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Covers, Blurbs, 1st Line, Query > Can You Start a Book With a Description?

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message 1: by Constance (new)

Constance Buchanan | 19 comments Lots of writers are against starting a novel, or any sort of writing, with a description of the surroundings in which the novel is set. What are your opinions on it?

message 2: by Keith (new)

Keith Oxenrider (mitakeet) | 1166 comments Hello Constance,

There is a discussion forum this might be a better fit for; so you know.

Because there are so many options for readers, generally you need to hook them immediately in order to get and keep their attention. If your prose is so stellar that readers love your descriptions, then you might be fine, but generally speaking, you probably need to have some sort of action and characterization in order to draw the reader in enough that they'll sit still for description. Even in fantasy, where world building is a necessity, action is probably best, with the description being added as necessary to fill in the story/plot. The rule of thumb is to only describe something when it i's necessary for the story, no sooner (and no later).

message 3: by Chris (new)

Chris Sarantopoulos | 9 comments You could make that description related to something happening in your opening scene. Like Keith said, we need to hook the readers fast. However, and this is my personal personal preference and by no means a rule or anything, if it's a description that follows the cardboard style of, "He/she was tall, with a squat nose, and dark hair," then you might want to try something else. Like I said, this is a personal preference of mine, and I'm biased against such descriptions (I know others are not, though).

message 4: by Ime (new)

Ime Atakpa | 82 comments It's also worth mentioning that it depends how many words you devote to that description. A paragraph or two describing the setting that leads into character/action probably won't bother many readers. But if you spend a page or more on it, you definitely run the risk of leaving a bad first impression.

In other words, if it's immediately relevant to the opening scene, it may not be an issue. Otherwise, better to sprinkle it in as it becomes necessary.

message 5: by Luralee (new)

Luralee | 64 comments I think you can. There are authors who do this well. Terry pratchett, Douglass Adams, and David Baldacci come to mind, although maybe not the most current of examples.

The trick is making the description interesting enough to keep readers from skimming.

There was a great thread on here a year or so ago. I can't find it now. Where authors posted their first three sentences. I was thinking of reviving it.

Roughseasinthemed | 263 comments Depends on your style. If you are going for contemp/lit fiction then more likely. Action, impact, sci-fi, dystopian, keep it to the minimum.

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