on Jane Friedman site:
There’s something it took me years as an editor to figure out: many of the most common problems novelists face with their stories appear to be issues with plot but in fact are issues with character.
Openings that don’t quite work are a good example.
The conventional wisdom on the opening of a novel tells us that it must have:
- A clear point of view
- A compelling voice
- Compelling characters
- Specific details
- Tension of some type
That’s all excellent advice. The only problem is, when writers think of “tension of some type,” they tend to think of external trouble—say, a car crash, or the protagonist being fired from her job.
This type of conflict might compel the reader’s attention for a few pages, but what really sucks us in—and what really makes agents and acquisitions editors sit up and take notice—is internal trouble, because it’s trouble of this type that signals the beginning of a character arc.