Monday, March 25, 2013

Things That Are Overdone

As you probably know, Martina Boone and I run something called the First Five Pages Workshop every month where a guest author joins us and we go through several critiques and revisions with the first five people to submit their work. 

We've been doing this for a while now and I've learned a lot from it myself. One thing that comes up over and over are cliche openings. If I see certain elements within those pages, I send up a red flag that agents or editors may quit at that point. What are these elements? Glad you asked!!

  1. Starting with waking up with or without a dream. 
  2. Parent has died and child is in new living situation. 
  3. Teen discovers powers she never knew she had.
  4. Mysterious or drop dead gorgeous guy appears conveniently poised to become the love interest. 
  5. "Best friend" boy likes MC but she doesn't realize it.
  6. Perky best friend has it all and MC is shy and awkward.
  7. MC finds it necessary to describe herself by looking in the mirror or thinking about her blonde hair and blue eyes (because you know, I walk around thinking, 'I have red hair and green eyes'). 
Please note that there are exceptions to every rule! For instance, I just had one that started with waking up and I enjoyed it immensely. Will an agent? I don't know! I can only speak for myself. 

What have I missed? Can you add anything to the list? 


  1. Any rule can be broken if the writing is good enough! But as writers we tend to go to the cliches first, especially when we're just starting out.

  2. Yes, we definitely need to watch for those. The one I'm not sure about is the kid finding out they have powers. While it's common, it seems like an important element to many fantasies. I guess the trick it to come up with a unique way to present it. Still working on that myself.

  3. I agree with Laura: any rule can be broken, but we need to know they are rules, and cliches. Then we can set out to create them in a fresh way. I love doing the 1st 5 pages with you, Lisa! I learn so much from you and our wonderful guest mentors and our writers each month. It's a great chance to think about what reels me in as a reader and then try to figure out the magic that happens behind the curtain to create that draw. :)

    Love working with you, Lisa! It's a privilege.

  4. Well you got a chuckle out of me with your list. :)
    However I don't think there is a way to avoid number 3. But if there is I would love to learn about it.

    Happy Monday!

  5. It's so interesting how important the first pages of a book are...but when I get to the end, I can hardly remember those beginning pages.

  6. Only one: The character(s) are in a car-afoot-on bikes-in boats, arriving someplace. I love to have that at the start of my books, but my crit group shoots me down every time!

    And about that mirror thing. . . who started that anyway? There had to be one author we can point to.

  7. The looking in the mirror thing...that's how 50 Shades of Gray opens. I know, most people wouldn't complain about that, since she then meets CHRISTIAN GRAY!!! But still, it bugged me.

    1. Well, I think 50 shades wasn't a hit for it's great writing. :)

  8. This is a great list every writer should know.

  9. Hunger Games starts with a character waking up. :)

    I think the only real rule is: be awesome.

  10. I've definitely been guilty of a couple of these... XD

  11. It often depends on the writing style and whether the book is gripping enough to make you overlook it. The mirror description thing always annoys me though!