I’ve finished outlining my fourth and latest novel, and am now ready to start writing my first draft. It’s been almost a year and a half since I wrote the first draft of the opening for GLAMOUR. I’ve learned a lot since then; about readers and writing, plot, character, story, and structure. I’ve taken classes, pored over how-to-write books, and analyzed story openings of other, better (best-selling) writers. I’ve gotten feedback on the openings of my three previous novels, as well as several short stories, from both published and unpublished writers.
I like to think I’ve incorporated the lessons I’ve learned about how to open any story, and am starting to see for myself what kind of opening is going to work best for mystory. So for what it’s worth, here’s a list of the 10 major considerations I’m giving to the first 5 pages of the opening for AURUM.
1. The opening is the promise to the reader. For example, a fantasy story should foreshadow or at least mention one or more fantastic elements in the opening.
2. Effective story openings start with a CHARACTER in a SETTING with a PROBLEM.
3. Hook the reader within the first 2 or 3 paragraphs by making those elements unique and/or interesting. Avoid the generic and clichéd at all costs.
4. Lock the reader into the character’s head by using all five senses. Sometimes, sensory input can sometimes best be described through contrast or by what it’s not.
5. Strengthen a setting by giving it a history, mood, and/or rich details.
6. Strengthen a character by giving him/her an attitude about everything in the scene. Conversely, the only important elements in the scene are probably the only ones the character would notice.
7. The problem (or conflict) in the opening may or may not be the story problem, but if the initial (opening) problem is too big, it may be off-putting to the reader. Give the reader a chance to get to know and care about the character before he falls off the cliff.
8. Make sure the character is someone the reader can care about (not necessarily like) or can relate to.
9. The opening initiates the forward momentum of the story.
10. An effective opening will create a question in the reader’s mind, and whets the reader’s appetite for what comes next.