Three ways to start your story
One of the first things you learn when stepping into creative writing is that stories need to have a beginning, middle and end. This is solid, no-nonsense wisdom that should carry you through your career, but as one reads more extensively, the “beginning” becomes a more nebulous entity. You’ll find plenty of amazing stories that open bang in the middle of an action, sometimes even mid-thought or mid-sentence, and it works. So how does one ensure that one’s stories pop from the get-go? Let’s take a look at some killer opening styles.
The action opener
Think about every James Bond movie you’ve seen. Before we even get to the actual plot of the film, the dude is up and running, either chasing some bad guy or making the moves on some attractive woman. The reason why they don’t mess with that formula, and why it does so well in the box office is that it works. When you start with some action, it creates interest and gets the story moving. Just keep in mind that if it’s your character performing the action, it has to be in keeping with the character.
The talky opener
Like a well-placed voice-over, the narrative opener can get the ball rolling by creating context, summarising everything you need to know in some succinct exposition so you hit the ground running. Authors like Christopher Brookmyre do this very well. It’s a great chance to build up your main characters, really get into their heads, and set the tone of the story.
The scenic opener
Another great way to open a story is by setting the scene. This is particularly useful if you’re world-building for fantasy, sci-fi, or historic fiction, but even if you’re not, orienting the reader by creating the scene can make the story more immersive. This is also the trickiest opening to write, because descriptions are a tricky thing, so do refer back to our piece on descriptive writing for tips and tricks.
Sometimes the success of the entire writing experience can rest on the shoulders of its opening, so choose wisely!