I was surprised the first time I heard someone say, "And, whatever else you do, never, ever, begin your story with weather!"
Roz Morris disagrees and here's why:
That summer, the summer all the rules began to change, June seemed to last for a thousand years. The temperatures were merciless: thirty-eight, thirty-nine, then forty in the shade. It was heat to die in, to go nuts in, or to spawn. Old folk collapsed, dogs were cooked alive in cars, lovers couldn’t keep their hands off each other. The sky pressed down like a furnace lid, shrinking the subsoil, cracking concrete, killing shrubs from the roots up…That's an excerpt from Liz Jensen's book, "The Rapture," and I thought it worked beautifully! Read Roz's article to find out why some weather scenes work and some don't: Never begin your story with weather – a writing taboo examined.Thanks to the Passive Voice Blog for the link.
Roz linked to an old article (July 2009) by Joe Konrath where he lists some things writers shouldn't do. He'd just finished judging a writing contest and was in recovery. Here's his list:
DO NOT START A STORY WITH WEATHERYou can read the rest of Joe Konrath's article here: How Not To Write A Story.
Yes, you can work weather into the scene. But I don't care that it was sixty-five degrees on a spring morning, and if you make that your first sentence you're going to remain unpublished.
DO NOT START A STORY WITH CHARACTER DESCRIPTION
Your protag may be named Bob McTestes, and he was born in Sunnydale, Ohio in 1967, but you need to work that into the body of the story and not make it the first sentence. Better yet, don't work it in anywhere.
DO NOT START A STORY BY ADDRESSING THE READER
"You'll never believe what happened on July 2, 1943." You're right. I won't believe it, because I just stopped reading.
DO NOT START A STORY WITH PREMONITION
"Phil Assmaster didn't know he was going to die that day." But Joe Konrath knows you're not going to win this contest.
DO NOT START A STORY WITH THE PROTAG WAKING UP
Frankly, it shocked me how many stories began like this. More so than any other way I'm warning against. Opening your eyes because you had a bad dream or heard a strange noise is a quick way to put the reader to sleep.
DO NOT START A STORY WITH CLICHES
Once upon a time. A long time ago. This is a true story. Ugh. Next time, save me the trouble and put the story in your own recycle bin.
DO NOT START A STORY WITH SETTING DESCRIPTION
"Moronville, Ohio was a town of 8371 people originally founded in 1872 by Quakers." Hopefully, one of those Quakers has a gun and will shoot me.
DO NOT START A STORY WITH TELLING
"Josh felt terrible." Really? How am I supposed to picture that? Maybe I picture Josh's stomach aching, his head throbbing, and the hole where his heart is supposed to be. If I'm picturing that, perhaps you should have as well and written it that way.
DO NOT START A STORY WITH ANY DESCRIPTION
I don't care if you're describing a person, place, thing, era, or whatever. I want to read about conflict, not helper words.
DO NOT USE HELPER WORDS
Force yourself to pare away every adverb, and half your adjectives. Also kill any speaker attribution other than "said" and "asked."
DO NOT START A STORY WITH A PROLOGUE
Your short story doesn't need a prologue. Your novel probably doesn't either.
DO NOT USE EXCLAMATION POINTS!
Especially a bunch of them!!!!!!!
DO NOT USE THE SAME FARUQING WORD TWICE IN THE SAME FARUQING PARAGRAPH
Get the faruquing point?
GRAMMER AND SPELING SHOULD BE PREFECT
If you don't care, why should I? Ditto annoying dialect spelling. Y'all get a-ight wit dat sheet, 'kay?
DO NOT MAKE YOUR MAIN CHARACTER AN ANIMAL
Are there exceptions to these rules? Of course. There are always exceptions. But I didn't see any in the 2000+ stories I had to endure.
Those are good rules of thumb to keep in mind, as long as you feel free to break them if you have a reason.
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