Let’s briefly discuss how to create a good beginning for your novel using Cross Roads by Wm. Paul Young.

This post does not contain spoilers.


Cross Roads by Wm. Paul Young

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Summary: Tony Spencer does whatever it takes to be a success. When he falls into a coma, he has an experience that allows him to re-evaluate his past behavior. Will he act on his revelations?


For the first time in the Bestseller Code 100 challenge, I’m afraid this novel was a DNF — did not finish — for me. For my review I’m going to concentrate on a message I got from a recent SCBWI workshop about how to begin your novel.

Many writing courses suggest capturing a reader’s attention with a big hook in the beginning.  There are some great examples of novels that are able to do this, like Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White.

“Where’s Papa going with that axe?” said Fern to her mother as they were setting the table for breakfast.

Talk about grabbing your attention!

At the workshop, Abigail Samoun offered slightly different advice. She said to treat the introduction of your book like you are welcoming the reader into the door of your house. She used a beautiful example of how J. R. R. Tolkien started The Hobbit:

In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit.

She said this first sentence said to the reader, “Come on in, sit down and I’ll tell you a story.”

Other books might use introductions that tease, “Hey, check this out” or “Wait to you see this.” Anything to quickly usher them (the reader/guest) inside.

Once readers have entered, she suggested introducing “yourself” (your main character) right away and giving them a hint of what to expect. Particularly, you want to make them comfortable and eager to stay. I won’t go into all the details, but I really liked the analogy and thought it was something I’d consider for any story opening I write.

The Dilemma

The author had a dilemma in the first part of Cross Roads. He wanted to establish Tony as someone who was an awful person and needed redemption. By making Tony so extremely unlikable, however, the author essentially slammed the door in the reader’s face. Once I learned Tony had re-married his wife just so he could divorce her, I didn’t want to read any further. This was not a character I wanted to spend time with for one more minute, no matter what happened later.

If the author had started a bit earlier in Tony’s life, it would have been better. For example, if he had started the novel at the time when Tony’s parents died, the reader would feel sympathy for him and want to know what happened to Tony. Or, he could have used the age old trick of having Tony be nice to a dog or a child. Anything to allow the reader to root for him a little bit and want to keep reading.

Abigail Samoun gave some good advice. Be a good host to your reader and they will stay with you.

Have you ever read a book that shut you out or made you leave after only a few pages? What books have you not finished?


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What are we reading next?

If you ever have questions about what we are reading next or when we’re starting the next discussion, check the 100 Book List tab in the navigation bar at the top of the blog. Links in the list go to the landing page from this blog where the discussion starts. However, this is an open-ended challenge so feel free to jump in with any of the books at any time.

The next book is number 67. The Darkest Evening of the Year by Dean Koontz (2007) – Discussion begins February 5, 2018 — Psychological thriller