MORE Agent Chapter 1 Pet Peeves and Writing Cliches

Note: This is part II of
the discussion on Chapter 1
no-no’s.  See part I here!

The current issue of Writer’s Digest magazine (Sept/Oct 08) has a piece in it that I wrote on literary agents’ chapter 1 pet peeves.  For it, I basically just contacted a whole bunch of agents – new and experienced, fiction and nonfiction, Christian and not, juvenile and adult – and asked them all what they hate to see in chapter 1. 

They gave a lot of great feedback – real good practical stuff touching on cliches and pet peeves and overused beginnings.  Here is some of the responses that we put in the printed article:

Agents Chapter 1 Pet Peeves:


“Most agents hate prologues. Just make the first chapter relevant and well written.”
– Andrea Brown, Andrea Brown Literary Agency

“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

“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, August Agency

“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

” ‘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 media res.”
– Elizabeth Pomada, Larsen-Pomada Literary Agents

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3 thoughts on “MORE Agent Chapter 1 Pet Peeves and Writing Cliches

  1. confused

    If agents are all about non descriptive and purple prose, showing not telling, then why are the bookstores full of just that. Who agents these authors and who are their editors. 3/4’s of the books I buy start their first chapters with exactly what these agents pet peeves are. I think it boils down to personal preference. Obviously there are a lot of agents/editors to don’t have these certain pet-peeves and their authors are sitting on shelves selling. For those of us who choose to write this way – there is hope and chance for us to get published and or represented. Or maybe I am totally missing the point of these particular pet-peeves?

  2. benwah023

    These are outstanding. Good for a chuckle ("Who does THAT?") and a cringe ("Ack! I do that."). New to the blog; thanks for the entertainment and information.

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