What is the most crucial part of your book? Some will say the end, but most of us know that it’s the beginning. It’s the one chance you have to capture the reader’s imagination and pull them into your world. How do you go about crafting the perfect opening scene?
In order to ensure that you have an opening scene that pulls readers in you will need a “Stage Hand”. I coin this term because there are 5 things you need to make an opening scene that will engage your readers.
Your main character is going to be part of what makes or breaks your story. They need to be someone that appeals to many layers of emotions. Being the main character means that they will be included in many other scenes, so getting them included in the opening scene shouldn’t be too difficult. Remember, the sooner you introduce them the sooner your reader can fall in love with them.
Just like in real life, first impressions mean a lot. How you decide to originally introduce your main character into your story is an important decision. You need to let the reader know what to expect from your leading roles early.
The opening scene is when you need to set the tone for the entire story. What is tone? It is the overall feeling of your story. When you hear a story described as light or dark, those are both examples of tone. It is crucial to match the tone of the opening scene throughout the entire book.
You can’t start off with a comedy and turn it into a thriller midway. You will confuse your reader and they will be more likely to put the story down. I think it is important to consistently look for different writing prompts to work on setting different tones. When done right, they will sell the story. When done wrong, they will bury your project.
The opening scene is a great time to let your readers start painting the picture of the world they are reading about. If your story takes place on another planet, the opening scene may be the time to introduce any key things about that planet the reader will need to make sense of the setting.
If you are writing a story that is either in the past or the future, you will need to help the reader understand how life at that time is.
It is important in the opening scene to give details but not necessarily go too deep into details. You don’t want to leave a bunch of extra “fat”, you want to precisely paint the picture but leave some things up to the imagination.
The key to foreshadowing is planning. You have to know what is going to happen down the line in order to hint at it throughout the story. When done properly, foreshadowing in the opening scene can keep the reader in anticipation of future events for the entire story.
I love it when I am reading a book or watching a show and an object that was barely mentioned or briefly shown ends up being a major piece of a scene down the line.
Good foreshadowing is the writer’s ability to create a connection to characters and have the reader put hope into the story.
Conflict should be included in your opening scene simply because humans are drawn to conflict. We all love to know the gossip in the lunchroom, see what the confrontation at the bar is all about, etc. For whatever reason, conflict almost always makes for exciting entertainment.
This doesn’t mean you have to come out of the gates killing off tons of people and blowing things up ( unless that fits your story, then have fun with it). It can be as simple as an argument between characters or an old married couple bickering. Anything that makes your readers take a side with a character or want to know more about the incident.
Conflict doesn’t always have to be external. You can always use an internal conflict, such as a character unsure of their feelings for a romantic partner, or just general insecurities.
If you want to pick something up, you need your whole hand to work. If you want your opening scene to work, you need all 5 fingers to work together as well as possible.
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