Starting is always a hard thing to do, no matter how good of an idea you may have. You may have a great idea and a great ending, but that first sentence is always the hardest to write, and that’s exactly what I’m going to be discussing. I do have a few rules I use whenever I write a story. However, these tricks are only to help write it from your idea. They usually don’t work if I have no idea in mind first.
Let’s get into it with explaining why starting a story is so hard and why it is a vital part of any story. The first word and sentence, and the one that follows it. Set the mood, tone and feel of the rest of the story. When I write the first few lines of any story I already know what kind of story I’m writing, this doesn’t mean I have a plot or I know what’s going to happen it just means I know the tone of the story and the feel. I’m going for. For example, I know whether it’s going to be a funny story, a scary one or one that’s more like a documentary. This gives me what I need for my first trick. The tone and setting, that lets me narrow down the ways I can start my story. Seeing that I do write superhero fiction and some are meant to be funny, I sometimes will pick something amusing to start with if the story is going to be a lighter more amusing story. So my first rule is to pick a tone and get rid of any ideas that doesn’t match what I picked as the tone and yes, that means even parts of the story I have already written.
For example, the tone of the story will be a lighter tone story with some comedy in it, I have a scene that shows action and gets the reader into what’s going on and what’s going to be happening thought out the story it sounds great but it’s not light or funny. It is a great opening scene, but it doesn’t match the tone of the story. Unfortunately, changing the tone of that opening, would change the whole meaning and point that scene is trying to show. With my first rule, that scene is not the right fit for the start of the story and so I move on.
The second rule I use is: does the first sentence grab attention. Does it make me want to know more about what’s going on. However, unlike the first rule I use this one only applies to the initial sentence. Also, this can actually break the first rule in some cases. I’ll break it down a little bit more. That first sentence should grab a reader’s attention by any means necessary. Pull them in and use it as a way to push them into the opening scene, then set the tone of the story. At the end of that first sentence, the reader should want to read more to know what’s going on. Using the same story as an example. I had two different ways of starting, the first was the middle of what I decided the opening scene would be, or I could start leading to that scene. Both were very attention-grabbing. However, one would lead to a more action-packed tone for the story and the other had less of an action and more of a what’s going on feel. If I led with the action-packed opening it would match the tone of the story more than if I went with the what’s going on opening. However, I did choose to what’s going on opening.
Now, why did I go against my first rule. Well, the truth is I didn’t go against my first rule. Though my first sentence doesn’t match the tone of the story the opening scene does match the tone of the rest of the story. The first sentence by itself makes the reader go I need to know what’s going on right now. And that’s why it was chosen simply because it pulled the reading in instantly. The following sentences set the rest of the tone and made it more of a comical scene. This is the first sentence I chose to open the story with. (“You’ve got to be kidding me right? You’re only giving me a knife to defend myself?”) Read by itself, it can’t be dismissed and leaves the reader with questions instantly. Not only does it leave the question who is talking, who are they talking to, and what’s going on why you need to defend yourself and how is a knife not enough.
Depending on the story starting with a question can be a great attention grabber. What’s even better is having a character ask a different character that question. This pulls the reader in making them want not only the answer to the question, they also now have two characters that they want to know. All this and the only one sentence in, which makes the reader invested in your story before they even get into the first scene of the story.
Now after the reader is hooked you have to follow up and that’s when the first rule is a must. I want to set the tone and give some more bits of information to hook the reader all the way. Now here is the first paragraph as a whole.
(“You’ve got to be kidding me right? You’re only giving me a knife to defend myself?” I yelled out, to 24. “Well its better than nothing, I can’t give you any guns until I get your systems back online. Why are you so worried anyway 8351 uses a weapon like that.” Replied 24 with a smirk. “Really now he does? I hate you, you know he uses a six-foot long dual sided ultra-light fire sword. You just gave me the knife from your kitchen. It is not the same thing!” I yelled back at him angrily.)
I answered who’s talking first so now the reader has two characters, one that they are already behind because he was put at a disadvantage by the other character. The second question that was answered brings up a list of other questions. The reader now knows that a knife is a downgrade from his normal guns and also he’s not the only one that could have done this. The question now is, why is this character defending himself with a knife and why is he doing it and not the person that already uses does weapons.
With every few words, there is another question and another reason why the reader needs to read more to find out what’s really going on. The last sentence in that paragraph makes the reader think it’s a bit funny that it’s a kitchen knife setting the tone from someone is going to die, to how bad can it be if he was given a kitchen knife. This must be funny cause this guy is overreacting no one in their right mind would give anyone a kitchen knife if they were in any kind of real danger. However, at the same time, they are still thinking I hope this is just a joke because it’s funny, but it would be bad if he was in danger.
I use those two rules to start all the stories I write. First I get the tone and then something that grabs the attention, whether it matches the tone or not as long as it doesn’t go against the tone of the story so much that I can set the right tone, by the end of the first scene. I also used the scene I wrote as the opening originally for the next paragraph.
Now for a quick conclusion and some extra tips. After writing your opening read only the first paragraph, ask yourself a few simple questions. First is this the tone of my story, then ask, does the first sentence hock by itself. If you get no to any of those it’s time to rewrite it.
Now my tips for writing in general, don’t rewrite your opening, write a new one each time. You might find your bad opening makes a good way to follow up your opening. This applies whenever you write anything, don’t rewrite it and delete the original because you might use it later on in the story. Tip two is a cheat when doing openings, just have a character say something. It’s an instant hook with a question of who is talking and what are they talking about. Also if two characters talk, it adds more questions of who those characters are. Which is precisely what you want at the start of a story questions the reader wants to be answered.
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