12+ hours: hell yes. decadence has a name and it is ME. the dream. im marrying my bed you’re invited to the wedding. i might feel groggy and angry for the rest of the day when i actually do get up but WORTH IT.
12+ hours (ALTERNATE): i am deeply clinically depressed and approximately three (3) inches from death at any given moment
11-10 hours: ideal. im functioning at perfect 100% capacity my body and mind are a well oiled machine. im ready to knock out all my errands and chores in under an hour, work a full day and then study that language im trying to learn
9 hours: good! i could have slept longer, but getting up was no great horrifying trauma either
8-7 hours: the “””””medically recommended amount””””” for adults, but in reality more like a “fine, i GUESS” amount. normal mild levels of angst at having to get out of bed
6 hours: silent unceasing internal groaning for at least the first hour after waking. dont expect any kind of quality conversation for the first 2 or so hours. ive got a Less Than Medically Recommended Amount Of Sleep, that means im a martyr right???
5 hours: pretty unpleasant. feels gross. expect a moderate crash during the late afternoon. this is the first number that is considered worthy of entry in a college student sleep-measuring contest. altho if you try to enter with 5 hrs dead-eyed hordes will instantly materialize from the bushes and one-up you “5 hours??? HAHA SWEET SUMMER CHILD. I HAVENT SLEPT IN 3 YEARS”
4 hours: a Very Poor Decision. deep seated, incoherent rage upon waking that persists up to several hours. consume large amounts of your stimulant of choice, but you’ll still feel like a cave troll. constant aftertaste of chemicals and regret
3 hours: half awake half walking in some astral plane haunted by the wails of the newly-dead. children and animals fear the emptiness in your vacant eyes. a very respectable entry to any sleep-measuring contest. you’ll still get beaten by the “2 hour” and “all nighter” people, but everyone knows this is Bad
2 hours: you can get up, but only by rending your soul from your physical body in a paroxysm of agony, since it will refuse to leave the bed. you are now soulless and will feel absolutely zero emotion until sometime in the late afternoon/early evening when your soul returns and ALL the emotions will hit at once, leaving you alternately sobbing or creepily hyena laughing
1 hour: you fool. you imbecile. your hubris and weakness has brought you to this point. they are coming. you cannot escape. why didnt you just stay awake. why didnt you just pull the all-nighter. the strength of your no-sleep headache threatens to stab through your skull like an ice pick. all you can taste is blood. they are comi
0 hours: THIS ACTUALLY ISNT AS BAD. HAHA I’M NOT EVEN THAT TIRED! WATCH ME DOWN 15 MOUNTAIN DEWS IN 15 MINUTES. I CAN FEEL MY HEART BEATING IN MY EARS ISNT THAT WEIRD. WHAT DO YOU MEAN MY EYES ARE BLOODSHOT AND I CANT FOCUS, IM COMPLETELY NORMAL RIGHT NOW. GUYS I CAN HEAR COLORS.
(there’s a place you just can’t reach unless you have a dream too large to bear alone)
the ending isn’t really an end; the scene shows yuuri running in st petersburg, and it’s similar to the scene in episode two where he’s running from yuu-topia to the ice castle. in episode twelve yamamoto wanted to show that earlier yuuri was practising alone, but now he has vitya and yurio so yuuri is shown running in the opposite direction towards them
peachy love- a comfy love, as cozy as afternoon sunlight in the summer, as warm as coffee shops and summer picnics. being with you is like listening to music - I forget my worries and sunlight is brighter. sharing tiramisu cake, laughing so hard tears surface, going on adventures…moments like these carry a hint of soft nostalgia, even while they are happening.
starlight love - I’m enchanted by the pretty colors in your eyes - when the sunlight hits them, they remind me of precious stones. I imagine talking to you until 3 am on a rooftop, the stars bright above, frozen in time. when I look at you, it’s like admiring a beautiful work of art. thinking about you makes my heart blush. I can’t help but gaze at you, wondering how anyone could be so perfect.
rosy love - seeing you gives me butterflies. you make me feel calm and flustered at the same time, a feeling I’ve never felt before. sometimes, I imagine a soft love song that plays in the background when I’m with you, like we’re in a movie. all I want to do is cuddle with you, lie next to you, go to cute ice cream parlors and hold your hand. I’m either with you or waiting to see you again, and you make me happier than anything else in the world.
lunar love - you know my secrets, I know yours. like the moon, you understand my mannerisms, emotions and thoughts like no one else, and I can tell from a glance if you’re only pretending to be happy, or if something is troubling you. at night when you can’t sleep, I’m here. when I’m sad, you know the perfect things to say. It’s like we were both created to heal and comfort the other, like soulmates. I know that as long as you’re here, I’ll be okay.
i. meeting you: when I saw you, the world didn’t reroute on a new axis but the stars seemed to glimmer a little more than I remembered them doing the night before. from the moment our hands brushed, something in me shivered, some part of my heart shook, a form of a yes. a yes, you belong in my life, a yes, you are meant to matter. but we clashed in a storm of fire and ice and it took me what looking back seems like a lifetime to realize that you’ve changed me, that a part of me recognized your scars as the same as mine the moment you spoke a part of my name.
ii. understanding you: it took breaking, it took sobbing in the middle of night and realizing that yes I can be alone with you. it’s this moment, where I see you looking at me, not like you can save me, no. but like you recognize the shadows dancing on my skin, the faint bruises and clenched fists and the ache inside my heart. And the world grows quiet, like it’s giving this moment the weight it deserves, and it’s in the darkness that I realize we can change the universe.
iii. trusting you: and our hands grow bloody as our hearts open, spilling part of us on the ground that the other picks up and remakes. forging a sword, a shield, a song out the echoes we let break away from our souls. somehow I realize the voice in the back of my mind, giving me hope, giving me faith, sounds a lot like yours, it sounds like the way you say my name and I say yours the same way. as absolution, as something almost like salvation, as a need that I can’t live without
iv. loving you: and it’s when you’re threatened, it’s when you’re hurt and the rage that raises up inside me contains the bitten scream of “mine”. it’s when you take my hand, you take my burden like I haven’t transformed myself into atlas to save you. It’s when you gaze into my eyes like i’m something worth worshipping, like i’m something worth burning the universe for. and it comes and goes in waves until one day I wake up and my first thought is you, and when I dream the last name I utter is yours
v. losing you: but the stars that stayed silent at our turning point aren’t content to watch us, no they want to test us but they didn’t understand that loving you stopped being something that scared me the moment I realized it because, darling, I don’t know where you end and where I begin. so yes, I lost you to space and time, I nearly lost you to fate but we were always fighters and so I know you’ll come back to me, I know you’ll come home to me. and our devotion outstrips the fairytales because we were never guaranteed a happy ending, with our dirty hands, with our sly smiles, with our cuts and scars but we’ve made the constellations want to chart our names
vi. finding you: when we crash back together, the world narrows down to the sound of a beating heart, pounding loud enough to be a greek chorus and it’s a welcome change from the way my chest seemed empty. I always knew that in a crowd of thousands I’d be able to meet your eyes, to find you. and with our smiles the universe restarts, with my name dropping from your lips the sun reignites, because we are the center of the story, from the beginning up till now and we’re only just past the first chapter.
The Dos and Don’ts of Beginning a Novel: An Illustrated Guide
I’ve had a lot of asks lately for how to begin a book (or how not to), so here’s a post on my general rules of thumb for story openers and first chapters!
Please note, these are incredibly broad generalizations; if you think an opener is right for you, and your beta readers like it, there’s a good chance it’s A-OK. When it comes to writing, one size does not fit all. (Also note that this is for serious writers who are interested in improving their craft and/or professional publication, so kindly refrain from the obligatory handful of comments saying “umm, screw this, write however you want!!”)
So without further ado, let’s jump into it!
1. Open with a dream.
“Just when Mary Sue was sure she’d disappear down the gullet of the monstrous, winged pig, she woke up bathed in sweat in her own bedroom.”
What? So that entire winged pig confrontation took place in a dream and amounts to nothing? I feel so cheated!
Okay, not too many people open their novels with monstrous swine, but you get the idea: false openings of any kind tend to make the reader feel as though you’ve wasted their time, and don’t usually jump into more meaty action of the story quickly enough. It makes your opening feel lethargic and can leave your audience yawning.
2. Open with a character waking up.
This feels familiar to most of us, but unless your character is waking up to a zombie attack or an alien invasion, it’s generally a pretty easy recipe to get your story to drag.
No one picks a book to hear how your character brushes their teeth in the morning or what they’d like to have for dinner. As a general rule of thumb, we read to explore things we wouldn’t otherwise get to experience. And cussing out the alarm clock is not one of them.
Granted, there are exceptions if your writing is exceptionally engaging, but in most cases it just sets a slow pace that will bore you and your reader to death and probably cause you to lose interest in your book within the first ten pages.
3. Bombard with exposition.
Literary characters aren’t DeviantArt OCs. And the best way to convey a character is not, in my experience, to devote the first ten pages to describing their physical appearance, personality, and backstory. Develop your characters, and make sure their fully fleshed out – my tips on how to do so here – but you don’t need to dump all that on the reader before they have any reason to care about them. Let the reader get to know the character gradually, learn about them, and fall in love with them as they would a person: a little bit at a time.
This is iffy when world building is involved, but even then it works best when the delivery feels organic and in tune with the book’s overall tone. Think the opening of the Hobbit or Good Omens.
4. Take yourself too seriously.
Your opener (and your novel in general) doesn’t need to be intellectually pretentious, nor is intellectual pretense the hallmark of good literature. Good literature is, generally speaking, engaging, well-written, and enjoyable. That’s it.
So don’t concern yourself with creating a poetic masterpiece of an opening line/first chapter. Just make one that’s – you guessed it – engaging, well-written, and enjoyable.
5. Be unintentionally hilarious.
Utilizing humor in your opening line is awesome, but check yourself to make sure your readers aren’t laughing for all the wrong reasons (this is another reason why betas are important.)
These examples of the worst opening lines in published literature will show you what I mean – and possibly serve as a pleasant confidence booster as well:
“As the dark and mysterious stranger approached, Angela bit her lip anxiously, hoping with every nerve, cell, and fiber of her being that this would be the one man who would understand – who would take her away from all this – and who would not just squeeze her boob and make a loud honking noise, as all the others had.”
– Ali Kawashima
“She sipped her latte gracefully, unaware of the milk foam droplets building on her mustache, which was not the peachy-fine baby fuzz that Nordic girls might have, but a really dense, dark, hirsute lip-lining row of fur common to southern Mediterranean ladies nearing menopause, and winked at the obviously charmed Spaniard at the next table.”
– Jeanne Villa
“As I gardened, gazing towards the autumnal sky, I longed to run my finger through the trail of mucus left by a single speckled slug – innocuously thrusting past my rhododendrons – and in feeling that warm slime, be swept back to planet Alderon, back into the tentacles of the alien who loved me.”
– Mary E. Patrick
“Before they met, his heart was a frozen block of ice, scarred by the skate blades of broken relationships, then she came along and like a beautiful Zamboni flooded his heart with warmth, scraped away the ugly slushy bits, and dumped them in the empty parking lot of his soul.”
– Howie McClennon
If these can get published, so can you.
1. You know that one really interesting scene you’re itching to write? Start with that.
Momentum is an important thing in storytelling. If you set a fast, infectious beat, you and your reader will be itching to dance along with it.
Similarly, slow, drowsy openers tend to lead to slow, drowsy stories that will put you both to sleep.
I see a lot of posts joking about “that awkward moment when you sit down to write but don’t know how to get to that one scene you actually wanted to write about.” Write that scene! If it’s at all possible, start off with it. If not, there are still ways you can build your story around the scenes you actually want to write.
Keep in mind: if you’re bored, your reader will almost certainly be bored as well. So write what you want to write. Write what makes you excited. Don’t hold off until later, when it “really gets good.” Odds are, the reader will not wait around that long, and you’re way more likely to become disillusioned with your story and quit. If a scene is dragging, cut it out. Burn bridges, find a way around. Live, dammit.
2. Engage the reader.
There are several ways to go about this. You can use wit and levity, you can present a question, and you can immerse the reader into the world you’ve created. Just remember to do so with subtlety, and don’t try too hard; believe me, it shows.
Here are some of my personal favorite examples of engaging opening lines:
“In the beginning, the universe was created. This has made a lot of people very angry and been widely regarded as a bad move."
– Douglas Adams, the Restaurant at the End of the Universe.
"It was the day my grandmother exploded.”
– Iain Banks, Crow Road.
“A white Pomeranian named Fluffy flew out of the a fifth-floor window in Panna, which was a grand-new building with the painter’s scaffolding still around it. Fluffy screamed.”
– Vikram Chandra, Sacred Games.
See what I’m saying? They pull you in and do not let go.
3. Introduce us to a main character (but do it right.)
“Shadow had done three years in prison. He was big enough and looked don’t-fuck-with-me enough that his biggest problem was killing time. So he kept himself in shape, and taught himself coin tricks, and thought a lot about how much he loved his wife.”
– Neil Gaiman, American Gods.
This is one of my favorite literary openings of all time, because right off the bat we know almost everything we need to know about Shadow’s character (i.e. that he’s rugged, pragmatic, and loving.)
Also note that it doesn’t tell us everything about Shadow: it presents questions that make us want to read more. How did Shadow get into prison? When will he get out? Will he reunite with his wife? There’s also more details about Shadow slowly sprinkled in throughout the book, about his past, personality, and physical appearance. This makes him feel more real and rounded as a character, and doesn’t pull the reader out of the story.
Obviously, I’m not saying you should rip off American Gods. You don’t even need to include a hooker eating a guy with her cooch if you don’t want to.
But this, and other successful openers, will give you just enough information about the main character to get the story started; rarely any good comes from infodumping, and allowing your reader to get to know your character gradually will make them feel more real.
The toughest part of being a writer is that it’s a rare and glorious occasion when you’re actually satisfied with something you write. And to add another layer of complication, what you like best probably won’t be what your readers will like best.
If you refuse to keep moving until you have the perfect first chapter, you will never write anything beyond your first chapter.
Set a plan, and stick to it: having a daily/weekly word or page goal can be extremely helpful, especially when you’re starting out. Plotting is a lifesaver (some of my favorite posts on how to do so here, here, and here.)
Keep writing, keep moving, and rewrite later. If you stay in one place for too long, you’ll never keep going.
My mother insists that I write you to formally thank you for speaking on behalf of us at the Wizengamot. Without your testimony, we most certainly would have faced time in Azkaban.
So: thank you.
If you were expecting any heartfelt words of gratitude, then you’ve mistaken me for those hero worshippers who submit their amateur poetry about you to The Daily Prophet. Even as a child, I could write better poetry than that.
Hoping to never speak to you again,
Please pass my appreciation on to your mother. I sincerely hope she is well.
As for you, I don’t need or expect your gratitude. That’s not why I helped you. You wouldn’t understand this of course, but those of us who have a heart, help others simply just to help others.
I also happen to enjoy and appreciate the notes people leave in The Daily Prophet for me. I’ve never heard any poetry from you, so I wouldn’t be so quick to throw stones.
Wishing you horrible misfortune,
Don’t give me that load of crock, Potter. Even heroes have ulterior motives.
I also highly doubt you enjoyed last week’s poem: “I see Harry Potter’s emerald eyes, they sparkle and shine, all magic defies.” What does that even mean?
Seeing through your media-trained lies,
Malfoy. You only think I’m lying because you can’t comprehend anyone’s perspective but your own.
That poem was heartfelt and thoughtful. I have a copy of it on my fridge - that’s a muggle appliance.