The Journal: Openings and Nicknames

In today’s Journal

* Quotes of the Day
* Topic: Openings
* Nicknames
* Of Interest

Quotes of the Day

“When the uncreative tell the creative what to do, it stops being art.” Tony Bennett

“Writing a compelling opening for your novel isn’t optional, it’s essential.” Maggie Smith of Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers

“Authors today need a publisher as much as they need a tapeworm in their guts.” Rayne Hall

“If Big Publishing priced ebooks for optimum sales and profits, there wouldn’t be any ‘decline’ in ebook sales to write clickbait stores about.” The Passive Guy

Topic: Openings

I just talked with one of my mentoring students yesterday about the opening to one of his stories. But that isn’t what this is about.

In “Of Interest” today you’ll find a link to an article on “Seven Components of a Successful Novel Opening.”

When you read the article, please note that these aren’t presented as seven different ways to hook a reader, or seven different ways to open a novel. As the title says, they are seven components of a successful novel opening. In other words, a successful novel opening needs them all in whatever order.

I tend to agree, though I do want to comment on a few of the components listed in the article:

Starting with action — If you heed the old advice to start “in media res” (in the middle of the action), you’ll leave your reader cold, and maybe confused.

If you go back and look at the openings of books that you could have sworn began with action, you’ll find that they actually started with a little description to ground the reader.

So if you want to begin a story “in media res,” go ahead. But then back up a little and write what happened in the few seconds or minutes leading up to that action. That should be your first paragraph.

Communicating a theme — Whatever. You can’t write a story without communicating a theme, though the “theme” is usually something found by a critic or reader after the fact. If you’re consciously putting in a theme, check in with yourself. You aren’t a storyteller; you’re a crusader.

Raising a question that needs to be answered — I’m betting what the author meant by this was using suspense (sometimes in the form of what I call internal cliffhangers) to keep the reader moving from paragraph to paragraph and turning pages.

This shouldn’t be a conscious exercise in which you stop and wonder which important question you need to insert into the text so one or more of the characters can attempt to answer it. Like the “theme” stuff above, if you start with a character who has a problem in a setting, this will take care of itself.

Introduce your main character — Yes! This is absolutely essential. And the authors says to include the character’s name “if possible.” Yeah, well, it’s possible, and it’s necessary.

Let me destroy a myth for you: Withholding a character’s name by referring to him/her as a “dark shadowy figure” or whatever is NOT a valid way to create suspense. It is, however, a quick way to cause a reader to hurl a book or e-reader across a room.

Most of all, remember to absorb with your conscious, critical mind the techniques and bits of techniques that interest you. But APPLY them with your creative subconscious. When you’re writing, don’t think, just do.


The first item in “Of Interest” is one of the most entertaining posts I’ve read in a long while. Hence the special mention. It’s no surprise to me that my friend, Garry Rodgers, wrote it. Enjoy.

Talk with you again later.

Of Interest

See “Nicknames” at

See “Still A Mentor Spot Open” at

See “Seven Components of a Successful Novel Opening” at Be careful with this. These are not seven different ways to hook a reader or open a novel. As the title says, they’re seven necessary parts of an opening.

See “NY Book Editors Blog – Free Marketing Tools for Book Promotion on Amazon” at

See “Are Ebooks on the Decline Again?” at I posted this mostly for PG’s take, which I believe is spot on.

See “Writing Elusive Inner Moments” at For excellent examples of this very touchy writing technique, see almost any novel I’ve ever written.

See “19 Best AI Writing Tools of 2022” at If you’re into this sort of thing, here you go.

See “Prolific romantic fiction writer exposed as a plagiarist” at Seriously, how can people just cheat like this? If it isn’t yours, leave it alone. How hard is that to understand?

The Numbers

The Journal…………………………………… 750 words

Writing of Blackwell Ops 8 (tentative title, novel)

Day 19… 2117 words. Total words to date…… 41729
Day 20… 2025 words. Total words to date…… 43754
Day 21… 1770 words. Total words to date…… 45524
Day 22… 3296 words. Total words to date…… 48820
Day 23… 3259 words. Total words to date…… 52079
Day 24… 2712 words. Total words to date…… 54791

Total fiction words for August……… 5971
Total fiction words for the year………… 58467
Total nonfiction words for August… 1740
Total nonfiction words for the year…… 107980
Total words for the year (fiction and this blog)…… 166447

Calendar Year 2022 Novels to Date…………………… 0
Calendar Year 2021 Novellas to Date……………… 0
Calendar Year 2021 Short Stories to Date… 0
Novels (since Oct 19, 2014)…………………………………… 66
Novellas (since Nov 1, 2015)………………………………… 8
Short stories (since Apr 15, 2014)………………… 217
Short story collections……………………………………………… 31

Disclaimer: I advocate a technique called Writing Into the Dark. I’ve never said WITD is “the only way” to write, nor will I ever. However, as I am the only writer who advocates WITD both publicly and regularly, I will continue to do so, among other topics.

2 thoughts on “The Journal: Openings and Nicknames”

  1. Chuckling. “If it isn’t yours, leave it alone. How hard is that to understand?” Perfectly put.

    That’s my attitude toward stories about Sherlock Holmes not written by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Jane Austen-like stories not written by Jane Austen, and Dorothy L. Sayers stories or Margaret Mitchell ‘sequels’ not written by Sayers or Mitchell.

    Go create you own characters, let them live, and we’ll have more than a half-baked continuation of something you don’t own, didn’t create, and are doing wrong.

    I’m obviously in the minority here – these things are popular and seem to be easy to sell to big publishing companies, TV, and the movies.

    Let them be examples and influences – you can’t avoid that if you’ve read them.

    But I agree with Maynard MacDonald’s decision not to allow ‘more Travis McGee novels’ as disrespectful to someone who can’t fight back (no, not Travis – John).

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