I’ve found an answer in the book called “Hooked.” It’s about writing beginnings “that grab readers.” This book gives you guidelines for great beginnings and offers examples you can “steal.” (Wonder what I mean by steal? Mr. Edgerton, the author of “Hooked” explains in the book.)
1) Start your story as late as you can in the inciting incident. (An inciting incident, defined by Mr. Edgerton is, “the crucial event—the trouble—that sets the story in motion.”) Try to begin in the MIDDLE, possibly when your main character has a problem and knows he/she has to do something about the horrible situation he/she is in.
2) Make sure that problem is a story-worthy problem. The problem has to have some weight and importance. Mr. Edgerton says that this story problem is “the heart and soul . . . the driving force of your story.”
Usually the story-worthy problem is an inner psychological need. For example, in “The Wizard of Oz,” Dorothy wants to find a place where she’ll be happy and accepted. She runs away from home right before a tornado hits and spends the rest of the story trying to return to her family. Although she doesn’t know it in the beginning, she realizes she already has a place where people accept her—home.
3) The story-worthy problem has to be something the main character wants passionately. Your hero has to care or the reader won’t.
4) Start your story with something that intrigues the reader, something interesting.
5) Make sure that the something interesting is tied to the rest of the story. It’s fine to have a shoot out or a bank robbery, but these openings need to have something to do with what follows. By definition the beginning should lead to the middle and the end of your novel. The beginning of the story is also where you set-up the rules for your world that your characters will have to follow for the entire novel.
6) If you’re having problems with your beginning, look to the end. Mr. Edgerton says that a lot of great starts hint at the story’s outcome.
7) One of the most common mistakes unpublished writers make is they start the story at the wrong place. Too much backstory and all kinds of character history will weigh a beginning down. What is backstory, you ask? Mr. Edgerton says “backstory is all that has gone on before the inciting incident.”
8) Another way beginnings can sour is when writers over-explain things. Readers are savvy. They can pick up on the slightest clues.
9) On the flip side, readers lose interest if they don’t have enough information to understand the significance of the opening scene. They need just enough details to put meaning to the scene. Mr. Edgerton calls these bits of information necessary set-up.
10) Good openings introduce the main character of the story.
11) Check the words in your beginning. Every word should count or be important in your opening.
12) Make sure you start with a scene, not a summary. Most of us have heard the “Show rather than tell” reminder. This is really important as your readers pick up your writing. Mr. Edgerton says, “Your goal is to evoke an emotional response in the reader, and telling absolutely won’t get it. The reader must live the opening scene right along with the protagonist.”
13) Remember to include specific details to help readers envision the opening scenes.
These 13 pointers are only the beginning of the information in “Hooked.” There’s much more you can learn if you read “Hooked”. Get it. At least for me, “Hooked” is a must-have book.
I’m always looking for new books about writing. If you’ve read a good one, please share. Leave a comment. Thanks.
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