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8 Bad Ways to Start a Novel on Wattpad

Updated on May 30, 2021
Priya Barua profile image

Priya has been previously shortlisted for the Margaret and Reg Turnill Writing Competition (2020) and the Val Wood Prize (2020).

I’ve recently joined Wattpad, a website that facilitates sharing and publishing stories for an online community. I spent some time exploring the site as well as critiquing fellow writers, and engaging in forums. After a point, I had read so many stories that I could start drawing similarities between them. While all stories share some similarity in terms of plot (read: The Seven Basic Plots by Christopher Booker), I am vehemently against stories that share similar beginnings. The first paragraphs of a novel are crucial. Falling back on trite, overused and clichéd beginnings can lose readers’ interest. In a bid to enlighten, I’ve listed 8 bad ways to start a novel.

Falling back on trite, overused and clichéd beginnings can lose readers’ interest.
Falling back on trite, overused and clichéd beginnings can lose readers’ interest. | Source

8 Bad Ways to Start a Novel on Wattpad

1. Waking up: Also known as alarm clock scenes, it features the protagonist waking up to a new day.

2. Battle scenes (without context): Just two characters sparring swords, before the reader even recognizes the protagonist.

3. Weather: An entire paragraph on the weather is a snooze button.

4. Philosophical Musings: Thinly veiled philosophical musings of the authors inserted through the protagonist.

5. Jarring Introductions: The protagonist is introducing himself in the most blatant of ways. Only middle-grade authors can pull this off.

6. Death (Figurative): One word, outrageous.

7. Lack of Tension: The protagonist is going about doing random things that are not interesting either to the reader or the protagonist himself.

8. Cold Descriptions: Describing the setting without any purpose.

Let's explore them in detail.

1. Waking up

Writers believe that the best way to begin a novel is with the protagonist waking up. I recognize the idea of wanting to provide a glimpse into his routine, but to that, I ask: Is it necessary? As a reader, do I need to know when the protagonist wakes up, what he eats for breakfast, how horrible his mother is, how he drives to school, how he sits in the same spot as usual? Details like this don’t tell much about the protagonist unless it’s unusual—drinks blood every morning, counts the number of spots on his cat’s body or kills a woman before work. A “normal” morning in the protagonist’s life is the worst kind of starting for me.

2. Battle scene (w/o context)

I love a good battle scene. I’m on for a battle scene on the first page. It might be a turn-off for some, not for me. Where an author goes wrong is drawing out a battle scene from line one. I don’t even know the characters, I don’t know why they’re fighting, so why should I care? A battle scene should ensue only when the reader is heavily invested in the outcome. Otherwise, they only serve as filler scenes.

Inane descriptions of the weather can a turn-off.
Inane descriptions of the weather can a turn-off. | Source

3. Weather

Weather is a great device for foreshadowing, but an inane description of the sky and stars, or the sky and sun, or the temperature and sky, no matter how well done, can be a big turn off. Modern readers are used to digesting bite-sized information, and capturing our attention and retaining it has become a task on its own. Orange sky or moonless night is a hard pass for me.

It was a dark and stormy night.

— Edward George Bulwer-Lytton

4. Philosophical Musings

Cut. It. Out. Nobody sits and broods about the world while sipping a pint of beer. They are either drowning in their sorrows or celebrating with their friends. Inner monologue and musings, philosophical or otherwise, are welcomed in the second half of the chapter. The reader doesn't care what the protagonist thinks about the government unless we know who he is, what his standing is in relation to the government and why he thinks the way he thinks.

"My name is Laura Winters and I am a sixteen-year old freshman. Yesterday, a vampire bit me."
"My name is Laura Winters and I am a sixteen-year old freshman. Yesterday, a vampire bit me." | Source

5. Jarring Introductions

Warning: heavily recommended as redundant, unless you’re writing for middle grade. It’s jarring, unnecessary and a prime example of lazy writing. There are a hundred possible ways of introducing the protagonist, instead of: My name is Laura Winters and I am a sixteen-year old freshman. Yesterday, a vampire bit me. This doesn’t excite your readers until you build up suspense and take us to the scene where she gets bitten by the vampire. Don’t give away in the first line.

6. Death (Figurative)

I died.

Well, not literally, but my soul has died.

I’ve only read this kind of beginning on Wattpad. You can’t throw in a line like that and expect to backtrack with a stupid second line. It’s cheating, annoying and quite simply, outrageous.

7. Lack of Tension

Have you ever read pages and pages of the protagonist doing nothing besides going to class, going to work, having silly conversations, drinking a cappuccino and so on? No action, no tension, no suspense. At that point, the reader is wondering why he should even read further. What is so special about this character when all he does is go about doing random things? Bring on the tension as soon as possible: create an external source, an impediment to objectives, or any kind of internal conflict.

8. Cold Descriptions

Fantasy novelists are notorious for employing cold descriptions. Painstakingly written paragraphs; from the make of the buildings to the history of the ruling family to the location of the post office to the kind of fruits that are cultivated across the river. While we do want to know about all of it, you should reveal details as we journey together through your wonderful world.

Which "Starting" is a Turn-off for you?

See results

On Wattpad

You can find me on Wattpad on this link:

© 2020 Priya Barua


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