As in the movies, the ideal opening image for novels and short fiction will be resonant and unique. Or, as a perspicacious agent once said to me, “Why the bleep are you opening your story with a bunch of characters drinking beer in a pub?”
Take a look, for example, at the opening image of the 2007 film Once. The first scene nails time (night) place (empty city street — thus, an opposition, Dublin) the promise of genre (musical) and a hint at the central conflict, (a kind, talented man playing music in pain to an empty street, who clearly needs to get together with somebody). The title letters come together, and we have the advent of the girl who likes his music.
There are plenty of books out there that nail time, place, tone, promise of genre, and a hint at the central conflict. Of course, rules are meant to be broken — I’ve seen award-winners that begin with a two-page inner-voice rant. However, it’s a real pleasure to see instances where the five are nailed in the opening sentence, as in George Orwell’s 1984: “It was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen.”
I suggest brainstorming 15-20 ways a story might begin. And, because it’s a great help to us all, I must mention the biggest aid to writing an opening scene: the closing scene. Whether the first seeds the second, or we’ve got a circular tale on our hands, the fabulous end to a tale is our best help to writing a brilliant and engaging beginning.
I hope you’ll have another brilliant writing day.
This week from @yourwritingmuse: There are no unimportant characters in your tale. Brilliant storytelling. From your Writing Muse