Many writers create the opening scene of a narrative when they first begin writing the story. It makes sense to begin at the beginning; however, once the remainder of the story unfolds, many times the opening scene may no longer fit or be a supportive opening for the narrative. The following is a list of ideas to help create more effective ways to begin a story.
First things first. Here are a few questions you should ask yourself once you have finished drafting the opening scene.
1) Does this scene grab the reader’s attention?
2) Is my main character included/introduced?
3) Have I set the tone for the overall story?
My recommendation would be to have a trusted source read the opening scene and provide feedback to you so that you can gauge their responses to the questions above. Once you are able to get a more objective view, you can make necessary modifications to strengthen your opening scene.
Here are 10 creative ways to open a scene:
a) THE ARRIVAL – A stranger comes to town, or someone who has been gone for a long period of time returns.
b) THE DEPARTURE – A person leaves to go on a journey.
c) FLASHFORWARD – A great starter for a mystery, psychological thriller, or any story in which the end creates a mystery that drives the plot. These scenes are often retold later in the story once the timeline has caught up to them.
d) FLASHBACKS – Similar to the FLASHFORWARD, a flashback begins the story with a glimpse of the past and uses the characters to connect the backstory to present day.
e) DIALOGUE – This can be approached in two different ways. The voice should be direct and strong enough to grab the reader while also established key elements about the character. This can be done in a conversation between two people, or by using second person (“you”) that creates dialogue with the reader.
f) THE SECRET PLACE/ACT – A character is involved in something they shouldn’t be or in a place where the rules are outside the norm can create a hint of tension and mystery.
g) DESCRPTION OF PLACE/PERSON– A classic technique to provide a visual or overview of characters personalities. Or, to set the scene where the story will be taking place, especially if there are unusual or difficult conditions like a blizzard on a mountain, or a village ravaged by a flood…
h) A LETTER – An excellent strategy to develop layers into the very opening of a story by using the words/letters written by characters that are long gone and those who still remain and attempt to put the pieces of the puzzle together. Maybe letters between their parent and a previous lover, or a child the siblings never knew about.
i) THE DIARY ENTRY – Much like the letter opening, this is another technique that allows the reader to begin in the mind of the character and know their thoughts and feelings while the characters surrounding them flesh out the story unfolding.
j) A DEATH – Opening a story at a funeral, or with the death of a character is packed with momentum to push a story along with emotion and dramatic undertones.