11 Ways Not To Start Your Novel – No. 8

In An Airport

Whenever I get gloomy with the state of the world, I think about the arrivals gate at Heathrow Airport. General opinion’s starting to make out that we live in a world of hatred and greed, but I don’t see that. It seems to me that love-

Oh no wait. That’s the opening monologue to Love Actually.

What I mean to say is, at half-past six on a Friday evening in January, Lincoln International Airport, Illinois, was functioning, though with difficulty.

Wait no. That’s the opening line of Arthur Hailey’s bestselling 1968 novel, Airport.

What I really, actually meant to say was, “I’m walking as fast as I can,” Stacey squealed hitching up her miniskirt and hobbling after Constance in her nine inch, Louis Vuitton stilettos. “Just because your case has wheels.”

“No, I am walking at a proper pace because my suitcase is regulation size,” quipped Constance, scanning the departures board for any sign of their flight. “It also helps that I’m wearing sensible footwear and managed to set my alarm for the right time this morning.”

“Oh babes, you really need to chillax. We’re going to Las Vegas, get in the holiday spirit!”

“This is not a holiday, Stace. This is the opportunity we’ve been waiting for and you better not-”


The girls looked at each other. “Oh no, that’s us!” they somehow managed to gasp in unison, before accidently dashing off in opposite directions.

No, hang on. That’s just a strangely popular scenario for the opening scene of quirky, fun, women’s fiction. Very shortly one of Stacey’s ill-chosen heals will break, I can guarantee it.

Airports. A place of new beginnings, of possibilities, of returning home and going off on adventures. Where you can buy anything from snow shoes to flip-flops and drink at whatever time of the day you feel like because everyone knows that time is at its most relative in an airport. You might have just come from Australia and be all jet lagged and confused for all anyone joining you in the airport bar at 9am knows.

What better way to introduce a wide expanse of characters too? There are meetings and partings galore at airports.  Fathers and sons, mothers and daughters, husbands and wives, boyfriends, girlfriends, old friends. Wait. Again, that’s Love Actually. Darn, that film is quotable.

Not to mention, setting your opening scene in an airport works well in almost all the possible genres. You need a thrilling chase scene to kick-start your thrilling thriller? Why not set it in an airport? Writing a kooky caper about a nine year old’s first trip to Canada? How else are you going to get him and his family over there, eh? Need to establish that Stacey and Constance don’t actually live in Las Vegas full time? That sounds like a job for an airport to me.

And, as ever, that is the exact problem with opening your novel in an airport. It’s popular. It spans genres. It’s been done. A lot.

Granted, if your novel takes place exclusively in an airport or you are Richard Curtis then you are off the hook but make sure that you do something exceptional in the opening lines to show off your writing skills.

Otherwise, try to avoid the airport as a taking off point for your novel if at all possible. Doing so will help you rise up above the crowd and hopefully land that literary agent you have your eye on.

And remember, if you look for it, I’ve got a sneaky feeling you’ll find that love actually is all around. Which is irrelevant as to whether or not you should start your novel in an airport but it might be a nice thing to think about while you’re… rewriting. Sorry.

3 Comments Add yours

  1. Ksenija says:

    I have a sneaky feeling the following post will be about how not to open your novel with a train station. Since in many ways it is simmilar to the airport opening. I hope I am wrong, because my latest novel opens with the train and the train station and I really like it. I would not like my oh-I-really-nailed-it-this-time bubble to be broken. Again. 🙂

    And yeah, love actually is all around and I love it! 😛

  2. I hope disembarking from a ship doesn’t fit within the same cliche too, since that’s the opening to my book.

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