I will never forget my first foray into writing, I wrote a book and thought I’d be able to get it published with no problem. And then I tried. And reality hit. The book was not ready. At all!!!
So I did what many writers did...I found a few critique partners and learned how to write, really write. One of the first things I learned...
You only have a few pages in which to hook a reader/agent/editor. That’s it.
Thus began my journey into learning how to start a story. I began reading the beginnings of every new book I could find at the local bookstore. Then I crafted and recrafted my books, always keeping in mind the things that I liked in the books I had read—a beginning with action that drew my attention, characters I could care about from the start, and a measure of intrigued. These are the things that make a strong story in my mind.
Let me expand on each of these just a bit:
Action: I like to start stories close enough to an intriguing event, but not so close that the reader is confused.
Characters: I love it when there is something that happens in the beginning that makes me care about the characters from the very beginning, something that taps into a universal theme that the reader can relate to.
Intrigue: Yep, mystery. I LOVE it when there is a dash of mystery in the first few pages of a story, something that draws me in, forcing me to continue the story.
I want to give you a non-book example of what I am talking about, a movie opening that is still one of my all-time favorites and serves as a reminder to me of how to open a story—the opening scene from Star Trek (the 2009 movie). The movie starts with a science vessel investigating a “lightning storm” in space. Within moments, the antagonist arrives and attacks the ship. The starship captain goes to the enemy ship to negotiate a peace, but not before he appoints his second in command as captain. The enemy kills the starship captain and the second must now save everyone on the starship, including his wife and unborn child. Within the first ten minutes of the movie we are captivated into the story, the history and care about the characters. It is a brilliant opening.
As I mentioned earlier, I try to keep the three attributes of a strong opening in mind with every story I write, including shorts and novels. It is certainly something I worked on with Lacrimosa, my YA gothic romance. Here is a little snippet of its opening lines:
“I shift in the booth, careful to remain hidden in the shadows. My human form feels foreign, awkward. Nothing about tonight’s assignment seems right; not the constant thoughts echoing through my mind or the ever present feelings I can’t seem to shake.”
My current story, Dominus, is the third and final installment in the Requiem series. For this opening, I wanted to immediately place the reader back into the world of Nesy and Aydan, while still making it fresh. Although the action is not immediate, the main characters memories provide the immediate hook as she replays the end of the preceding book in her thoughts, anchoring the reader back into the storyline instantly. In addition, she introduces her new situation to the reader bringing a dash of intrigue. As the story is told from two distinct points of view, I used the opening of the second POV to do the same thing – anchor the reader into the storyline involving that character and introduce her new dilemmas. Hopefully, the readers will enjoy it as much as I enjoyed writing it.
With my latest brand new book, A Beautiful Mess, I opened with action and intrigue as well, presenting a character situation that I hope will draw the reader almost immediately.
Enough about me. I want to end the post with two openings from books I love that I think also demonstrate what I mean:
From Shatter Me by Tahereh Mafi: “I’ve been locked up for 264 days.”
See, I LOVE this opening line. In a few words, I am already hooked, asking myself who is she, why was she locked up. Brilliant!
From Under the Never Sky by Veronica Rossi: “The called the world beyond the walls of the Pod “the Death Shop.” A million ways to die out there. Aria never thought she’d get so close.
Another great opening that guarantees I will read more.
I am not saying every good opening must have amazing opening lines. But there does need to be action, characters I care about, and intrigue within the first few pages if I am going to keep read.
What do you think?
About the Author
find their voice in the world. Her titles include the YA Gothic Romance Lacrimosa, the YA thriller, Transcend, parenting guide, Emotional Intensity in Gifted Students, and the anticipated book for teen girls, The Girl Guide, releasing May 14, 2013.
In addition to The Girl Guide, Christine will be releasing Dominus (Requiem #3) in June 2013, and Quiet Kids, a parenting book for parents of introverted children, in October 2013.
When she’s not writing or developing programs to support children with exceptional needs, she can be found spending time with her family, sipping too many skinny vanilla lattes at her favorite coffee house or playing around on Facebook and Twitter. For more information about Christine Fonseca or her books, visit her website.
Finding your unique voice in a noisy world can be hard—very hard. But not if you have a great guide! The Girl Guide: Finding Your Place in a Mixed-Up World is a must-read for girls in grades 6–8 as they enter the tumultuous world of adolescence. Packed with fun worksheets and quizzes, as well as stories from older girls and women, The Girl Guide covers everything a teenage girl needs to know on the journey toward her own identity. Proven strategies for dealing with stress management, confronting relational aggression, being safe online, navigating the changing mother-daughter relationship, and more make this the ultimate guide for any girl to get through the teen years and discover her unique point of view in the world.
"The Girl Guide is a game-changer and should be in every girl's backpack." ~ Ali Cross, author of the Desolation series
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