I’ve been talking a lot about poor beginnings for your novel. What makes a fantastic opening? Let’s take a look at a few options:
Dialogue: This type of beginning makes for immediacy and forces the reader to wonder who’s talking and why. Unless this is your prologue, the main character should be a part of the conversation.
Suspense: This raises questions and peaks the reader’s curiosity. An example of this is to show the death of a character. Readers want to understand why and how the death occurred, and what does the death have to do with the rest of the story. The reader won’t necessarily care that this character’s dead. Don’t worry. That’s not the point of the death or it shouldn’t be. If it is, then you’re starting at the wrong place. The death scene, whether the reader witnesses the death or is there when characters discover the body, is somehow important to the story itself. Maybe it’s the beginning of a mystery. Maybe it’s the first of many depressing events that will affect the protagonist. Whatever the case, there must be a reason for the death. This isn’t to say the only way to create suspense in an opening scene is to start with a death. I simply used that as an example since I write those kinds of stories. In reality, a suspenseful beginning can be anything that causes the reader to not only wonder about something, but creates a need for the reader to find the answers to their questions. And that means reading on.
Setting: If a setting is important to your story, like in historicals or world building novels, then this can be a great way to start. The setting details can grab a reader’s attention, bringing them right into this “other world”. However, the trick to using this opening properly is that you can’t simply dump setting details and move on. Instead, you must incorporate those details into a scene, but more so than the average beginning. Confusing, isn’t it? How do you know when you have the right balance? Your critique partner or beta reader should be able to tell you if the pace of the opening scene is too slow. Or they may not know why, but they just couldn’t get into it. What’s the fix? Make sure to add something to cause the reader to care and question everything. Well, not EVERYTHING, but you get the picture.
Next week, I’ll fill you in on a few more beginning scene possibilities.
Have you used any of these openings for your stories? When reading, which of these three do you prefer?