“Help!” someone cried out. “Get me out of this! My leg’s fractured! Is anyone there? Help!”
“Who was that?” Victor said.
A terrible noise came from a mansion. Hammering on doors could be heard. Screams echoed in the area.
“Sounds like he’s in trouble,” Dave replied, worried.
“Fractured? How? Why?”
“Let’s find out.”
Imagine what you’d feel if you came across these opening paragraphs in a book.
You’d be interested, certainly. You’d want to know what person was crying for help, and why. You’d want how his leg came to be fractured. You’d want to know who the heck Victor and Dave are. And you’d want to know why they were at this place and what they were doing there. In short, you’d want to read on.
And this is precisely what reaction you have in mind for the reader after reading the first few lines. You want to read on! A story must have a superb compelling opening – that’s the rule. Otherwise, as I told you in Why You Should Write a Compelling Opening Chapter, the reader will close the book.
So what’s the summary of this section? To write a compelling opening chapter you must first write the compelling opening lines. (The first page in other words). Only then the reader will take a further look in the first chapter.
Let’s delve deeper in why these opening lines (the ones with which I have started the post) have been proven to work. If one looks closely, there are some elements hidden there. Elements which have been used by famous authors. They are…
Starting a story with dialogue helps. It helps greatly. It’s better than the old “Once upon a time, a farmer lived on the hill.” It’s better than “Raju was struggling.” It’s better than “John and Richard were very naughty.” It’s better than “The sea shined and sparked as they left it.” It’s better than all of them.
Because it draws in the reader and makes him interested.
When you compare dialogue and narrative, you’ll find out that by and large readers prefer dialogue. Yes, there is a thing such as too much dialogue, but when starting a story, dialogue is always one of the preferable options.
Now, of course with every case there are rules attached. This is no exception. You can’t just write some sloppy dialogue (like How are you doing) and say “I started it with dialogue.” It has to be good. It has to be interested. It has to show the personality of the speaker, and be short and snappy. Above all, it must not bore the reader.
So this was the first element. Notice that the first word in the story was above was “Help”, which was dialogue, yes, but something else. Which is…
2) Call to unfold the opening (in other words, action)
A good story begins with not action, but the scene before the action. It creates a growing sense of fear and dread if you use it carefully. As I said before, there is a thing such as too much dialogue. If you just have your characters talking and laughing with each other, well – you’ve mirrored real life, but after all, this is fiction, and your reader’s dozing off already. Wake him/her up with some action!
But beginning stories with action-packed scenes is not a good idea, since the reader has no idea who the characters are and doesn’t care a bit about them. Therefore – inject action into the dialogue! Make one of your characters say he’s going to do a daring task, or something like that. Then, before the reader’s “don’t-carishness” kicks in, quickly explain why that particular thing is so important.
And so… you’ve got your reader hooked. Mission accomplished if you handle it well.
3) Depict struggle and conflict
We all know that without conflict stories would become boring. We would hate to read them. We would hate to read about the great heroes that reach their goal without any struggle, without any conflict.
And oh… I think you are the same.
So what do you have to do? You have to depict struggle and conflict. Keep it short, though. Remember that the reader doesn’t know about the characters yet. Keep him in the dark first. Be vague in describing the struggle.
But at the same time, tell the reader that struggles and conflicts are definitely abound in your story. Illustrate it with a few lines. Short and snappy are the magic words.
And there you have it… another reason why the reader will continue reading!
4) Done all that? Got the reader’s attention? Now take hold of it with a stunning plot (and characters)
If you’ve done the above correctly, you should now have got the reader’s attention. All you have to do now is to keep hold of it.
You roll your eyes. “Okay, boy, easy for you to say. How exactly?”
I’m going to tell you how.
Think of a stunning plot. Create superb memorable characters. Write in a compelling manner. Do not ramble for even a second. Keep depicting conflict. Hurt the main character. Flaw him/her. Make his goal memorable, but impossible to get. Write a superb ending and leave some loose ends still unwrapped. To mirror real life.
OK… I know all that is hard to do. Heck, even I find it impossible to do many times. But the purpose of Schoolboy Author is… to help you in fiction writing. A blog written by a kid with few experiences but writing knowledge. Let’s see how hard it is.
That’s all for today, to give your scroll-bar a rest.
P.S. – If you don’t know, this is the second part of a tutorial on How to Write the Best Opening Chapter. Subscribe for free by RSS or email for more. And feel free to have your say in the comments below.