Thursday, November 7, 2013

Alex on Writing the Opening Scene

I think it's very hard to decide definitively on how to open your novel. It's very important, because you're setting the scene for the rest of the story, and you're trying to hook your reader. If you lose their interest on the first page, chances are pretty good that they won't read the rest of the book.

I used to always want to start at the beginning and go straight to the end. I have a hard time keeping track of flashbacks and other methods of non-linear story-telling (not when I'm reading them, but when I'm writing them). That can be really boring. Not only to read, but for me to write, as well.

So I thought, what opening scenes do I like to read? Well, I'm a big fan of being dropped right into the action. I like not knowing exactly what's going on from the beginning. It's great if, in the first sentence, our hero is bleeding profusely, or we're wondering where somebody went, or the protagonist is mid-thought. So that's what I started doing.

But it's still hard to choose where I'm going to drop my reader into the story. One great option is: the end. I think this is really great from a first-person perspective, because you can have your protagonist recall how they got to where they are now. Reserve a couple chapters at the end to resolve the ending (by putting them at the end, I don't mean in the very last scene... I mean close to the last scene).

Or somewhere before the climax of the story is good, too. You have some time to catch up to where they are, but then you follow them in a linear path toward the climax.

But it totally depends on your story, obviously. This year, for NaNoWriMo, I am doing a linear story. But I might finish the story and go back to make it start at the end. Who said you have to write the beginning first?

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