worst ways to start a book


People judge books by their covers, but the real test often comes with the opening pages. Those first words can pull you in to a book. Or they can smack you with a WTF so hard that you might have to reread it a few times to fully comprehend what’s happening or why you should care. Here are some surefire ways authors leave readers scratching their heads or yawning with those pivotal first few paragraphs.
image from imgur.com

image from imgur.com

1.) Prologues.

Now, some books can pull off prologues quite nicely. If not for the prologue of Twilight, I probably wouldn’t have kept reading. I’m still not sure whether that’s a good or bad thing, but I digress. Here’s the thing with prologues–we readers aren’t invested in the characters yet. Unless the scene is just a quick snapshot of something super pivotal, it leaves us screaming “Get to the story already! Who the hell are these people, anyway?” Prologues are such a dying breed that if you Google worst book prologues, you’re going to get pages of reasons why authors should never write one. Seriously, authors, are you listening?

2.) Flashbacks.

Okay, kinda on the prologue bandwagon here, but they warrant a spot on the list. Flashbacks can be cool. Flashforwards tend to be cooler. Again, the pivotal flash of some juicy, future love interest or end of the world thing. But showing us the past of a character we don’t even know in the present can be disorienting. Especially if that character has grown and we’re seeing them as a jerk for a first impression and then skipping ahead to when they’re saintlike and possibly sparkle.

3.) Too much description.

image from http://mintified.com/

image from http://mintified.com/

Seriously, I don’t care about the twig they’re investigating. The curtains they’re staring through. Paint the picture a bit for me, but don’t harp on the scenery. And yes, I’m looking right at you, Terry Goodkind. If my friends hadn’t raved about the awesomeness of the Sword of Truth series, then I probably would have given up with the second paragraph and how the twig smelled–Oh, you glorious twig, you–and then I never would have met Kahlan, whom I continue to worship as a fictional goddess of badassery today.

4.) Cliche dialogue.

Dialogue can be a great hook, but I hate when authors give me some trite conversation about “Oh. My. God. Did you see what she’s wearing? Or how hot he is? Or how stereotypically I have nothing else to talk about besides snide comments about my peers and boys?” Boring, and infuriating as well.

Now I want to hear from you: What’s the worst opening you’ve ever read? Did you push on or throw the book across the room?