Best Beginnings

Discussion in 'General Discussion' started by S.J. Faerlind, Jan 3, 2013.

  1. S.J. Faerlind

    S.J. Faerlind Flashlight Shadowhunter

    Joined:
    May 29, 2012
    Messages:
    5,672
    Likes Received:
    191
    Trophy Points:
    63
    Location:
    Canada
    Ratings:
    +298 / 2 / -1
    So how do you like to start your stories? What strategies have you used to "hook" readers right away so they keep on reading?
     
  2. Moonlance

    Moonlance New Member

    Joined:
    Dec 27, 2012
    Messages:
    45
    Likes Received:
    1
    Trophy Points:
    0
    Ratings:
    +1 / 0 / -0
    I usually have a tendency to like to start a story directly with a suddenly radical, or so, thing happening to the just presented main character; after just a few moments of "normal situation". It is a known technique though; but I like the results.

    It's interesting because, primarily, it does let the reader know immediatly 'who' the main character is: more precisely, how does he or she acts in front of a particular stressful-kind of situation; the character might present some degree of his or her intimacy, through both social and psychological aspects, when facing such kind of situation, and that may be fine to explore; and why not right in the beggining of the story?

    Secondly, it can be interesting because it rapidly sets a new conflict in the story; it could be any kind of conflict: the Main Conflict itself, or just a smaller conflict which might be solved right next or not, but anyways it will most likely influence and even pull-lead the character through his or her just next situations.

    For example: I'm writing a small story right now, and the first thing that happens is that the character wakes up, and when she was about to start her usual activities in the day, discovers astonished that she is not at home, at all.

    I find exciting because it's some sort of a "double-set".
     
    Last edited: Jan 3, 2013
  3. Crouton

    Crouton New Member

    Joined:
    Apr 5, 2012
    Messages:
    3,523
    Likes Received:
    23
    Trophy Points:
    0
    Location:
    Melbourne, Australia
    Ratings:
    +23 / 0 / -0
    I've always liked stories that just start almost as if you've just come into the middle of the tale, and the more you read the more things are explained to you. I hate those stories where they try and explain everything about a world and it's characters in the first chapter before the actual plot begins.
     
  4. Hiram Webb

    Hiram Webb New Member

    Joined:
    Jan 1, 2013
    Messages:
    17
    Likes Received:
    1
    Trophy Points:
    0
    Location:
    North-Western Canada
    Ratings:
    +1 / 0 / -0
    Agree. I generally have to start off with a lengthy Prologue just so I get all the details straightened out for myself, but this usually doesn't make it into the final draft. The last time I started a story, I chose where I wanted to start, and then went back about fifteen minutes before that, and started from there. Once the scene was done I scrapped the first two pages, beginning right in the middle of a conversation. I thought this worked well for the particular instance, as it gave the beginning a more consistent flow with the rest of the story.
     
  5. Moonlance

    Moonlance New Member

    Joined:
    Dec 27, 2012
    Messages:
    45
    Likes Received:
    1
    Trophy Points:
    0
    Ratings:
    +1 / 0 / -0
    I remember this case; it is very dynamic too I think.
    Long time I don't imagine anything like that; that revisited idea just gave me a new starting plot situation for an episode!! :D
     
    Last edited: Jan 3, 2013
  6. Moonlance

    Moonlance New Member

    Joined:
    Dec 27, 2012
    Messages:
    45
    Likes Received:
    1
    Trophy Points:
    0
    Ratings:
    +1 / 0 / -0
    -
     
    Last edited: Jan 3, 2013
  7. S.J. Faerlind

    S.J. Faerlind Flashlight Shadowhunter

    Joined:
    May 29, 2012
    Messages:
    5,672
    Likes Received:
    191
    Trophy Points:
    63
    Location:
    Canada
    Ratings:
    +298 / 2 / -1
    This is a good point.... when and how information is revealed is critical. I think it's a bad idea to start off a story with an "info dump" and you can use back-story to great effect later in the story in a "big reveal". Just look at "Star Wars" when Luke discovers that Darth Vader is his father....awesome!

    I've done this too... cut a bunch out of the beginning because it was more exciting to start it somewhere else. The story was about a girl running away and I originally had a pile of stuff in the beginning about her sneaking out of her room and down the stairs etc etc... Nothing really exciting happened in that part though and frankly, it was boring :p. Later, she ends up jumping off a cliff into the water to get away from some guards. I decided to start it as she was racing toward the edge instead and it worked much better :)
     
  8. Greybeard

    Greybeard Geezer

    Joined:
    May 13, 2008
    Messages:
    1,900
    Likes Received:
    46
    Trophy Points:
    48
    Location:
    Toronto the Good
    Ratings:
    +58 / 0 / -0
    This is an excellent technique called kuttnering after its inventor, science-fiction writer Henry Kuttner.

    This is a less-than-excellent technique called info-dumping or at its worst front-end loading.
     
  9. Greybeard

    Greybeard Geezer

    Joined:
    May 13, 2008
    Messages:
    1,900
    Likes Received:
    46
    Trophy Points:
    48
    Location:
    Toronto the Good
    Ratings:
    +58 / 0 / -0
    Way back when I first tried to break into print in the late '80s, it was a paper-only world. Manuscripts in the mail, and manuscript format only. I learned to think in terms of thirteen lines. In manuscript format you have thirteen lines on the first page, and in 12-point (or as we said at the time, 10-pitch) with a fixed-width font that isn't much over 100 words to catch the editor's interest enough to make him turn the page. I always wanted to get a likeable character and some indication of trouble in those thirteen lines.

    Two useful techniques come to mind. For short fiction especially, the age-old wisdom is that you start as late in the story as you can and still tell the whole story. I did that with "The Pint of Innocence." My first two attempts started much earlier and I had to scrap those and think about starting as close to the trouble as I could.

    The other idea is swapping the first two chapters of a novel. Usually, the first chapter sets the scene and explains part of the problem, and the second chapter shows the protagonist doing something about it. Switching them lets you start with action and fill in the backstory later, when the reader already has some emotional investment in the story.

    My current WIP, Dungeons of the King, the second volume of a trilogy, starts with the protagonist's friend in the woods watching the castle where he's imprisoned, then the protagonist huddling in his cell after seven months of captivity, then switches to a scene on the frontier where the bad guys are storming another castle. That's the order they occurred to me, the order I outlined them in. But I think I'll reverse the order, start with the action, then move to either of the other scenes.
     
  10. S.J. Faerlind

    S.J. Faerlind Flashlight Shadowhunter

    Joined:
    May 29, 2012
    Messages:
    5,672
    Likes Received:
    191
    Trophy Points:
    63
    Location:
    Canada
    Ratings:
    +298 / 2 / -1
    I think it's always good to start with some kind of action OR make it so the question "why?" or "what's going on here?" pops into the reader's mind during the first page of the story and preferably in the first few sentences. "It was the best of times, it was the worst of times....": only 12 words and I am already wanting to find out why. :)

    On the other hand: Brandon Sanderson's "Way of Kings" starts off with a detailed fight scene. That scene sucked my husband right into the book because he thought it was so amazing. (It didn't do much for me though... get on with the plot already :p). Everybody has their preferences. :)
     
  11. FirePhoenix

    FirePhoenix Member

    Joined:
    Jan 10, 2013
    Messages:
    72
    Likes Received:
    1
    Trophy Points:
    8
    Location:
    Finland
    Ratings:
    +1 / 0 / -0
    Many years ago I started with a book where a battle started of immediately, and It was such a rip of from the second age battle agains Sauron, in Fellow ship of the ring. And the only thing that where described before the battle was that Elves were tired of living in their wood and Dwarfs were tired of living in their mountains. It was horrible...
     
  12. Lokasenna

    Lokasenna New Member

    Joined:
    Jan 19, 2013
    Messages:
    23
    Likes Received:
    0
    Trophy Points:
    0
    Location:
    Durham, UK
    Ratings:
    +0 / 0 / -0
    Starting in medias res can be a very valid tactic, though I don't think it is by any means necessary to a strong opening. How you start a novel is very important: think how many of the most memorable lines of literature are famous openings. My novel opens with:

    'This tale begins, like all good tales, at dawn, twelve thousand years since the creation of the world.'

    ...I've not yet decided whether it's a good opening or not.
     
  13. FirePhoenix

    FirePhoenix Member

    Joined:
    Jan 10, 2013
    Messages:
    72
    Likes Received:
    1
    Trophy Points:
    8
    Location:
    Finland
    Ratings:
    +1 / 0 / -0
  14. FirePhoenix

    FirePhoenix Member

    Joined:
    Jan 10, 2013
    Messages:
    72
    Likes Received:
    1
    Trophy Points:
    8
    Location:
    Finland
    Ratings:
    +1 / 0 / -0

    Depends in witch kinds of books if you ask me.
     
  15. TheSleepingSorcerer

    TheSleepingSorcerer Duke Of Shadows

    Joined:
    Jan 10, 2013
    Messages:
    62
    Likes Received:
    0
    Trophy Points:
    0
    Location:
    Your Computer
    Ratings:
    +0 / 0 / -0
    Well my beginning was sort of random. I knew what the story was about but had no idea on how to start it, so I just started writing and looked at the result.
    I don't know what its called, but my book starts off with the antagonist traveling to a goal that is later revealed in the next chapter, however it is the only chapter the antagonist has in the entire book. So you can definitely say that its sort of a prologue, but I wouldn't exactly call it info dumping. But of course I'm not done with the prologue yet, and there are several things I wish to change, and I'll keep what I read here in mind when doing so. I might have reveled a little to much on certain things...
     
  16. GrayTowerWriter

    GrayTowerWriter Chocoholic Fantasy Writer

    Joined:
    Jan 24, 2013
    Messages:
    21
    Likes Received:
    2
    Trophy Points:
    3
    Location:
    Los Angeles
    Ratings:
    +2 / 0 / -0
    I tend to start with some type of action or suspense. I remember one reviewer saying she was hooked within the first two pages. So I guess it worked! As a reader, I enjoy both "action-packed" beginnings as well as the non-action ones. A beginning will hook me as long as it's interesting or raises a question that I want answered.
     
  17. Greybeard

    Greybeard Geezer

    Joined:
    May 13, 2008
    Messages:
    1,900
    Likes Received:
    46
    Trophy Points:
    48
    Location:
    Toronto the Good
    Ratings:
    +58 / 0 / -0
    Opening paragraph from The Hunter by Richard Stark:

    When a fresh-faced guy in a Chevy offered him a lift, Parker told him to go to hell. They guy said "Screw you, buddy," yanked his Chevy back into the stream of traffic, and roared on down to the tollbooths. Parker spat in the right -hand lane, lit his last cigarette, and walked across the George Washington bridge.


    Not the best book I've ever read, but I love the opening.
     
  18. Greybeard

    Greybeard Geezer

    Joined:
    May 13, 2008
    Messages:
    1,900
    Likes Received:
    46
    Trophy Points:
    48
    Location:
    Toronto the Good
    Ratings:
    +58 / 0 / -0
  19. S.J. Faerlind

    S.J. Faerlind Flashlight Shadowhunter

    Joined:
    May 29, 2012
    Messages:
    5,672
    Likes Received:
    191
    Trophy Points:
    63
    Location:
    Canada
    Ratings:
    +298 / 2 / -1