trying to add a little bit of levity to the novel, but maybe that’s better left to the next “book” within the novel!

  13. B. Macon 13 Dec 2010 at 11:26 am

    Yeah, I don’t get hung up on how much of my advice gets used. It’s always less than half. (Understandably–if I offered three potential solutions for something, at most one of those will get used).

    Please feel free to let me know if you have any other questions.

  14. Jeremy Melloulon 13 Dec 2010 at 7:37 pm

    Well a moderate amount is always best. Shows consideration rather than blind acceptance / disregard.

    Thank you! I’ve emailed you 🙂

  15. […] graphic novels » Will Your Manuscript Survive to Page 20?  “Assuming your manuscript has survived to page 2, here are some thoughts about how to keep a publisher’s assistant reading to page […]

  16. Chihuahua0on 26 Aug 2011 at 7:06 pm

    I’m trying to cut down on the opening, trying to find the exact amount of time to spend before introducing the co-protagonist, since I need to establish the protagonist first in an exchange with his dad. In an earlier draft, Finn enters at Page 5. Now it’s the end of Page 3. Is this okay, or should I condense it more, since it’s the main point of the opening scene?

  17. Sophieon 10 Feb 2012 at 5:00 am

    I must say, I find your website really useful. Speaking as an aspiring writer, it has given me all sorts of ideas and guidelines which I can use to structure my stories (and even, to an extent, the articles I write!)

    Just thought I’d let you know that you’re doing a great job 🙂

  18. B. McKenzieon 10 Feb 2012 at 6:00 am

    Thank you.

  19. Stacey T. Hunton 02 Aug 2012 at 9:38 pm

    Hey, I’m new here. I really enjoy your website, and it’s very informative and useful. I was curious, do you know of any agents I could send a query letter of my book to?

  20. B. McKenzieon 02 Aug 2012 at 10:00 pm

    “I was curious, do you know of any agents I could send a query letter of my book to?” I recommend Agent Query.

  21. Dr. Vo Spaderon 25 Sep 2012 at 1:18 pm

    Alright, so I’ve gotten a little further. I am concerned, however, that the first chapter is too short. Typically, how long would you say a chapter should be?

  22. B. McKenzieon 25 Sep 2012 at 10:48 pm

    “Alright, so I’ve gotten a little further. I am concerned, however, that the first chapter is too short. Typically, how long would you say a chapter should be?” Unless your chapter is EXTREMELY short (e.g. less than 500 words), I’d look at this more from the level of scenes than the level of chapters. Have you developed the scene(s) enough to serve their function in the plot and propel the story moving forward? If so, then I don’t think length would be an issue, even if you had a 750 or 1000-word chapter occasionally.

    Typically, I think most chapters in adult novels are somewhere between 2000-6000 words, which would probably put you at around 20 chapters in a standard novel (let’s say ~80,000 words). But I don’t think it would be a problem if your chapter lengths differed significantly from the norm–it’d be very easy to change compared to a structural issue with the plot. (E.g. if the main character is not very interesting or likable, that would take a lot of time and skill to fix).

  23. Dr. Vo Spaderon 03 Oct 2012 at 5:15 pm

    …So in my story I have two main characters. Each of them have their own chapters, which alternate. However, there is a third character who has a pretty big role. My problem is that he is almost entirely unknown, and the few parts he has with the main two do very little to develop his character. Now, I can’t change his role. My plan was to give him his own chapter every four or five chapters. But I didn’t know if this was a good idea. Please, I would appreciate help and advice.

    P.S. My apologies if this wasn’t very coherent.

  24. B. McKenzieon 04 Oct 2012 at 1:14 am

    “I have two main characters. Each of them have their own chapters, which alternate. However, there is a third character who has a pretty big role. My problem is that he is almost entirely unknown, and the few parts he has with the main two do very little to develop his character. Now, I can’t change his role. My plan was to give him his own chapter every four or five chapters. But I didn’t know if this was a good idea. Please, I would appreciate help and advice.”

    –I think having 3 point-of-view characters is definitely more of a challenge than having 2. I wouldn’t recommend going there unless you’re sure that the third POV adds something to the story created by the first two. I suppose the first issue is that the character is failing to develop himself through his interactions with the two main characters. My initial impression is that if the character isn’t developing himself in an interesting way in the time he’s currently getting, giving him more time on his own is more likely to detract from the story than develop it. I suspect that it would probably be more effective to change his role so that he does a better job developing himself (or, if he’s hiding something, developing a fake persona and/or hinting at what lies beneath the surface). If we cannot see the truth for whatever reason, I think it is critical that we get at least an interesting surface from a major character.

    “Now, I can’t change his role.” Uhh… could you please elaborate on what’s going on here? By your own assessment, you have a character that’s not getting much development. He sounds very cryptic (not showing enough to engage readers) and not very interesting. If his role is indeed not very interesting, I think changing something about him (in concept and/or execution) would probably be advantageous–especially if he’s a point of view character. Personally, if I were evaluating a submission for a publisher, a point-of-view character that didn’t work for me would be sufficient to convince me that the story was probably not ready to go right now. Making him a POV really raises the stakes on whether he fits with the story.

  25. Dr. Vo Spaderon 04 Oct 2012 at 7:15 am

    Okay, all this makes sense. The third POV was a bad idea…I’ll just have to develop him more in context with the other two. Thanks again for the advice!

  26. B. McKenzieon 04 Oct 2012 at 9:29 am

    I don’t think it was a bad idea–just relatively challenging. Don’t beat yourself up over considering an unusual approach.

  27. Dr. Vo Spaderon 11 Oct 2012 at 3:30 pm

    @B. McKenzie,
    …So I told a friend about the site and he asked me to post an excerpt for him. Would you mind if I posted it here and got a review?

  28. B. McKenzieon 11 Oct 2012 at 4:20 pm

    Sure, go for it.

  29. Dr. Vo Spaderon 11 Oct 2012 at 6:11 pm

    …Sorry about the dots, didn’t know how I could indent.

    …”So what do you think?” Yinsen asked as he examined a map pinned to the wall. He was an older man, at the age of sixty-five, which was reflected in his soft eyes. His long hair and his beard had turned white some time ago. The badge on his white lab coat read: YINSEN LAMBDIN, GAMMA COLONY HEAD.
    …The man who had been asked the question was different in several ways. He was younger, about mid-thirties, and his hair was shaved jarhead style. He held the commanding presence of a military man, and his actions fit that presence. His sub-bionic prosthetic leg was currently plugged into a small generator under his desk, so he could charge it. A badge on his light armor read: AARON PACE, EPSILON COLONY HEAD.
    …“I think I got stuck with the rejects again.” Aaron answered after reading a list of his next arrivals. “These are not the men and women I put in a request for.”
    …Yinsen waved his complaints aside. “Oh, come on. Not all of them are that bad. You even got a scientist this time.”
    …“Bah!” Aaron retorted, tossing the list aside. “What the hell good is a scientist to me?”
    …“Just think of them as placeholders.” Yinsen pacified, “Until the next group comes.”
    “You realize it’ll be a full year before we get another batch of volunteers?” Aaron asked.
    …“You’re talking to the man who established this system.” Yinsen reminded him. “Trust me. I think you’ll like some of them.”
    …Aaron grunted. “Unless they’re soldiers-”
    …“Outcasts.” Yinsen corrected with a small smile. “Four of them. They’d been living in one one of the abandoned cities in Florida. I can’t remember the name…”
    …“Tampa?” Aaron suggested. “Fort Lauderdale? Jacksonville?”
    …“Spring Hill.” Yinsen told him.
    …“There’s some tough stuff in Spring Hill.” Aaron replied, and followed with a moment of quiet thought. “Well, I don’t expect much but I’ll keep an open mind.”
    …“That’s all I ask.” Yinsen said.

  30. Dr. Vo Spaderon 11 Oct 2012 at 6:21 pm

    …This isn’t the only part with the characters, and they each get real personalities and backstories later. Also, they aren’t the main characters (two of the four are), but they come into play quite often, apparently. I maybe should have mentioned post-apocalypse/exodus to a new land.

  31. Dr. Vo Spaderon 13 Oct 2012 at 11:33 am

    I was also curious as to how I could avoid an info dump. My first thought was conversation (as in one character talking about the info), but could I pull this off in another way?

  32. B. McKenzieon 13 Oct 2012 at 12:02 pm

    I think the first page should be more gripping and memorable, especially the first paragraph. Some possibilities: a better sense of what’s at stake, what they’re looking at on the maps, what the characters are like, etc.

    I would recommend showing/implying more and telling less. For example, I think there are smoother possibilities for showing that Yinsen and Aaron are the heads of their colonies. (E.g. could you imagine a mayor needing to wear his name/title on a badge?) For example, that could come across in dialogue or perhaps narration more smoothly.

    The description of Aaron Pace establishes that he’s military, but could go further. If he’s an important character at all, I would recommend mixing in some other characterization somewhere because he’s a bit one-dimensional here.

    “The man who had been asked the question was different in several ways” could probably be cut. I think most readers will pick up the contrast on their own.

    “His sub-bionic prosthetic leg was currently plugged into a small generator under his desk, so he could charge it” could be rephrased. I think “His prosthetic was currently plugged into a small charger under his desk” or perhaps “His prosthetic was currently charging, plugged into a small generator under his desk.”

    “I think I got stuck with the rejects again.” Aaron answered after reading a list of his next arrivals. The period after again should be a comma. I’d also suggest inserting a comma after answered and cutting the phrase “I think.”

    “These are not the men and women I put in a request for.” “put in a request for” could be shortened to “requested.” “men and women” could probably be shortened to either “people” or “men” or preferably any term which suggests something about what he needs them for. It might also help to insert information about what he was looking for in the guys he originally requested. (E.g. if he were looking for militia members, he might say something like “These are not the guys I requested. Have they even handled weapons before?”)

    …“Just think of them as placeholders.” Yinsen pacified, “Until the next group comes.” I would recommend checking out this article.

    “Well, I don’t expect much but I’ll keep an open mind.” Please show this. For example, if the situation in Spring Hill is truly grim (e.g. on the order of a zombie apocalypse), Aaron might wonder aloud whether all of their faculties are intact.

    I like the reference to abandoned cities in Florida. I think that helps hint at the setting/premise. That said, “There’s some tough stuff in Spring Hill” could probably benefit from a detail there.

  33. Dr. Vo Spaderon 13 Oct 2012 at 12:09 pm

    Alright, thanks for the help!

  34. Docrannon 11 Jun 2013 at 4:19 am

    I’m having difficulty starting my story and I was wondering if anyone can help? I just can’t find a concrete place to start writing and I write in such a way that I can’t write the scenes that interest me first – I have to go from A to B to C. Can anyone help? The novel starts with a girl recieving a message from her recently-deceased estranged mother telling her that she (the mother) is actually still alive and asking to meet her. So where should I start? I’ve considered:
    1. At the funeral
    2. When the girl recieves the news of her mother’s death
    3. When the girl goes through her mother’s belongings and finds the letter
    4. When the girl goes to meet her mother
    Can anyone help me? I like to start in such a way that I can simultaneously introduce the character and the world with a hook. Thanks.

  35. Cadklson 12 Nov 2013 at 2:50 pm

    Hi I’m new here and I have been looking at the advice on this website for several weeks now and I was wondering if I could submit a prologue I have written for peer review so that everyone can see and critisize on. Thank you.

  36. Dannyon 28 Feb 2014 at 8:25 pm

    Hey I just had a question about something I’m working on. I’m still working on a lot of my story but I have a question concerning exposition. My comic is generally focused around a character who at first doesn’t even know he has any kind of abilities. The way I see it in my head, the beginning will kind of take you on an average day of the protagonist and let you get to know him (making him relatable) and then in sort of a cliff hanger at the end he demonstrates his powers unknowingly. The reader will be aware of his power, but the protagonist will not.

    Would this be a good way to start the story? Or should I reverse that order and have him demonstrate his ability in the very first page and then show a day in his life?

    I’m not exactly worried about the reader losing interest because I’m attempting to use a lot of realistic comedy through the use of dialogue within the main cast, but I also don’t want to lose the reader because they think the story isn’t progressing into a typical “Super Hero” story right off the bat.

    If the character doesn’t demonstrate his abilities until near the very end of issue #1, would that be a turn off to readers? Or would it give the reader a chance to get to know the character before his transition into a superhero, which is kind of the arc I’m looking to go for within the first few issues.

    If you could let me know what you think on this situation that would be great. Thanks!

  37. B. McKenzieon 28 Feb 2014 at 11:38 pm

    Hello, Danny.

    “I’m not exactly worried about the reader losing interest because I’m attempting to use a lot of realistic comedy through the use of dialogue within the main cast, but I also don’t want to lose the reader because they think the story isn’t progressing into a typical “Super Hero” story right off the bat.” As long as the story is consistently interesting and the pacing/plotting works effectively, it probably isn’t a huge problem whether you introduce the superpowers quickly or more gradually. If you feel like the character’s daily life is not sufficient to foreshadow a story that will eventually have superpowered combat in it, you could work in some elements early on where his powers start to manifest and/or there’s some sort of other supernatural strangeness going on. He doesn’t need to have a good handle on what is going on at first.

    “The way I see it in my head, the beginning will kind of take you on an average day of the protagonist…” Unless his average day is really interesting*, I’d recommend showing a high-stakes day that contributes more to developing the main plot than just an okay day at school or the office would. Otherwise, I think you’d be putting a LOT of pressure on your comedic ability to keep readers interested.

    *E.g. Scott Pilgrim, anyone with a really high-stakes and/or incredibly hard job (e.g. my defense attorney), Charlie Sheen, Charlie Sheen’s defense attorney, etc.

  38. Dannyon 05 Mar 2014 at 5:55 pm

    Thanks for the advice. I really have to think of a good way to go about it. Because the first arc I’m working on is sort of an Origin story, it’s difficult to say what the main conflict is in the beginning. I want to capture a transition from an every day guy to a likeable hero and then once the protagonist is established, get into a deeper plot with a more superhero-esq conflict. I guess I have more to work out than I originally thought lol.

    Thanks again.

  39. N. Springon 17 Apr 2014 at 5:29 pm

    I don’t even recall what I typed into Google when I found this site, but it is by far the greatest thing I’ve stumbled across.

  40. Cherry-chanon 21 May 2014 at 8:05 pm

    I’ve been trying to come up with good plots, but I can’t seem to figure out how to start the first page in a way that will grip the reader. I also have trouble with writing the dialogue between characters. It comes out very boring and flat to me. Could anyone give me any tips?
    Thanks in advance! 🙂

  41. B. McKenzieon 21 May 2014 at 10:48 pm

    “I’ve been trying to come up with good plots, but I can’t seem to figure out how to start the first page in a way that will grip the reader. I also have trouble with writing the dialogue between characters. It comes out very boring and flat to me. Could anyone give me any tips?” Could you give a sample of a first page you wrote and/or a page heavy on dialogue?

  42. Cherry-chanon 22 May 2014 at 1:07 pm

    I’m just writing this so I don’t seem rude for not answering. If you don’t mind, I have to wait a little to download Microsoft Word again on my laptop. Then I’ll be able to write a sample of my story.
    I’m sorry if I wasted your time, but I will write that sample as soon as possible!

  43. B. McKenzieon 22 May 2014 at 6:45 pm

    Sure, take as much time as you need. I’m definitely not paying you enough to be able to assign deadlines. 🙂

  44. Mynaon 23 May 2014 at 8:21 am

    As for the first page thing–I think the best way to start is with the main character in their element, doing something interesting. That gives you have an opportunity to characterize the char while still having it hooking enough to be interesting, /before/ crazy stuff starts happening.

    I usually start /when/ crazy stuff starts happening–but it’s harder to characterize your MC that way, and sometimes the reader will read it wondering why they should care that your protag is in an insane car chase on the first place since they barely know anything about your protag.

  45. Cherry-chanon 26 May 2014 at 11:01 am

    Thanks to both of you! 🙂

  46. BlackDragonon 28 May 2014 at 7:56 pm

    When you start a novel like this are you going with the main character first or do you try to include all of them. My main character is cold and lives on his own. The villain in his story only exists in Damien’s head, but he is the “Batman” of my universe so to speak.

    I am wondering how to start this, I have warmer characters like Sarah a speedster and Hayden. So where do I begin ? do I tell each origin or jump into when they are established.. they don’t come together till an alien invasion so it’s hard to know were to begin.

  47. Mynaon 28 May 2014 at 10:55 pm

    I think you should start with your MC, that’s the char your reader is going to be with the most, anyway. Even though he’s cold and lives on his own you could make him likeable. Batman is a lot like that and he’s one of the most popular superheroes out there, you know?

  48. BlackDragonon 29 May 2014 at 7:38 am

    Thanks for the reply, I’ll try to do my focus on Zero, even though it might be just a little boring as he has no powers and won’t fight for ages. If I do something like this to give everyone good backstories, would it work properly?

    Chapter 1-3 Zero
    Chapter 4-6 BlackDragon
    Chapter 7-10 Bluethunder
    Chapter-11-15 Inferno (would include Zero at some point)
    Chapter 16-18 Velocity / Blindside

    Then they would cross paths

    Chapter 19-21 Zero vs Velocity
    Chapter 21-22 Wolf (another origin story)
    Chapter 23-40 Phantom era (Phantom girl arrives from space, this would involve Zero and Velocity, Blindside, Bluethunder as well as new OmegaCop who would get a shorter back story. They team up with the alien girl when her brother arrives to kill everyone

    Chapter 40-60 Ultra force (Wolf, BlackDragon and Inferno come back and join up with all the rest to fight Phantom girl’s dad and brother

    Is that in the mould of how other novels do it? I have never read a superhero specific novel before.

  49. Mynaon 29 May 2014 at 9:27 am

    Well even if he has no powers and won’t fight for a while, you can still give him conflicts that build up to that to keep the reader interested, so long as they don’t seem random. The MC of my story doesn’t even get powers until chapter 5 and doesn’t join magic superhero organization of craziness and spandex until 7, but if you put conflicts in there the reader will stay on until your MC does start getting more involved in the plot.

    I’m not sure what you mean by how you’ve split up your chapters. Do you mean each chapter is in the POV of a specific character?

    If you want to read superhero novels goodreads has a few lists full of superhero specific novels. I think some of the best known are Soon I Will be Invincible (Austin Grossman) and Steelheart (Brandon Sanderson).

  50. BlackDragonon 29 May 2014 at 3:55 pm

    Oh, I just assumed these things usually start off more explosive! and bang pow! rather than kid at high school, it’s a pretty slow so road but it’s a big relief your MC doesn’t get powers till that late though, Damien should be in line for that suit around chapter 3.

    By the way, when your MC joins the group how do you then handle the others, do you go into the past to explain their origins or do they just interact and we slowly learn how they got powers? or something else completely.

    yeah, I was planning to do each chapter as just about how one person got there powers, training, defeating their own villain, then move one to another and have no interactions or knowledge of other heroes yet. The stories would just be about them and possibly a few of the villains would become requiring.

    Tnks! I will look into them, I have a hunger for some big original super hero teams in all out war to help me handle my story.

  51. Mynaon 29 May 2014 at 5:40 pm

    As long as you’re not starting with a, “He woke up. He went to school…” kind of “day in the life” opening you should be good. Those kind of openings are really cliche and boring because you just see the MC doing normal stuff. So open with them in their element, doing something interesting, or in the middle of a conflict (even if it’s not a superhero-related conflict, or even a physical one) and you should be alright.

    When Seth joins the superhero organization I don’t really go into anyone elses’ origin stories or anything. But in-universe everyone who has powers develops them around puberty and there’s no crazy events surrounding it, so they all have pretty much the same origin story anyway: randomly develop powers, accidentally reveal them in public, get drafted into the Hero Core.

    I’d avoid giving every single super’s origin story in detail as soon as you introduce them though, because your reader won’t be able to keep track of the details if there’s more than three at once. If you want to, you can shorten it to a sentence (“That was Wolf. He’d gotten his powers by being bitten by a radioactive wolf, while Silverwing over there had gotten in the way of a chemical experiment gone wrong and now could…”) orrr if the origin story is very complicated and needs to be given more time, detail it later, when the reader knows more about and cares more about the character(s) in question.

    I’m not sure if you need 2-3 chapters outlining the origins of each hero. It seems like the reader would just end up jumping from character to character, getting a different origin story each time but without seeing how it all really connects until chapter 20…

  52. B. McKenzieon 30 May 2014 at 12:16 am

    “Is that in the mould of how other novels do it? I have never read a superhero specific novel before.” Ah… if you’re trying to write a superhero novel, I’d recommend getting on that ASAP. At the very least, familiarizing yourself with your field will help you get to know your prospective readers. Personally, if I got the feeling that a prospective novelist had never read a book in the field, I’d probably drop his/her manuscript pretty quickly. (For me, two recurring red flags here would probably be a synopsis that focused heavily on the characters’ superpowers and/or using a team of 7+ superheroes*).

    *Not COMPLETELY unworkable, but large teams generally make a hell of a lot more sense for major comic book companies that have gradually introduced and developed these characters over years than they do for novelists trying to introduce many unknown characters simultaneously.

  53. BlackDragonon 31 May 2014 at 4:39 pm

    Well..that was exactly how I was going to start so thanks a lot. Instead I’ll have him being bullied or reading vogue magazine. Something more weird/interesting.

    “Soon I will be invincible” sounds exactly like what I’m looking for from what I read. As for my “Ultra force” It’s probably just going to be something I do after college for fun. (still want it to be good tho) especially since I know If I tried to publish it the names Zero, Inferno, Phantom girl and possibly others would have to be changed since they belong to MARVEL/DC. I’ll write it with the names I want first, then change them all if I decide I want to try and publish.

    How about this new order?


    Since Zero will fight Inferno eventually this will link both chapters. Jasmine can start with her powers already and it would be told through short flash backs how she got them whilst the action continues to keep people interested.


    If I add Blackdragon to the professional heros earlier he doesn’t need his own chapters at all, I could have his past more shady, make him a mysterious type, plus it’s an nice early start to the Sarah x Hayden relationship. I could possibly have Phantom girl land in these chapters and have her be a looming threat they don’t know off yet.


    I need to add more to his story since he has a long one. I could have Velocity instead of his friend coach him through his new found blindness, also that way he learns about other heros too. And maybe I could do a random foreshadow scene. Like at the start of Bluethunder’s chapter, Simon(Wolf) finds a ticket to a cruise and goes off happily. Then Wolf can just show up later with a line to explain the rest of his story.

    Phantom era happens as normal. Now everyone has gotten to have contact with the other hero’s in some way to expand the universe. Minus Zero who would still get his three chapter solo origin.

    After the main event I plan for most to disband and some to die. The main team of Ultra force for the rest of the novel shoulden’t be too much to handle, only four.


  54. Mynaon 31 May 2014 at 6:29 pm

    I’m sorry! >.<;; It's just that that beginning has been done a lot before. You can make it work, but it's hard. I like the new opening version you have, though. It makes your MC distinct and automatically puts him in trouble.

    Yeah, I wouldn't worry about the names. No one's going to reject you over copyrighted names anyway, they'll just ask you to find/replace the names in the draft at some point.

    So is the new setup where each char has their own POV chapter(s) and at the end of their section they meet the others?

    I kind of like this version better because heroes start teaming up earlier and that leads to more fun with the characters than just a lot of separate origin stories.

  55. BlackDragonon 06 Jun 2014 at 6:08 pm

    I like it better this way too, thanks for your help! you never know where it will go ,sometimes, when you start things can change, but this is a good outline.

    Velocity and Blindisde are apart of a government agent group which name I haven’t come up with a name yet 😛 and Blackdragon joins them, so they will go on missions together and be about all of them, but mostly BlackDragon. Bluethunder would meet Velocity midway through his chapter

    sorry, you confused me there, did you mean bullying in school has been done before or the MC fighting another hero after he establishes himself?

  56. B. McKenzieon 06 Jun 2014 at 7:53 pm

    “Did you mean bullying in school has been done before or the MC fighting another hero after he establishes himself?” Bullying in school has been done quite a lot before. In particular, one-dimensionally nasty-and-dumb bullies that don’t have enough intelligence or charm to have really interesting dialogue. My guess is that the MC gets bullied because he’s doing something really girly like reading Vogue. If you use the bully, I’d recommend coming at him/her in a completely different direction. For example, perhaps “Vogue is so 1990s, everybody knows that. Are you growing a mullet, too?” or a gay character asking him why he’s doing something so over-the-top weird as reading Vogue at school.

  57. Cherry-chanon 13 Jul 2014 at 2:34 pm

    I have done it! I wrote a prologue! *Does happy little jig* Please tell me if there are any flaws, what I can improve on, and what you like.
    Here it is:

    It was called the Genematrix, because at least one aspect one their lives had to be cool. The Genematrix was the source of every tragic story, dramatic interlude, and attractively damaged character alive and previous. Simply put, its job was to make people’s lives very interesting.

    It was their job, very specifically, not to get caught in it.

    “They” were technically a clan in both function and mannerisms, but the word “clan” was a Genematrix fetish and so they were instead a “family united under a common goal”. The Erucsbo were unique for one very specific reason- each one of them possessed the ability, or mutation, more likely, of a casualty… fail-field. Unlike other people, caught up in webs of intrigue and character development, Erucsbo could and compulsively did self-edit and generally stayed out of trouble, using this bizarre twist of fate to keep things running smoothly and staying out of it so they could keep doing it.

    And so, for a very long time this family united produced inappropriately well-balanced people and sent them off into the world, taking care to remain comfortably middle class even when presented with wealth, and fit enough to survive but not so much as to lead the pack.

    And then she was born.

    To be fair, this wasn’t her fault.

    It wasn’t even that she was willfully malicious- if she had been, it would have been excusable. No, what went wrong was simply this:

    Her mother died.

    Her mother had some nine months previously stood for a few seconds too long in a Plot Device and had unwittingly spawned herself an electrokinetic daughter who detonated upon birth. Luckily the Genematrix had been stopped from descending upon the two minute old baby by a quick-thinking family member smacking a surprised and extremely traumatized child in the head.

    So maybe it was her fault.

    Grief, unfortunately, wasn’t exactly a staple of the family, and so her father simply squared his shoulders, dug through the sparking rubble and pulled out the daughter he promptly named. This one, the family united under a common goal thought with deep suspicion, was trouble.

    Despite the Genematrix’s best efforts, the less than imaginatively named Stella was raised by a father who was neither abusive nor distant, who brought her up to be decent and to believe in self-sufficiency and the under-appreciated value of boredom. Stella, unsurprisingly, grew up to be pragmatic, emotionally well balanced and enduring, if a little socially awkward.

    This wasn’t really the Genematrix’s fault either; it was only a force of narrative casualty, and it was trying its best.

    Stella was, in a word, average.

    Certainly almost all of her skin had to be covered to avoid electrical mishap and negative and positive impacting experiences selectively, and for similar reasons she never went and ultimately didn’t know how to swim, but she didn’t have a hard or tragic life, and so she considered herself fairly lucky.


    But lucky nonetheless.

    To Stella’s credit, she tried. She really did. She was in the middle of her class, occasionally lower, and she had almost no friends. Her relentlessly cheerful personality had gotten her a great deal of suspicious looks as time went on, but she quickly learned how to brood at appropriate times, and so she went through life largely undetected. Then, as these things do, something happened. A seemingly innocuous series of events apparently unrelated but of course purposeful, would change everything.

    The family knew trouble when they saw it:

    She was screwed.

  58. Cherry-chanon 13 Jul 2014 at 2:36 pm

    Just so you know, my story takes place in my own, made up world, and not in this one.

  59. B. McKenzieon 13 Jul 2014 at 10:33 pm

    “It was called the Genematrix, because at least one aspect [of] their lives had to be cool.” Haha, I really like this opening line. (Although “Genematrix” does not strike me as notably cool-sounding).

    My general take regarding this prologue is that it would probably be more effective to rewrite this information into chapter 1 (i.e. drawing in the characters more actively rather than using this information mainly as setup).

    At some points, the narrator came across as jarringly more pretentious (e.g. “…each one of them possessed the ability, or mutation, more likely, of a casualty… fail-field”) than the opening sentence (…”at least one aspect of their lives had to be cool”). At the narrator’s most pretentious moments, it was pretty hard for me to make sense of what he/she was trying to say.

    I think you’ve done a pretty good job selling me on a really meta-sounding work.

  60. Mynaon 14 Jul 2014 at 6:36 am

    Overall, I like the style, though I agree that some parts are a little confusing and could be rewritten to make it more clear what’s going on. But I think you could just start with Stella and bring the backstory in later. She has an interesting problem, and it would be neat to see that conflict in the first chapter or so.

  61. Cherry-chanon 18 Jul 2014 at 8:27 pm

    Thanks! I’ll try to work on that. 🙂

  62. LiveLikeHeroeson 25 Aug 2014 at 11:18 am

    This is so super helpful! It can be really difficult to know how to start a story. Would this be a proper place to get my first couple pages reviewed by everybody? Would a review forum be better? Also, my book isn’t sci-fi or fantasy, just an adventure novel, I hope that’s okay?

  63. B. McKenzieon 26 Aug 2014 at 8:33 pm

    LLH, please post your pages as a comment on this page.

  64. LiveLikeHeroeson 27 Aug 2014 at 8:31 am

    Alright! Here are the first couple pages of my first chapter. Let me know what you think, I appreciate it! 🙂

    Our territory is everything north of Franklin Park and the old theater. The police used to prowl these streets in their black and white police cars like a 1940’s movie, but that’s too long ago for me to remember.
    Now I know I’m safe as long as I stay in our territory. We’re hundreds-strong. A thousand maybe, I don’t know. We used to be a gang in the general sense, but I don’t remember that either. The Hoods kept recruiting civilians and increasing their numbers, so we increased too. They get bigger; we get bigger. It’s like a game, or a feud. We’re called the Sparks. I’m not sure where the name comes from. I’ll have to ask Renee.
    I’m sitting in the window of a pawn shop, observing the absence of people on the streets today. Spark territory looks like it’s been drained of all its handguns and punk rock soldiers, and even the shop I’m in is empty. It’s owned by that girl Madison, and she’s alright with me being here. We’re not friends exactly, but she knows who I am.
    Today, the streets are empty because people are afraid. That’s why that girl Madison isn’t even in her own shop. They’re scared with good reason, and I should be more scared than any of them. Today is the day that Parker, the king of the Hoods, gets out of prison. He’s been put away for three years, and three years is a long time. My life is very different than it was three years ago. I have never met him or even seen him, just heard stories. He’s been building the Hood empire for more than fifteen years, and he drove himself insane over it a long time ago. He’s barely been out of prison for six hours, and already I’ve heard rumors circulating about his new schemes. Word is, he wants me. Wants to meet me. Talk to me. So today, I’m a wanted girl.
    Renee warned me not to step one foot outside today. If the rumors are true, which they probably are, I’ll be snapped up as soon as my feet hit the pavement. So I’m tucked up in the window of this pawn shop, which is situated right on the edge of Spark territory. From here, I can see straight into Hood territory. It’s far from empty. Hoods are peppered all over, patrolling and hovering at intervals, each one packing a huge military rifle. Each one is within sight and earshot of another, and they’re packed thicker at the invisible line that marks our territories. I watch them buzz around the brown grass of Franklin Park in a pack like flies. They stop to chat to one another when they’re close enough. Directly in the middle of Franklin Park, a hundred yards or so into the territory, Jamie Burgess is resting his back against a tree, a rifle in his arms. He’s been the substitute leader of the Hoods for three years while Parker has been away, so I recognize the pasty white ugliness of his face. Seriously, how is this man in the sun right now and still an egg white? Looks like he’s been demoted to patrol now that the boss is back in town. I smile. I fully intend to follow Renee’s instructions and sit here for what’s left of the fading afternoon.
    Then I have an idea. My idea quickly forms into a plan that sounds more fun than sitting. So I hop up and swing my backpack over my shoulder, and I’m out the door.
    I head for the territory line in as steady a walk as I can manage. I roll my hands into fists at my side to keep from fidgeting and looking nervous as every Hood turns to look at me. I adjust my backpack on my shoulder; it’s got spray paint cans and my cellphone and some grenades.
    I don’t hesitate as I walk straight over the line, but my heart pounds. I could theoretically get shot on Hood territory, but it hasn’t happened yet, so I figure I’m too important for that. In fact, all of the Hoods are keeping their distance from me as I strut right into their territory. They point their guns at me and someone shouts, “Hands up.” I don’t stop, and I hear, “Backpack off!”
    I swing the backpack off and dump it on the ground, and keep walking. I don’t bother to put my hands up. The Hoods leave the backpack where it is like it’s going to spontaneously combust. Which, to be fair, is not outside the realm of possibility with me. Dang, they really are scared to do anything to me. I was sort of hoping they would jump me and immediately take me to Parker.
    I flash a toothy, sarcastic smile to a she-Hood that I pass too close to on my left. I drop it immediately and keep heading for the buzz cut blond with the egg face. I don’t stop until I’m a few feet away from him. He’s staring at me with those dead eyes and that straight line of a mouth, as uninteresting and unattractive as ever.
    I shrug and look around. “Well? Take me to your leader, jerkface.”

  65. fixgooon 02 Sep 2014 at 10:42 am

    I’ve visited your site regularly for months now and the
    information I’ve gathered here has proven to be
    invaluable in the creation of both my characters and
    the world in which they live. I noticed that you set up a
    review forum for several of your visitors and was
    hoping you could set one up for me as well. I’ve never
    let anyone read any of my work and I’m hoping for
    some criticism, constructive or otherwise, to help me
    iron out some of the things I feel I’m missing from my
    work. Thank you for amassing such an amazing
    collection of advice and information for inexperienced
    writers such as myself.

  66. Anonymouson 02 Sep 2014 at 11:59 am

    I have been around the site posting my stuff on abandoned review threads but received no comments so I decided to post excerpts of my first chapter here to receive feedback whether it can survive to page 2, also Bmac i would like to know if the book title White knight forever is good and not corny, i have so much to do and i would have preferred a review forum but here goes nothing.

    Chapter 1

    As i ran out of the elevator into the printing my room. My giant-sized shield, armor and double headed war axe all at hand. I monitored the tracker on my wrist and discovered that my target has heading towards me then i accidentally bumped into a fat man with a shirt ‘getaway weekend in lagos, hope your wife doesn’t find out’ causing him to topple over, The different white collared workers who were busy typing away at their computers noticed me. I flashed them my Templar’s badge which seemed to allay their fears as i could see from their body movement that they were getting scared. My target was almost here, Time for some action.
    “Everybody on the floor!” I barked as a beast about fifty foot tall with two horns sticking out of a head covered with thick green scales and having cat-like slit eyes that glowed and attached to a body with more scales and spikes running from its back to its tail appeared outside the high rise building and scanned the room, the workers already had their chests on the ground and were crawling into safer places. On noticing me it opened its mouth revealing various sets of sharp red hot teeth charred by sulfur and released a long stream of fire, I reacted swiftly throwing my shield in the way and hiding behind it, the fire bent around it and filtered into the room burning furniture and office equipment and reducing them to ashes…

  67. Fixgooon 02 Sep 2014 at 12:05 pm

    Sorry i’m fixgoo the anonymous please gimme review forum B.mac (sobs and falls on knees)

  68. B. McKenzieon 02 Sep 2014 at 10:40 pm

    If I could suggest some websites which do community reviewing much better than I have, I’d start with Critters Writing Workshop. Alternately, maybe an in-person group.

  69. Thunderwulfon 15 Oct 2014 at 1:50 pm

    Hello Everyone! This is a Prelog to a story I am writing. It mainly just introduces the Main Characters and the Setting. Another note is the two characters in this passage are siblings, but it isn’t said. I do add that info in the first chapter, and I am fairly certain that I didn’t do a info dump (Hell hath no fury to author who use info dumps…). Any form of criticism is welcomed, and please add your comments and advise or questions.

    “Fear keeps us focused on the past or worried about the future. If we can acknowledge our fear, we can realize that right now we are okay. Right now, today, we are still alive, and our bodies are working marvelously. Our eyes can still see the beautiful sky. Our ears can still hear the voices of our loved ones.”
    – Thich Nhat Hanh

    September 24, 2000
    22:50 PST
    On one fateful September night, where the city bathed in twilight, a sense of security fell upon the urban area. The air was so heavy with moisture, it was almost if at any moment the heavens would open up and release their burden upon the city. The only light that reached the ground was that from an artificial form, and even that was dim, almost non perceptible. Garbage littered the ground, and the buildings appeared as if a bird landed on them, they would simply crumble under the weight.

    And for the people living within those walls, they hunkered down waiting for dawn. They wouldn’t dare set a foot outside, for night was far from their control. Thieves and robbers were the rulers of the night, but even their activity was recently cut. Even still, that fear was still shrouded upon them, so they simply remained there, and waited for the light that signaled the approaching day.

    But this is actually why, in the darkness of the predawn era, two silhouettes scampered across the walls. Their corresponding masters hurried to an unlit ally; they waited, and once they believed that they were safe, they dared to remove the tattered hoods that concealed their faces.

    The two figures were haggard and gaunt, particularly the taller of the two, a boy. He stood at five foot eight. His hair was a matted concoction; a mess of dirt, sweat, and blood, dyeing his hair with a mixture of different hues of brown and red, giving it a marble-like appearance, obscuring its true color. His hair was roughly styled in a Caesar cut, with a few stray strands sticking out around his ears and neck, suggesting that he trimmed his own hair. His eyes and cheeks were sunken into his head, giving the boy an almost alien appearance.

    His companion, a girl, was considerable shorter, only reaching to his shoulders in height. Her light, brown, tangled, colored hair was cut so the length of it reached her clavicles. Fortunately, the color of her hair easily prevented it from being tinted by different, staining liquids. It did, however, due to the amount of dirt in it, have a gritty texture to it, almost like that of sand. Her cheeks and eyes were sunken in as well. Albeit, not as badly as the boy, but to the point where you could easily highlight her cheekbones.

    Both were skeletons, their skin hanging from their frames. The tattered clothing that was fastened to their bodies was old and frail. The boy wore a worn and old, blue sweatshirt, its color had long since begun to fade, leaving its hue light, like that of the sky. His trousers were torn at the knees, leaving the fabric to loosely hang from strips it was connected to. Her pants were in similar condition, but instead of a blue sweatshirt, she wore a red one, which due to the course of time, had started to turn pick.

    Another thing that these two strangers had that they shared were their eyes. They were a brilliant shade of blue, not like that you see from the sky, or that of the waters of a tropical beach. No, theirs were shaded like that of an ice cave. Hues of silver and blues were mixed in together, giving them an almost eerie appearance.

    The boy quickly glanced over his left shoulder, and once he was completely sure that they weren’t followed, he allowed his guard to lessen slightly, though not completely, as he had learned from past mistakes that to do so, was extremely dangerous, as you might not know what lies just behind your line of sight. One might call him paranoid, but he would say, “It is just a precaution, after all, you can’t be too careful.” He gently kneed on his knees and swung his backpack over his shoulder, allowing himself to get to the contents. The smaller girl just leaned against the wall. Once her back made contact will the hard surface, she slid down, using the wall to prop herself up while sitting.

    The boy, smiled faintly, as he had found what he needed. His boney hand pulled out two, plastic water bottles, like those cheap ones you buy at the store. He sat down next to the girl and offered her one. She accepted it, took the cap off, and swallowed several large gulps before removing it from her lips. The boy removed his cap as well and slowly sipped on the refreshing liquid.

    “We can’t keep doing this, Aaron,” the girl whispered. “Running ourselves into the ground. We are just going to lose this battle if we keep this up.”

    The boy, Aaron, nodded mutely, because he knew he was hearing the truth.

    “I bet we can come out of hiding, we are probably off their radar by now, we can…”

    “We’re not off their radar,” Aaron suddenly interrupted, his quiet, raspy voice silencing her, “We’ll never be Emily,” Emily turned her head and tilted it to the side slightly, her brow furrowed in confusion.

    “I-I don’t think I understand,” she said at last.

    Aaron sighed heavily. He lifted his head a looked at the pitch-black sky.

    “We are on their radar, no matter if we like it or not. The fact of the matter is that if we so much as make ourselves known, if we publicize who we are,” he turn to face her and pointed to his emaciated chest, “They Will Know.” He turned away from her, not wanting to look at her shocked face.

    “That doesn’t necessarily means we can’t try to live a normal life; we just have to extremely careful,” he continued reassuringly.

    There was silence for a moment, then: “What about our powers?” Emily asked, “We can’t use them on normal basic because if they read a heading that is something along the lines of “Mysterious Teens with Unnatural and Unexplained Powers have been Seen” we’re screwed.”

    “So we practice with them is secret,” was the reply.

    Emily just stared at him skeptically with her mouth slightly agape.

    “Are. You. INSANE!” She lowly whispered.

    Aaron smirked and looked at his partner, “Only slightly,” He answered while shrugging.

    “Besides, Emily, as the saying goes, ‘where there’s a will, there’s a way.’”

    “That doesn’t mean I have to like it.”

    “True, but Emily, the other option is to either lose or weaken our powers, and due to the amount of work we’ve put into them, we both know we can’t afford that.”

    Emily sigh, defeated. Every part of her companion’s argument was very, very logical, as well as true. They no matter what couldn’t afford that at all. Aaron cut off her musing by muttering, “It’s probably going to rain tonight, and we should look for some shelter.” He stood up and offered his hand to her, and she gracious accepted it. And once more, they disappeared from the visual sight of others.

  70. Tomason 12 Apr 2016 at 11:14 am

    Should I consider Page 1 as the first page of chapter 1 or the 1st page of the preface? Because Chapter 1 is a bit slow compared with the preface (just a bit)…

  71. B. McKenzieon 12 Apr 2016 at 4:50 pm

    The preface would probably be read first. I’d also recommend checking out How to Write a Prologue.

  72. Vixis Shiar'Deluson 26 Apr 2016 at 11:33 am

    How would you feel if you were presented with a book that started with one set of main characters having just arrived from an unsanctioned expedition into dangerous territory and being told that some of the children from their village had been taken while the main characters were gone? This would lead to them going back out to try and find them and other story developments.

  73. B. McKenzieon 26 Apr 2016 at 6:29 pm

    VSD, I think it could work, but I’d recommend taking some time to develop the main characters as interesting in their own right before the inciting event hits (finding out that the kids have been taken). In this case, the first approach that comes to mind would be something dangerous/exciting they do on the expedition and/or a high-speed chase on the way home. I’d recommend checking out Guardians of the Galaxy for a great example of an opening adventure scene developing a character, a plot, a tone/mood, and a conflict. And also maybe the best use of a song in a superhero movie (Come and Get Your Love by Redbone) that I’ve come across, but that probably wouldn’t help you much. 😉

    Also, in general I’d recommend against introducing the inciting event on page 1. (Or, at least, this is an article about page 1, so I may be baselessly inferring that we might be talking about page 1).

    Also, I’m hoping that at least one of the kids has more personality/character than just being a faceless plot device.

    Lastly, I’m hoping that least one of the main characters responds to the inciting action in an unexpected way. In this case, I’d guess the most expected courses of action would be 1) racing out after the kids because it’s the right thing to do and/or it will pay well and 2) business as usual. Some motives that might be more distinctive than altruism and simple greed in this case might include fear, revenge for an unrelated act (e.g. let’s make a posse to take down the kidnappers, because the kidnappers have previously wronged me or are working for someone who has), or cover for a rawly selfish move of some sort (the mother of all alibis for the heist of the century or whatever, but preferably something that the townsfolk would find less agreeable than chasing after the kids for the bounty/ransom money).

  74. Vixis Shiar'Deluson 27 Apr 2016 at 9:02 am

    It wouldn’t be hard for me to think of something that happened on their way back, and that sounds like it would be a lot more interesting of a start.

    As for their initial reaction, Wilbur (Will) wants to help the children, but also doesn’t see it as something they can do with their current supplies. Another of the main reasons he would actually like to try to find the kids is because he feels that they may have been taken to the same area/place that his mother and sister had when the invasion had initially started (since they know that the novae, despite being heartless invaders seeking to make the earth their new home, have honor). Douglas, Wilbur’s friend, doesn’t think it’s a very viable mission since it would be much further into novae territory than they have been in since the invasion began. However, he doesn’t want to see his best friend get killed or captured, so if Wilbur decided to go, he would follow him.

    As a note, Wilbur and Douglas do intend to steal weapons from a nearby military base/supply warehouse before actually going on the expedition. This is something they have regularly managed to do without the military officials finding out, as they have consistently replaced live rounds and food with duds and fakes. They don’t hate the military, but that base is not perceived to be in a hugely dangerous area and not very many of the members of the military on that base actually go forward. They also cover their tracks so that it seems like there is a roving pack of raiders.

    The children in general are kind of just a thing for them to go after and save. However, one of the children who is significantly older, as well as a man around Wilbur and Douglas’ age are also freed during their eventual assault on that compound. Both the woman and the man they save turn into very significant characters, with the man being the overarching villain (he’d been captured by the Novae who wanted him to help them take down the human leadership from the inside. He dislikes the leadership of both humans and novae, and refused) and the woman being a secondary character who attempts to help the main characters later on. She also provides a sort of motive for Wilbur later on due to other circumstances that do not involve romance.

  75. Eliseon 11 May 2018 at 10:28 pm

    Hi!! I don’t know how to start my story. I’m still figuring out the characters a little. I think maybe a friend calls one of the character because they see them in the back of a police car and wonder why. Maybe they saved the world and got a ride around the block or egged a house. I don’t know. BTW the characters are middle schoolers. Should the story start at school or somewhere more unusual?

  76. B. McKenzieon 12 May 2018 at 4:06 pm

    Elise: “I don’t know how to start my story. I’m still figuring out the characters a little. I think maybe a friend calls one of the character because they see them in the back of a police car and wonder why. Maybe they saved the world and got a ride around the block or egged a house. I don’t know. BTW the characters are middle schoolers. Should the story start at school or somewhere more unusual?”

    If your middle-school characters are riding in the back of a police car and/or have saved the world as of page 1, I think you can write an interesting conversation about this anywhere you wanted. If you’re working a secret identity angle, one advantage of a relatively ordinary/public setting is that having ordinary witnesses makes it easier to establish a contrast between what most people think is going on (maybe it looks like a protagonist got arrested) vs. what is actually going on (the protagonist is a superhero and/or secret agent of some kind and/or because of a police misunderstanding tied to the superhero work the police mistakenly think he’s an at-risk youth and invite him to a “scared straight” ride in the back of a cop car). However, if the police are creating problems for him, I’d suggest moving the inciting incident from backstory (happening before page 1) to frontstory (maybe within the first 10 pages if this is a novel), which I think will help make it easier to follow the plot.

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