1. peachalulu
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    peachalulu Contributing Member Reviewer Contributor

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    Openings where do you start?

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by peachalulu, May 23, 2015.

    As I'm getting ready to start a first draft on a new novel I'm starting to rethink how I should go about that initial first scene. My main strategy has always been to show the character a little before a turning point. For one novel I had a school teacher's anxious days before his new year starts ( in which he meets a very odd student ) Looking at it now it seems like wasted rubbish. In another novel I started with a child's accident provoking a man into making a career change to pay for the hospital bills - again wasted rubbish. And in my first novel I actually did not show my mc until the second chapter and started with a murder. I'm on the fence on that one.

    The trick is to find the right moment of where to start – too far into an event I have to back pedal and explain, and too soon it feels like excess.

    Right now I'm debating what scene to start with. The idea of the story is to have a family plus the wives ex-husband living in a very spooky house. When I first thought of the story I planned on starting it with them ( including the wife and children ) walking through the house of the title before purchasing it ( a bit of a change for me to jump right in ) – but that would mean back pedaling to explain their situation of how they decided to buy a house together. Explanations which could turn into an info dump. My other idea was I would rather have Ike picking up Obadiah at the mental institution and having the facility foreshadow the house. So I'm back to where I usually start my novels before the cusp of a turning point.

    Interesting too that I'm already consciously thinking of foreshadowing. Plus, I like the idea of isolating the two characters – Ike and Obadiah who will have the biggest clash in the novel.

    So what runs through your head when you are about to start that first scene – goal, foreshadowing, tone, character, setting, the quiet before the storm?
     
  2. Masked Mole
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    Masked Mole Contributing Member

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    My best advice is to start the novel with some immediate action to lure the reader in, but have a slight cooldown/rest period immediately afterward. This allows you to introduce the character's worldview, motivations, etc. after a period of great interest. I've found this tactic works well. Just my two cents. I hope the novel goes well.
     
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  3. sprirj
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    sprirj Contributing Member

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    I'd start with the scene that raises the most questions
     
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  4. peachalulu
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    peachalulu Contributing Member Reviewer Contributor

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    Thanks, Masked Mole.
    I guess it would depend on the idea of action. My story won't be action packed not in the vein of certain genre standards anyway. In fact I'm debating whether or not Obadiah will ignore Ike during their meeting. But I understand what you mean - something of interest happening to catch the reader's attention. Perhaps a hint of something violent.

    This is a good idea too, something I didn't think of.
     
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  5. Masked Mole
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    Masked Mole Contributing Member

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    You're right. If your book is dialogue-based, you might want to start it with a confrontation or something.
     
  6. Ben414
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    Ben414 Contributing Member Contributor

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    I would say opening scenes should introduce the theme and create intrigue (i.e. mystery) of some sort. Creating intrigue is the easier task and is flexible in how you want to create it, but figuring out a way to introduce the theme often determines my first scene for me.
     
  7. BayView
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    BayView Contributing Member Contributor

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    I like to start where things change. You can establish the status quo in about a paragraph, usually, and then, BAM, story starts!
     
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  8. GingerCoffee
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    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

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    My advice, as previously noted like a broken record: write the story, decide on the first chapter after you are well into it. :)
     
  9. Vellidragon
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    Vellidragon Member

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    On a very general and probably obvious note, it seems like a good idea to start a book in the middle of some kind of happenings or at least dialogue. Not necessarily fast-paced action or anything, but something that's at least not a "prologue", to throw the reader into the situation right away and save explanations for later. Especially if the chronological beginning of the story is slow, a common tactic would seem to be to start the book at least slightly after the beginning and only give "backstory" information once a few more engaging things have happened.

    The first few paragraphs tend to be the most important ones in a book as they have to convince the reader to commit themselves to reading the rest of it. Looking at my own reactions, a story can hold my attention much more easily after that first bit since I already have some desire to find out more. When I'm first starting to read and know very little about the book, I don't necessarily have that yet, so if it bores me before I'm interested, I have little motivation to keep going.
     
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  10. Tim3232
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    Tim3232 Active Member

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  11. Dunning Kruger
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    Dunning Kruger Active Member

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    I personally like openings that "set the terms of the agreement" between you and the reader. In the interest of brainstorming, here are a few that come to mind immediately. "Fight Club" starts with Tyler Durden having a gun inside the mouth of the MC as they're about to blow up buildings. The voice, POV, and theme are established in a dramatic way. With "Wild" by Cheryl Strayed, she is midway through her hike where she loses her boots through a combination of bad decision making and bad luck. But she continues on. That's the story in a nutshell. Fight Club opens near the end, "Wild" midway through. I love James Bond openings. Even if you've never experienced Bond before you immediately know what to expect even though the opening has nothing to do with the plot - fun, action, crazy weapons with crazier stunts. "High Fidelity" starts with a list of bad break ups. In two pages you know what the next two hundred will be like. So, I think it's less important where in the story you start and more important on setting up the agreement with the reader. Hope there is a nugget of inspiration here for you. Good luck.
     
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  12. 123456789
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    123456789 Contributing Member Contributor

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    I don't decide on writing a story until I have a title , plot, tentative ending, at least one significant theme of the story, at least one vivid scene in my head, and finally, a vivid beginning.


    If each story is it's own unique shape and size, then there is only one perfect beginning for each story, and in my mind, the story doesn't even exist until the intro is realized. Why is this so?

    The story has a certain pace, certain themes, a tone, etc, and only one starting scene is going to initiate the desired recipe exactly.

    Pace is an obvious factor for what type of opening scene you want. Fast paced will obviously likely benefit from opening right before the turning point.


    Let's talk for a second about my favorite non intellectual male targeted movie, Crank, starring Jason Statham, about a hit man who has been injected with a drug that will stop his heart in (I think ) 12 hours. It's~ 90 minutes of non stop action, from shocking his heart, to public sex, to drinking 100 red bulls, to killing his enemy, and then falling out of a plane and telling his girlfriend "no regrets." The movie literally opens with him finding out he's been injected with the cocktail. There is never a tangent in the movie. The whole thing is a sprint. Now, sure, lots of action films start with action. What makes this film stand out it one, the action starts at 0 s, and two, the action scene is unique to this particular plot- it is not a generic opening. By action I mean something extreme and important is happening, not just violence. From the first fifteen seconds of this film we know ExACTLY what we're getting (man has 12 hours to live and he needs to keep his heart rate up and he's an assassin) and how were going to get it (non stop increasing doses of wild absurdity).

    I think there are many more deciding factors than just pace, which is why I wont even call a story a story until I know that opening scene.
     
    Last edited: May 24, 2015
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  13. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    I tend to assume that the point where I'm comfortable starting will be well before the point where the piece should actually start. I say "piece" because this is also true, in fact more true, of nonfiction for me. I don't try to figure out where to start; I just start, and later I cut the piece's head off.

    I'm not saying that this is the right way to do it. It's just, right now, what I do.
     
  14. GuardianWynn
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    GuardianWynn Contributing Member Contributor

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    I think it is all to easy to forget as writers we know context. I think the beginning needs to be a place that is both interesting but also requires no context. A beginning should be enhanced by context and not require it. To be clear. I don't mean a lack of questions. I mean an opening should probably have things you don't know yet. Otherwise it will be an info dump at the same time I think a reader should be able to explain what is happening. Like for example if the opening is a chase scene it is fine that they don't know why it is a chase but it is not fine for reader to not be aware it is a chase. I think this isn't quite what you are asking but I think it is an important aspect easy to overlook. And it does hold something relating to what you are asking which is. Does you scene or current scene idea able to give context of what is happening without spoiling why? Is it interesting without context being explained?
     
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  15. Tim3232
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    Tim3232 Active Member

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    While the example she gives is in reference to a Fantasy what she advises would apply to many others. Tension is good to start with. Action - who does the reader side with? http://blog.bookcountry.com/ask-literary-agent-mary-c-moore-answers-questions/
    There are some other good bits in the interview.
     
  16. sprirj
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    sprirj Contributing Member

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    I like this idea, but I'd like to hear more on how that would work, for example, a detective story, usually first person, and clouded in mystery.
     
  17. Dunning Kruger
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    Dunning Kruger Active Member

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    Well, the Bond example is pretty straight forward - the start is the end of the last adventure. If you are doing a Mike Hammer like book, he's in a smoke clouded jazz/piano bar drinking whiskey making cynical observations about the clientele and life in the city. Something interrupts his moment and you're off. Starting midway through or at the end is a bit more difficult for a mystery for obvious reasons. Honestly, I dont read much detective/mystery stuff so I'm not the best person to ask on this.

    Try mimicking High Fidelity for a mystery/comedy. Top five dead bodies. "Sorry Mary, if you want to enter the top 5 you gotta have a lot more blood that that."
     
  18. TWErvin2
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    TWErvin2 Contributing Member Contributor

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    I always try to start a novel with an interesting situation...something I believe would be interesting to the reader, while introducing the main character.

    I am not a fan of "a day in the life, before things change" so that the reader can understand the main character and situation, before moving forward.

    I think conflict is useful. But it doesn't have to be a fight or a car chase. It can be internal conflict, such as insecurity, or trying to beat a deadline, etc.

    Each story has it's proper starting place. Sometimes after the first draft is finished, the proper starting place comes into better focus...and the initial chapter is revised, or even removed.
     
  19. peachalulu
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    peachalulu Contributing Member Reviewer Contributor

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    Very interesting idea - and I love the way you phrase this - requires no context!
    It's giving me some ideas.
     
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  20. GuardianWynn
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    GuardianWynn Contributing Member Contributor

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    Thanks. I noticed that from when I show people my work. Whenever someone is confused it was usually because I neglected to mention something. The idea was solid but I didn't show it all. So that is why I try to remember that as my own personal tip.

    I am glad I could help. :)
     
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