“I” (Marian) and Ainsley are the novel’s two major characters, and there they are, bam, onstage interacting by the first 68 words. But what of a novel like, say, Anna Karenina , in which Anna does not stroll into the action until Chapter 11? True, the protagonist is absent. But our guideline said, “Start with an important character”; it doesn’t have to be the main one. Anna Karenina begins with Stepan Oblonsky, Anna’s brother, who also will play an important role in the coming drama.