Nasa / Space

8 ways to open a story: 5 good, 3 bad


Sherwood Smith writes at DeepGenre a a lengthy article on the best and worst ways to open a story, especially as applies to genre fiction. The methods are rated based on the difficulty of "pulling it off" with effect and style. I've blatantly ripped off large chunks of the article below. The lists:

The Hard Ways

  • The Big Bang - When the writer throws the big conflict of the entire book at the reader at once.
  • On the Run - This is the in medias res opening, wherein the action is

    already going on, and thus the reader not only has to pick up the story

    and characters, but has to assemble the clues to why and wherefore.
  • The Book of Genesis - There have been too many books opening with the history of the Elder

    Gods, when everything was marvelous and good except for that one mean

    brother or sister who slinks around from the gitgo, does something

    nasty, gets tossed into the godly klink for a few hundred or thousand

    years–and then gets out, swearing vengeance and all manner of Evil.

The Less-Hard Ways (Nothin's easy)

  • Waking Up - The protagonist finds on waking that he is not where he went to sleep.

    Or if she wakes up and finds someone on the next pillow who wasn’t

    there before. Or he wakes up and discovers that when he sneezes, the

    opposite wall explodes.
  • Discovery - The character begins with a mundane action–briefly setting the scene

    and time–and then Discovers the Magic Tieclip. Or a secret power. Or

    overhears a conversation between a brace o’ bad guys.
  • The Interview - When two characters open by discussing whatever–again, it need not be the main conflict, but it has to be some kind of conflict.
  • The Conference - Pretty much the same as the “Interview” but includes many characters.
  • The Journey - A headlong action scene to get some small goal accomplished that lets us see setting, character, some motivation and need.

I'm sure I've committed many of these sins myself, but now I'll be a little more self-aware before opening with the end of the universe. Unless its a comedy. All the rules are different with comedy. I hope.

About

Jay Garmon has a vast and terrifying knowledge of all things obscure, obtuse, and irrelevant. One day, he hopes to write science fiction, but for now he'll settle for something stranger -- amusing and abusing IT pros. Read his full profile. You can a...

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