Thursday, October 23, 2014

The Dreaded Opening Scene: How to Make it Awesome In One Simple Step

We’ve all done it. You know you have. Trying to figure out if you’ll buy a book, you open it and glance at the opening paragraph. For me, I try and give it at least a page. Some people only give it a sentence.

And then you decide:

Yes, I love it, I’m gonna read (re: buy) this.

Nah, lame, moving on.

Writers are readers, too, so we’re hyper-aware of this when we’re writing the opening scenes of our stories. It doesn’t matter if you’re writing a book, a film, a play, or a blog post, the same laws apply, and the same desperation can sneak through. We need an opening that will entice a reader to continue, after all, and that decision is often flippant, emotional, ephemeral, and impossible to perfectly predict. We therefore end up all the more eager--grab that reader by the earlobes and don’t you dare let go! Otherwise you’ll fail! And all your work will be for nothing! And they’ll take away your writer’s club card!

Well, no, definitely not that last part. And not really the other parts either. But opening scenes are, unfortunately, often paramount to the success of your story. 

The problem is that sneaky desperation. Not every book can be The Hunger Games, people. Yes, I admit, the opening scene is deadly in its importance, but if you’re only focused on that as you write, you’ll lose sight of the story that’s inside of you. The one you’ve been waiting to tell. The whole reason you’re writing. Don’t forget about that.

Don’t forget, dear writers, that editing is your very best friend. I almost always take a scene or two (or three or four) to get into the swing of writing. I just start, and four or five pages later I happen to write a scene which could actually work as a real opening. Yes, that means those first few scenes are often meaningless, but that’s okay! That’s what the delete key is for. Those scenes helped me get to a great opening. They did their job. I can let them go.

You’re probably not going to find a great opening by sitting and thinking really hard--so forget about it! Start your writing and don’t worry about the hook. Notice how we keep coming back to this theme: Just start writing. Don’t let any excuse hold you back, least of all the insane pressure to create the perfect first page. We find words with words. So start writing and follow those words until you discover your opening scene. You might not find it for fifty pages, but then you’ll have fifty pages of practice, exploring, growing, and learning about your story. And you’ll have your opening.

So get writing.

And remember...


1 comment:

  1. I needed this today, only I'm stuck on the ending. I finally had to put it away and drown my sorrows in tacos. Any suggestions?