do and don't · how to break the rules well · writing problems

Starting with backstory

I received a query for a first-person a narrative whose pages began with the protagonist telling us her backstory. This is something writers aren’t supposed to do. Instead, start with the hook, with something interesting: keep my attention. The first page is the most important.

But this time I was thoroughly engrossed and continued reading. It wasn’t for an agent I get to request pages for, but if it were, I’d request a full today.

Why? Because the protagonist’s backstory was the hook. The story of where she comes from is an enigma that frames both where she is at the start of the book and what she wants. Plus, the backstory was brief but contained enough vivid detail to suck me in.

Always follow the rules…unless you can do it better.

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