Rules are made to be broken – or so they say. They also say you need to know all the rules before you break them.
The thing with rules is that they are usually there for a reason, but there is an exception to every rule (and an exception to that rule, too). But exceptions aren’t just random – there’s a reason why that particular exception is an exception. The exceptions are the ones that don’t violate the reason why that rule is in place.
(Number of “exception”s in the previous paragraph: 6)
Writing is no exception.
For instance, there are three rules about starting a novel that seem to be circulating the internet – and with good reason too. Don’t start with dialogue, don’t start with the weather, and don’t have your character describe themselves in the mirror.
I have broken two of these. (If it counts, because I haven’t actually published a novel. Yet.)
Don’t start with dialogue
Dialogue can leave an opening scene in a void, giving the reader no sense of where the characters are or who they are. However, my NaNoWriMo novel starts off with a line of dialogue*: “Your mother wants to see you.”
Excerpts from unfinished WIP are viable to change should they ever be published.
This works fine for the first scene, because it’s only one line of dialogue before the reader is given a clear idea of where the novel is starting – there just was an invasion, and the city is in ruins. It also sets up the action during the following talk between two of the four main characters about what their next action following the invasion will be.
Don’t have your character describe themselves in the mirror
This comes off as super vain, and makes the narrator seem arrogant and self-absorbed, but I found myself doing this to an extent in the beginning of The Golden Ruler as Mark, the main character, catches a glimpse of himself in the mirror and notices something strange. The reason why (I think) this works is because it’s not actually used to describe him in detail.
Instead, the first couple paragraphs use the mirror to describe many other important details. For one, it starts the beginning of the plot – where everyone wakes up looking different than before. It also helps set the scene – there isn’t enough light in the dorm to see the mirror clearly, showing that it’s early morning and at a college. And it also almost immediately introduces the character’s somewhat sarcastic narration and my writing style for this book. By barely describing the actual reflection, I manage to avoid the pitfall where I/my character comes across as vain – he’s barely described at all in the scene.
Now, all I have to do is start a book by describing the weather.