Great novel openings: we have a winner!
As the year draws to a close, so does the Great Novel Openings competition. This search for great novel openings caught me completely unawares with how many entries received, and also the high standard of many of the entries meaning that I decided to announce a long list first. Every entry on that long list showed promise and left the reader wanting more – absolutely essential at the beginning of a story. You must draw the reader in right away (and then keep them there…).
In summary, a promising novel opening must have:
- and/or a sense of mystery
Deciding on the short list was no walk in the park and here I imagine that some of my subjective preferences as a reader came into play. Looking at creative writing can be done objectively and subjectively and although I forced myself to try and be as objective as possible – trying to pick those entries that seemed strongest – there was not a lot in it in many cases.
Those entries that were shortlisted tended to also include one or more of the following elements:
- danger or the promise of future danger
- vivid description
Remember the entries were very short – only 500 words – which is not long to develop elements such as characterisation deeply. Vivid description can often be achieved in very few words and I am not just talking about description of setting here, but description of actions. Novel openings tend to be stronger when something is happening. So another likely essential element to add to the list:
The winning entry also showed the following element – something that is essential for a story that will really draw a reader in and not let them go until the end:
Congratulations to Alexander Velky, writer of the winning 500 words.
The winning piece started with detailed description – setting and action – and quickly built up suspense. Within 150 words, enough mystery had been initiated so that the reader would be asking “what happens next”. The winning excerpt also delivered characterisation: every word counted, description delivered plot and suspense as well as giving clues about characterisation.
I look forward to meeting Alexander shortly and thank everyone again who entered the competition.