Aug 152014


“Most agents hate prologues. Just make the first chapter relevant and well written.”

Andrea Brown, Andrea Brown Literary Agency

“Prologues are usually a lazy way to give back-story chunks to the reader and can be handled with more finesse throughout the story. Damn the prologue, full speed ahead!”

Laurie McLean, Larsen-Pomada Literary Agents


“I dislike endless ‘laundry list’ character descriptions. For example: ‘She had eyes the color of a summer sky and long blonde hair that fell in ringlets past her shoulders. Her petite nose was the perfect size for her heart-shaped face. Her azure dress—with the empire waist and long, tight sleeves—sported tiny pearl buttons down the bodice. Ivory lace peeked out of the hem in front, blah, blah.’ Who cares! Work it into the story.”

—Laurie McLean, Larsen-Pomada Literary Agents

“Slow writing with a lot of description puts me off very quickly. I like a first chapter that moves quickly and draws me in so I’m immediately hooked.”

—Andrea Hurst, Andrea Hurst Literary Management

“Avoid any description of the weather.”

—Denise Marcil, Denise Marcil Literary Agency

“In romance, I can’t stand this scenario: A woman is awakened to find a strange man in her bedroom—and then automatically finds him attractive. I’m sorry, but if I awoke to a strange man in my bedroom, I’d be reaching for a weapon—not admiring the view.”

—Kristin Nelson, Nelson Literary Agency


“A pet peeve of mine is ragged, fuzzy point of view. How can a reader follow what’s happening? I also dislike beginning with a killer’s POV. Who would want to be in such an ugly place? I feel like a nasty voyeur.”

—Cricket Freeman, The August Agency


“Avoid the opening line: ‘My name is … .’ ”

—Michelle Andelman, Andrea Brown Literary Agency


“I don’t really like ‘first day of school’ beginnings, ‘from the beginning of time,’ or ‘once upon a time.’ Specifically, I dislike a Chapter 1 in which nothing happens.”

—Jessica Regel, Jean V. Naggar Literary Agency

“ ‘The weather’ is always a problem—the author feels he has to set up the scene and tell us who the characters are, etc. I like starting a story in medias res.”

—Elizabeth Pomada, Larsen-Pomada Literary Agents

“A cheesy hook drives me nuts. They say ‘Open with a hook!’ to grab the reader. That’s true, but there’s a fine line between an intriguing hook and one that’s just silly.

“An example of a silly hook would be opening with a line of overtly sexual dialogue. Or opening with a hook that’s just too convoluted to be truly interesting.”

—Daniel Lazar, Writers House


“I hate it when a book begins with an adventure that turns out to be a dream at the end of the chapter.”

—Mollie Glick, Jean V. Naggar Literary Agency

“I don’t want to read about anyone sleeping, dreaming, waking up or staring at anything.”

—Ellen Pepus, Ellen Pepus Literary Agency

“I don’t like it when the main character dies at the end of Chapter 1. Why did I just spend all this time with this character? I feel cheated.”

—Cricket Freeman, The August Agency


“I don’t like descriptions of the characters where writers make them too perfect. Heroines (and heroes) who are described physically as being virtually unflawed come across as unrelatable and boring. No ‘flowing, wind-swept golden locks’; no ‘eyes as blue as the sky’; no ‘willowy, perfect figures.’ ”

—Laura Bradford, Bradford Literary Agency

“[I dislike] inauthentic dialogue to tell the reader who the characters are, instead of showing who the characters are.”

—Jennifer Cayea, Avenue A Literary

“Many writers express the character’s backstory before they get to the plot. Good writers will go back and cut that stuff out and get right to the plot. The character’s backstory stays with them—it’s in their DNA.

“To paraphrase Bruno Bettelheim: ‘The more the character in a fairy tale is described, the less the audience will identify with him.. The less the character is characterized and described, the more likely the reader is to identify with him.’ ”

—Adam Chromy, Artists and Artisans

“I’m turned off when a writer feels the need to fill in all the backstory before starting the story; a story that opens on the protagonist’s mental reflection of their situation is a red flag.”

—Stephany Evans, FinePrint Literary Management

“One of the biggest problems is the ‘information dump’ in the first few pages, where the author is trying to tell us everything we supposedly need to know to understand the story. Getting to know characters in a story is like getting to know people in real life. You find out their personality and details of their life over time.”

—Rachelle Gardner, WordServe Literary