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
yearsand 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 wasnt
there before. Or he wakes up and discovers that when he sneezes, the
opposite wall explodes.
- Discovery – The character begins with a mundane actionbriefly setting the scene
and timeand 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 whateveragain, 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.