Ah, interesting! A post at Pub Rants about openings to avoid if you are writing a fantasy novel. I am instantly curious to see what Kristen Nelson has to say about this.
Your fantasy opening pages might be in trouble if…
#1) Your novel opens with an easily recognizable fantasy genre trope.
Hmm. What do you suppose Kristen and Angie have in mind here? I am trying to imagine what kind of “fantasy genre trope” would not work as an opening. Any kind of incident involving a dragon works everywhere, doesn’t it? In any part of the story. So they can’t mean to refer to things like that. Let’s see… okay, here’s the list:
Walking into an inn or tavern, noting all the patrons, ordering a tankard of ale
Leaving an inn or tavern, immediately saddling or mounting a horse
Escaping/sneaking through a castle
Tracking/hunting, or otherwise carefully aiming a crossbow at something/someone
Training for combat, often with swords
Being summoned to appear before the council or the queen/king
Confiding in a servant, your one and only friend
Defying your parent, who just so happens to be the queen/king
Fighting in a massive battle scene, about which the reader knows nothing
Tending a sick sibling or parent
Tending an injured stranger, who even in their fevered, half-conscious state, is undeniably alluring
Ah ha. Well, I’ve opened with the first of these. Then griffins immediately fly overhead, which is probably why no one suggested gathering herbs might be a cliched opening. I’ve almost sort-of-kind-of used the last one on this list as well, though not quite at the exact beginning and without the “alluring” element.
I should add here that this post is not arguing you should never open with any of these, just that you should think carefully about it. Of course anything can work if it’s done well enough.
The tracking/hunting thing does certainly seem very common, but I don’t know that it bothers me at all. Walk on Earth a Stranger opens this way, and it’s fine. Partly because the scene is short, partly because it’s used to introduce certain important elements of characterization and worldbuilding.
Sneaking into or out of anywhere generally works for me as an opening. I mean, if the book is otherwise well written, this is an element that will probably appeal to me wherever it appears in the book, including at the beginning. I ought to be able to think of examples, although at the moment not so much.
The post gives a detailed example of pulling off the inn scene as an opening. Sharon Shinn also does that in one of her Twelve Houses books; not sure which one, but I remember the scene.
I believe my personal least favorite is the third from the bottom: massive battle about which the reader knows nothing. I find that kind of opening deeply boring and probably will just put the book down. It’s a little hard to imagine any author pulling this off well enough for the scene to be engaging, though probably somebody has at some point.
Any of those tropes strike you as especially common and also especially unappealing to you?