Monday, January 19, 2015

The Writer Will Take Your Questions Now #309 -- Effective Story Openings

What makes an story opening effective? What makes you want to keep reading?

This one's an easy one. A story opening has to grab my attention by the throat and refuse to let go. It can do that in several ways, though.

1. It can begin with a highly visceral scene that shocks my senses (and better yet, senses other than my sight and sound).

2. It can create a paradox that my brain won't stop pondering. Such as my tale that begins: "The man who killed me wore a tattoo of Santa Claus across his chest."

3. It can have such a strong sense of character that I want to follow the protagonist. Hard-boiled stories are usually pretty strong at this method.

4. It can appeal to my dark side via greed, lust, etc.

5. It can hit me in the gut with the kind of surprise I never would have expected.

6. Or it can ignore all of these and simply captivate me with the moment. The opening of the movie Unbreakable, for example, does this, calmly showing everyday events leading up to a train ride that ends in a cataclysmic crash.

7. Or it can dazzle me with the gift of language, saying things in a way that captures my imagination and speaks to the poet in me. Zora Neale Huston is great at this.