You’re writing a book. And that book has to start somewhere. Where it starts? That’s called the opening scene and this little baby has a lot of work that it has to do.
It’s like the first moments of a blind date, but instead of a blind date between two people, it’s a blind date between the book and the reader.
Will they like each other?
Will they want to spend time together?
Are they meant for each other?
Only … it’s really will the reader like the book. Nobody cares if the book likes the reader. The reader has all the power.
According to Les Edgerton, who wrote the craft book, HOOKED, that opener has ten important components to grab that reader’s attention and make them want to chill on the couch with your book.
The Inciting Incident – Les believes that this needs to happen in the first scene. Other people do not agree with this.
The Story-Worthy Problem – That incident makes a problem that is going to propel the plot of the whole damn book.
The Initial Shallow Problem – This problem happens because of the inciting incident and makes the protagonist do something (take action), but it’s not the real problem of the story.
The Set-Up – Kind of makes the reader know what’s going to happen next and also helps the reader know what the heck is going on.
Backstory – You do not want a lot of this, which is the events that have happened before the story starts.
Opening Lines – Because duh. The story has to start, but you want them to be snazzy and make an impression.
Language – Because again, duh. Books are made of words. The words you choose and how you group them together make an impression.
Setting – Because the story has to take place somewhere. Let the reader have a sense of the physical space, the time, the culture.
Foreshadowing – This is the magic, my friends, because this is part of the hook that keeps the reader with you—the knowledge and hint that something is coming up next.
And that opening scene? It has goals:
- You have to hook the reader.
- You have to have a story-worthy problem.
- You have to let the reader know what kind of story this is.
- And tease that ending out a tiny bit.
WRITING TIP OF THE POD
That beginning of your story is super important. Spend some time on it.
DOG TIP FOR LIFE
Set the scene. Establish your goals. Show them your character and do it right away.
The music we’ve clipped and shortened in this podcast is awesome and is made available through the Creative Commons License.
Here’s a link to that and the artist’s website. Who is this artist and what is this song? It’s “Summer Spliff” by Broke For Free.
WE HAVE EXTRA CONTENT ALL ABOUT LIVING HAPPY OVER HERE! It’s pretty awesome.
AND we have a writing tips podcast called WRITE BETTER NOW! It’s taking a bit of a hiatus, but there are a ton of tips over there.
We have a podcast, LOVING THE STRANGE, which we stream biweekly live on Carrie’s Facebook and Twitter and YouTube on Fridays. Her Facebook and Twitter handles are all carriejonesbooks or carriejonesbook. But she also has extra cool content focused on writing tips here.
Carrie is reading one of her raw poems every once in awhile on CARRIE DOES POEMS. And there you go! Whew! That’s a lot!