Discussion in 'Plot Development' started by w176, Jul 22, 2010.
What sort of qualities do you like in the scene starting a story?
Me I like a strong situation people can relate to emotionally and to start to raise questions about what going on.
Like for example starting in a after-sex scene, a bunch of friends walking trough the bus with a load of tension in the dialogue, or someone having a terrible the monday morning. And then sneak up clues that something isn't right as soon as people really start to identify with the scene.
I like an opening scene that introduces a character and shows him or her faced with a problem. I like an opening that raises questions for a reader rather than provides information.
I like an opening that does NOT try to introduce more than one or two characters at a time. If other characters are present, leave them in the background and acquaint us with them one at a time later.
I like an opening that does not require a lot of scene description. Description impedes the flow, and you want to start a story with movement, not inactivity.
These are generalizations, but all lead to the principles:
1. Begin by showing a character by way of introduction.
2. Begin by actively entering the story/
I'm with Cogito, mostly. I like an opening scene to introduce the main character and put him in a situation. The situation doesn't necessarily have to be a desperate situation, but it should offer the character the opportunity to demonstrate who he is. A scene with a character waking up, getting dressed, eating breakfast, and going to work? Not a good opening scene, because that happens to just about everybody.
I'll also go along with the idea that the scene should not introduce too many characters. A blizzard of names at the outset is something I find confusing and kind of off-putting.
I'll differ from Cogito in that I don't mind a paragraph or so of scene description. I want a reasonable idea of where and when things are happening.
Here's an interesting question: What do you folks think of openings like those used in the James Bond and Indiana Jones movies? There's lots of action and thrills in those scenes, but they have nothing to do with the main story. That golden idol Indy finds at the start of Raiders has nothing to do with the Lost Ark.
I don't mind scenes like those in movies, but I'm not sure I'd want to see them in a novel. Without the opening credits that appear in movies, I think those scenes are unnecessary.
It depends on the book. There are some books that are just light reads you throw away and forget about, and there are fantasy novels and great epics that have vividly described people and locations that you'll remember forever.
In my opinion, the purpose of an opening scene is either say "Hey, this is what has been going on so far!" or "Hey, I'm about to talk about this (noun)." I like for this to be built upon relatively slowly even though it's screaming out "SOMETHING IS ABOUT TO HAPPEN." The reader knows that, it's why he's there. So the worst possible thing for the writer to do afterward is to NOT have something happen. It doesn't even have to be exciting. It doesn't even have to be important, but it should have beginning (even if the beginning for the reader is somewhere in the middle) and a definite end. So, those James Bond/Indy Jones openings are fine. They fit my interpretation of what an opening scene should be about.
The scene should also be focused on something pertinent to the story, even loosely. The Indy/Bond scenes just show you how awesome the protagonists are. It sets you up for even more awesomeness to follow, so that's totally related to the entire story even if it is simply because the protagonist is in it.
It depends whether it's a short story or a novel.
In short stories, I want a problem to be presented in the opening scene, and minimum or no description is fine as long as I have a broad sense of where the scene is taking place.
In novels, description, movement and character intro (one or two chars, or three maximum) all sharing space in the opening scene works best for me.
Every story I've ever written I let the characters introduce theirselves, get what needs to be known out of the way before I let the plot flow. But I'm forward person, I hate secrets unless it's absolutely necessasary. Does that make any sense at all?
Dialogue or action.
I don't want to read a beginning that's just several pages of someone waking up, thinking, starting their day at work, observing the weather, reflecting, walking down the street, etc.
It's all about style. If you don't show in your first scene (first few pages) that you have a unique, original and interesting style, it doesn't matter what else you do, I'm not reading on. Story and characters aren't enough for me: there are hundreds of great, stylish stories, so if all you have going for you is an interesting start to a story, you don't have enough.
For me it doesn't matter how many characters are in the opening scenes of a story.I am confused even with one character, I resolve to be familiar eventually.
I also believe that the opening scene should throw down the gauntlet and set the tone for the rest of the story. Weather it is related intimately with the plot or not is irrelevant.
Beware confusing movement with action.
I dont think there is a single setting that could not be used for an opening scene. Nothing at all wrong with the 'waking up in bed, getting up and ready for whatever' scene. I can see it working brilliantly in a spy thriller. I believe it sets the reader off guard for something and can aid in revealing a more human side to the character. How often have we seen a tough guy hero wake up in a daze and on the verge of a break down. Loads that can be done in that bedroom- or couch.
Description is the paint of a story. So if you want to use it to enter the scene go for it.It can be atmospheric and ominous before the reader even gets to the two detectives sitting in the cold rain pelted sudan at the side of the dimly lit street.
only good writing and a good hook...
I like the starting scenes to pull me into the story
I always start the scene off right before something interesting happens to the MC.
I agree with Cogito. The thing that makes you love a story are the characters and their plight. If you can immediately identify with someone, or are immediately wanting to here more about them or what they're about to do in that opening paragraph or chapter, the more you'll feel inclined to keep reading.
As far as descriptions, I think the best way (as I've learnt very quickly) is to infuse descriptions and "picture painting" in with what's happening to the characters and environment.
For example, if a character is lazing about, describe his surroundings with a little bit of personal input from his point of view and then quickly but then return to the plot.
Or first person. The description is clearly there but is part of the plot, and you immediately want to know more about this child and also about the house, but you're not diverted to hearing about either separately. The house is described from the subjective view of the child.
True, the first scene always has to be the catcher.
A big turn-off for me is to try explaining too much about the character(s) and their background. I like that stuff to keep flowing in pieces later like a sand in an hourglass.
The biggest catcher for me is some action and a tiny bit of description on what the character(s) look like.
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