It's essential to start a story in the right place, but how do we know where that is? The best and easiest way is to start in the middle of a scene, with some action or something provocative happening. Sometimes, dialogue works very well. You need a sentence, a phrase, a paragraph or even a whole scene that will immediately draw the reader in.
The best example that come to mind right now, are the James Bond movies. When you see the opening scene, it's usually Bond in a dangerous situation (one that has nothing to do with the upcoming story, btw) with lots of action and stunts. It's fast-paced, draws the movie-goer in immediately, your eyes are glued to the screen.
Now, when writing romance, we CAN'T write a scene that doesn't directly relate to our story. Every scene has to move the story forward. It has to be intriguing enough to engage the reader and make them want to read the rest of the story.
In Janet Evanovich's first Stephanie Plum series, One For the Money, after reading the first line, I knew I'd read the entire collection, no doubt.
"There are some men who enter a woman's life and screw it up forever. Joseph Morelli did this to me -- not forever, but periodically." The next paragraph had me glued and then I was a goner.
In Susan Mallery's Sizzling, her first line went like this, "Until 6:45 on that Thursday morning, women had always loved Reid Buchanan." This statement makes you ask a question, why? What happened? You already know something key about the hero.
In Sharon Sala's Deep in the Heart, "For all intents and purposes, Samantha Jean Carlyle was dead. It was just the when and how of it that had yet to happen." Again, a very intriguing opening that makes you wonder, what's happening to this woman right now.
An opening line, paragraph or scene takes a good deal of thought and time. Although sometimes, it just comes to you. Those "oh yeah" moments are wonderful when they happen. You just KNOW it the right place to start the story. But if that doesn't happen, you must ask yourself, how will the opening tell enough of the story, make it exciting and yet leave the reader intrigued enough to continue reading. Give it a good deal of thought. Then plunge in and see if it works. Here's the opening to my Work in Progress. I played with these lines until I was sure they worked. They tell you just enough about the character to hopefully make you want to read on.
He was good at throwing things.
He knew how to throw a great party.
He knew how to throw his fist into a reporter's camera.
He knew how to throw on Armani to make an impression.
Mostly though, Luke O'Conner knew how to throw a baseball at 95 miles an hour.
Already from this opening, you know a good deal about my character, his nature and maybe some of his character flaws. Are you intrigued? Hope so.
Often a new writer opens with too much backstory. They tell you all about the main character's history and what happened to him/her. Often its a lackluster opening with "too much information." Facts and history are better off placed later on in the story, woven in by small threads that fit the story together, piece by piece. It's an art and really good writers do this to perfection.
What stories have you read lately that have drawn you in immediately?
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Up Next on the Blog: A sneak peek at my new historical Bodine's Bounty and how I started that first chapter.