1. Leonardo Pisano
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    Leonardo Pisano Active Member

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    The opening scene of a thriller

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by Leonardo Pisano, Feb 17, 2011.

    I am struggling with the start of a thriller.

    Realising that the first few pages are critical to draw the reader into the story, I have an opening scene where a father is on his death bed and before he goes he tells his only daughter about documents hidden somewhere in the basement. Just wondering: is this too much of a cliché?
     
  2. Manav
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    Manav Contributing Member

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    Don't sweat over it too much for now, because the opening you write now isn't an opening until you have your final draft. The point is you can change it anytime when you make more drafts of your story. Just write what you have in mind right now and concentrate on furthering the plot and completing the story. For me, the perfect opening usually strikes when I am about halfway along the story. Or, you can skip the opening for now and begin writing a scene which will occur somewhere in the middle of the story.
     
  3. Terri
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    Terri Senior Member

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    Lots of cliches work. As long as you make it your own & it hooks the readers you're good.
     
  4. Elgaisma
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    Elgaisma Contributing Member Contributor

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    Something is often a cliche because it has the potential to be done very well. People sometimes use them and get them wrong. Another person can take that same scenario and blow you out of the water and grip you for the rest of the book.
     
  5. SeverinR
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    SeverinR Contributing Member

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    It might be cliche',
    but how it evolves should not follow the cliche.

    Starting a story frequently involves the beginning or ending of some ones life.
    It is easier to share information with the reader when people around the character do not know the information.
    The story is of change in a persons life, that causes the problem to be overcome.


    Mecedes Lackey wrote a Cinderella story, the premis was cliche, but the story was different. (Phoenix and the ashes.)
     
  6. andrewdj
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    andrewdj Member

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    Perhaps you could start the story as she heads into the basement, describing the deathbed scene in flashback. If you reduce the amount her father actually tells her, she'll head into the basement with much more uncertainty and trepidation, not knowing what she'll find - it could be something much more alarming than some documents.

    Perhaps she'll even disregard the documents at first, thinking she's looking for something much more sinister. Then she takes a second look, and finds that the contents of the document leave her blood running cold.

    Obviously depending on what the story is actually about, the contents could just as easily have made her scream out in excitement, but you get the point!
     
  7. The-Joker
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    The-Joker Contributing Member Contributor

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    Try this.

    Start with a killer opening line. That's all you need to hook the reader. Make sure that's not a cliche. A cliched opening line is almost unforgivable. A cliched opening scene-- well some might argue that such a thing doesn't even exist because there are so many variables in a scene that you can easily make most hackneyed premise your own, simply by writing it with a unique flavour. So your deathbed scene could definately work.

    If you can think of that one line that grabs the reader immediately and hauls them into the scene then you've done half the job. The rest should follow with ease. Using the first line approach forces you to begin your novel at the most intriguing part of your plot. So in theory, that's why it should work.
     
  8. Leonardo Pisano
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    Leonardo Pisano Active Member

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    This is my opening now....

    "The man in the bed was dying. He knew it, his doctors knew it and the woman who sat at his bedside knew it: the smell was foreboding that the death would soon come to pick him up."

    Would this qualify?
     
  9. KelseyRAK
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    KelseyRAK Member

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    Perhaps you could leave out the first few lines, write what you're confident with and then come back to the beginning, that's what I usually do when I'm fretting about the beginning of my story.

    You can always start with a cliché, just make sure it's original because there's no worse way to start your book than with an over-used cliché!

    Another tip, ask your family members and friends what draws them into a story, if you have other opinions you can merge them together to have an epic beginning.

    Hope I could help. :)

    Edit-
    That’s a good start, here's how I would start it;

    “The male that was beginning to fade slowly to death looked nothing more than a weak child alone in its crib. He knew death was close, his doctors knew this as well as did the woman who did everything she could to keep the man company; the smell was foreboding and it wouldn’t be long before death came to claim its prize”

    Obviously not on those exact lines because that's the way I write and it wouldn't match the rest of your writing, but how about a little bit more capture and different usage of words. I'm sure even my draft holds faults and errors of its own; I can't sit here and tell you exactly what to do, but that's my idea anyway.
     
  10. Helmsing
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    Helmsing Member

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    You may find that the more you write the story the less the opening works. Instead you may find that chapter 1 is not the best place to start but chapter 3 is very interesting and picks up where readers will be really hooked. Your start may be too early it may be too late. The farther you go in the story the better prepared you are to decide.
     
  11. Leonardo Pisano
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    Leonardo Pisano Active Member

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    Very elonquent, thanks Kelsey! It is a bit more flowery than my style, but this may very well be due to my lack of vocabulary in English (I have ESL). I am glad the opening is not complete crap, at least as concept.
     
  12. Leonardo Pisano
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    Leonardo Pisano Active Member

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    The Art of Leaving Out

    Yes, Helmsing, may very well be. I am at 30% of the intended work. Still struggling what's the best opening hook....

    The art of leaving out is probably the most needed skill to become a good writer.
     
  13. Show
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    Show Contributing Member Contributor

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    I don't often buy into the "opening scene hook" stuff for a story. Often I find that trying too hard to hook me in the first line just ends up coming off as very forced and making it harder to hook me. Sometimes I'm more hooked by things started off seemingly pedestrian than trying to hook me from the first line. Thats not to say it can't be done, but I think trying too hard often ends up being counter productive.

    So just write the opening that feels right to you and dont worry about how "hooky" it is.
     
  14. Elgaisma
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    Elgaisma Contributing Member Contributor

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    My issue is it is fine but I think if you can find a way to show it rather than tell it.

    I can only use what is here so for example:

    The foreboding smell of death hung over the man in the bed. The woman sitting beside him holding his hand was waiting for the end to come.

    - however is he in a position to talk to her ? Is there a nurse present - could she be doing something to him - checking his shallow breathing? Is he dosing and she is scared he has gone ?
     
  15. Leonardo Pisano
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    Leonardo Pisano Active Member

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    Thanks, Elgaisma, very helpful.
     
  16. The-Joker
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    The-Joker Contributing Member Contributor

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    I understand your point but you do know, if you want to try to get your manuscript published you've just made your task a lot more difficult by starting with something 'seemingly pedestrian'. You've missed a powerful tool to generate rapid interest in your book and many agents don't have the patience.
     
  17. Show
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    If they see an obvious attempt at a hook, then I'd say the effect could be the same. I don't think 'hooks' really generate the rapid interest in your book on a wide-scale basis that people claim. That's not to say that they can't work, but just that they aren't the miracle-workers they are made out to be.

    Show me a hook in the opening line, and I'd say, a good 8 times out of 10, it comes off as desperate and forced. I feel like they're trying to hook me to their story rather than letting their actual story do the job. As a reader, there's little thrilling about forcing a hook in the first line.

    I'm one to question many of these claims about what makes a good book, because I often find them to be more talk than walk.
     
  18. D.T.Roberts
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    D.T.Roberts Senior Member

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    The opening scene in my WIP was trashed twice before I got it right. The farther I go into a story, the better I know what to set up with in the opening. Basically, I re-write my opening after I've written the ending I want.
     
  19. mrmih
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    mrmih New Member

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    It's a very good opening i believe. But you can continue this scene by writting the whole 'documents' story', why they must be hidden and what makes them are so important that make a dying father to tell about them to his daughter
    You can use a short flashback and develop a very short story writting
    about a war scene or something like that
     

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