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Trouble opening your story?

May 26, 2010
It Comes Off, California Pole Dance Championship
Perform a strip-tease with your words

Whether its your first day at school, a job or a date, the start of something new can be daunting and downright difficult. In the same way, the opening of your story can be painstakingly hard to write; often sending authors into spiralling self doubt and writers block. Even armed with plenty of ideas and passion, committing those few sentences which frame your work can stunt the creative flow.

The opening few sentences introduce important images to your reader. It may set the scene for characters, provide rich imagery for the plot to take place in, or set a mood for emotions to build.  Its therefore important to capture your readers attention and to show them, without telling too much, what they are to expect.

Try some of these strategies to assist your opening lines.

Why is your story or topic so important?

On a separate sheet or screen, summarise what it is about your piece which is so important.  What message do you want your readers to come away with?  Start with images, points or scattered words. Build these into a few sentences or just look at them. You will find some ‘gold’ within this brainstorming activity which you can then include in your opening sequence.

Provide common ground between the material and your reader.

This is especially important for science fiction and fantasy genres. Identify a common experience in your opening sequence in order to create a bond between the reader and the material. You may view this as focusing on a tiny detail and slowly, as your story unfolds, the view point is pulled outward and backward to reveal an alien or futuristic environment. As soon as you have grounded your reader into the familiar, you are able to introduce as many six armed blue space squids into the story as you like.

Dialogue or quotes

Starting a story with some dialogue, reflection or a quote can create immediate mood and setting, it might be humorous or serious depending on the genre and topic; but it needs to grab the readers attention. eg “ As Jayne pushed me out of the window of our twelfth story apartment, I knew she was determined to break up with me.”

Keep it short

If you are having difficultly, keep it short and simple as there is no sense in padding the paragraph and risk losing your reader.  This is also a strong technique in the “show but don’t tell” style of writing.  Keep details a mystery; perform a striptease with your words.

Write it last.

Get on with your story and return to it at another point. As you are drafting your story, an opening will come to mind, which will be in keeping with the rest of the style of your story.

The End is the Beginning.

This is a favoured method with many films where the opening sequence sees things blowing up or some other impending disaster. Try using your last paragraph or images in your opening to create interest and drama immediately.

The purpose of creating a story is to create an environment which invites and captures the readers away from their own. To entice them, openings needs to create suspense, drama or mystery so that the audience is desperate to continue reading to find out what happens next.

Image by alexbcthompson via Flickr

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Annie Evett will be away from her desk her at Write Anything for the next three weeks as she is writing the next instalment for Chinese Whisperings new anthology…. as well as putting final touches on the Chronicles of Captain Juans new site ( due to be revealed at the end of June) . Follow Annies shameless self promotions here on Twitter and start your escape into her world here

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3 Comments
  1. adampb permalink
    May 26, 2010 2:15 am

    There’s gold in them thar posts, there is. Good ideas to be filed away in The Useful Box.

  2. May 26, 2010 7:34 am

    I love the “The End is the Beginning” approach and have used it often. Since I don’t plan out my writing in advance, it makes it exciting even for me to see how the timeline circles back upon itself.

  3. piemage permalink
    May 28, 2010 5:28 pm

    Good advice. Not sure I could make myself write beginning last. I can’t write stories out of order. It confuses me and I never get the transitions quite right.

    I’m doing a variation of “The End is the Beginning” with my current WIP. I started it out with the ending, then went to the main character reflecting on what had led up to that point, making it a frame story.

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