A good opening will help make your characters and your conflict clear.
These steps will guide your way to a better beginning, the chance to make your story un-put-down-able!
1. First, you need the hook to jump start your story.
2. Then, you introduce trouble into the protagonist’s life.
3. A call to arms – giving the protagonist a chance to fix what’s wrong.
4. The protagonist refuses, which leads to …
5. More trouble or worsening trouble that should have been fixed when the protagonist had his/her first chance.
We’ve talked about that first hook – you’ve made your reader wonder what’s next. Here’s where you set the mood, introduce the character and make us want to read on. This is where you determine the theme of the book – is it about love conquering all, good and evil, hope? Try this site - http://homeworktips.about.com/od/writingabookreport/a/themelist.htm - to help you find your theme.
Now, tell us about the conflict – or trouble – the protagonist will face. During this, you’ll tell us the character’s desire and their hidden need. The protagonist may not understand the problem or realize there is one at this point, but the reader should realize it immediately.
Then give the protagonist a call to arms, the offer of a chance to fix the problem or make it go away. Here’s where you place the ticking clock that will carry you through the end of the book. What is the urgency? What will happen if it is not addressed?
The protagonist should not yet be ready to change – or doesn’t realize the need immediately. The call to arms may be something they don’t want to do, or it may conflict with what they believe their desire or need is. Because of this, they don’t take the call to arms.
Which causes trouble – more trouble than the protagonist originally started out with. Here’s where we find out what the protagonist stands to lose, what the antagonist stands to gain, and how the protagonist becomes aware of the need to change or face the trouble/problem up front, whether the protagonist wants to or not.
By the time you’ve reached this spot in your story, your reader should be rooting for your protagonist, disliking your antagonist and hoping things don’t overcome the protagonist before he/she achieves their goal/desire/need. It’s a lot to do – but you can do it.