Process Post: Story Openings

Okay, so, weird thing about story openings: mostly, you won’t remember them. There are some famous story openings, but mostly what you’ll remember is the first scene with any real-time conflict in it.

And that conflict won’t happen right away. Before the conflict comes the information needed to set up the rest of the story.

What information?

Character and setting. 

What’s the most important thing to the reader about the character and setting?

The genre. 

Because when you’re in the mood for something that you haven’t watched a bajillion times already, you feel in a mood for something of a particular genre. 

The first question to answer for the reader is, “Am I in the mood for this or not?”

And you should answer that with the first sentence.

However, everything inside a story should be written from either a narrator or a point of view character, with lots of emotion and opinion, or it won’t feel like it’s part of the story.

Genre + point of view character = an effective opening sentence.

Go back and look at whatever you’re writing now. If your opening sentence doesn’t have genre + the voice or opinions of your point of view character, add a sentence before it that does.

Your opening will work better. 

If you want to write a story by the seat of your pants, write an opening line that invokes a genre, give it a character voice, and just keep writing. It really does work.

If you look at bestsellers, you can find some exceptions to the rule–but often it’s the writers who don’t use this formula for a good opening are newer to their craft, with not many books under their belts, and got lucky for one reason or another. 

Anyway, I had to tear this section out and rewrite it; I was making it more complicated than it needed to be. 

Once you know how to tell the reader the details of a story, all you really need to write a good opening is to know readers’ priorities. 

It’s not easy assembling everything together clearly in a small space, but it gets easier with practice. Don’t worry about being brilliant!

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