Friday, April 17, 2015

O is for Opening

The first page is a powerful tool and should be used to tell readers what kind of world they've just landed in.
In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit. Not a nasty, dirty, wet hole, filled with the ends of worms and an oozy smell, nor yet a dry, bare, sandy hole with nothing in it to sit down on or to eat: it was a hobbit-hole, and that means comfort.-JRR Tolkien from The Hobbit
One of my favorite openings. Already you know you've landed in a magical story with non-human creatures and that there are comforts to be had. The opening section of your book has a few objectives. To hook your readers, introduce your hero, establish stakes, foreshadow future events and then to get the show on the road.

First stop your hook. Larry Brooks over at Storyfix teaches that you need a hook within the first 20 pages of your book. What exactly is a hook? It's something to get your readers attention and pull them into your story. It can be blatant or subtle as long as it packs an emotional punch. The best way to get someone's attention is to make them feel. Immerse your reader in what is happening now. Until you have your hooks in them the time is not right for backstory.

Another opening task is to introduce your hero. Don't tell your readers her whole story, but do let them get to know her. If she spends a lot of your story angry let her throw a tantrum now to set the stage. Show her character flaws, we all have them and so should your characters. Also, let the readers see what your hero's life is like. Is she a rock star who only eats green M&Ms? Is she a humanitarian working to feed and cloth children in a poorer neighborhood? What has she been doing and what are her goals?

Now please tell me why I should care. What does the hero have at stake? Her family, career, love or even the fate of the world could all rest on her shoulders. Show don't tell when it comes to, well everything in your story. It is important to show the readers what will be in jeopardy for the rest of the story. Of course you can and should up the stakes later, but there must be a compelling reason for your hero to jump into the meat of the story.

Foreshadowing future events is subtlety or blatantly hinting to your readers about a plot point or issue of characterization. The purpose of foreshadowing is to prepare your readers for something important that is coming. If readers aren't prepared when a big event occurs it can leave them feeling jarred or worse lied to and cheated.  Most of the first quarter of your story should be a huge beautiful tapestry of these hints woven together. If it's supposed to be an obvious hint give it emotion. If it's supposed to be subtle it's a little trickier and you can let it pass without much notice. Subtle is usually better because you don't really want to give away your plot twists. Once you planted the hint make sure you give them the yield. Not bringing the hints to fruition will leave your readers just as confused as a big event without foreshadowing.

Now if we've done our job all that's left is to get the show on the road. The inciting incident, also known as the first plot point, brings the opening of your story to a close. It launches your hero into a different world where their goals and dreams have just been rearranged by the antagonistic force.

What do you find as the hardest part of the opening to write? What is the easiest? Please leave a comment and don't forget to let me know where you came from so I can follow you back.

Photos by Pixabay.


  1. Great information here! You've given me a lot to think about in crafting my story. Thanks for that. :)
    Michele at Angels Bark

  2. Helpful info! It seems that having an opening hook is much more important than it used to be. I think this has to do with people today having shorter attention spans.

    1. I was thinking the same thing. It does seem people are very easily distracted.

  3. Great post. There are so many things that go into the opening of the book and you have a great list of them.