I must live with my head under a rock because I have only just discovered that it is bad form to start your story when somebody wakes up. Instinctively I have always started my story where I believe it starts – I do not start the writing before I start the actual story, as far as I can tell. I am lazy in that respect, and that wouldn’t gel with my skeletal first draft style, anyway.

What You Wish For starts when Maggie, the main character wakes up.  This is bad, apparently. But less than half way down the page, while she is still in bed, the action starts. Is it still bad, now? I have scoured my first chapter, looking for a better starting point, and I couldn’t find one. Anything less, or midway through, doesn’t set the scene at all, and there needs to be a tiny bit of introduction, surely? Just enough for anyone reading it to find their feet – a couple of paragraphs. I set Maggie’s expectations for the day… and then take them away.

I have considered starting the previous evening, but why? Surely this would contradict the advice to start the story where it starts… I could literally be adding useless padding for the sake of simply not starting when Maggie wakes up.

And, let me be clear she does not wake up, yawn and stretch, make her cereal – with skimmed milk as she doesn’t like cream, jump on the tube to work – making sure to sit as close to the door as possible, take the stairs up to her office – to get her daily steps in, and arrive to a giant dog eating her desk. I do not use five pages of scene setting. So am I still wrong?

I like to flatter myself that I sort of know how to write a story. Ask me about any kind of arcs, or plot and pinch points and I will give you a very confused look, but the telling of the story is what I enjoy.  I have works in progress that start in places other than the protagonists bed because I have started where the story begins… hopefully.

It may be worth noting that I have further impounded my literary faux pas by having Maggie question if it was all a dream at the end of the first chapter. Again, this was a deliberate choice, and all is soon revealed.

I am, however, entirely open to another point of view and, should someone come along who can see a better away, let’s discuss it. Please. Show me the error of my ways… 🙂

When can an accepted ‘rule’ be broken?  Have I created something entirely unreadable by twisting old cliche’s/tropes/stereotypes/bad writing to suit my own ends?

Have you ever broken a rule? How did it work out for you?

The Very Bad Beginning
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