Normal business on my blog will be resumed shortly but, in the meantime, I thought I’d take the opportunity to start a new series. Here’s the first in a series of writing workshops:
For Creating A Cracking Short Story Opening
Hours can be spent tapping away at the computer keys, trying to come up with a gripping short story opening – one that will dazzle, amaze and astound. Here are some tips on how to make sure your story does just that:
- Your opening paragraph has to grab your reader’s attention straight away. It’s no use filling it with lots of waffle. Your reader will switch off and move to another story.
- There are several ways to hook your reader. Dialogue is a great tool:
“I didn’t mean to do it. I’m not bad,” she said, her pale blue eyes awash with tears.
“I’ve heard it all before. You’re not fooling anyone,” the man said scowling.
See how, as a reader, you’re privy to this conversation taking place and already feel part of the story. Your interest is also piqued. What didn’t she mean to do?
- Shocking your reader is another effective opening, thrusting your reader right in. Here’s an example:
I knew she was dead even though the dull eyes stared back at me, mocking me, tempting me to raise the knife once more.
- Just as a shocking opening can capture your reader’s interest, so can a humorous one:
No-one understood how lonely it was being stuck up a tree all on your own. Flora sighed and fluttered her wings. One barely moved and the other nearly fell off. She was sure fairies weren’t supposed to have problems like this.
- Ensuring your reader feels part of the story through building up a strong sense of atmosphere makes a powerful beginning:
She peered through the darkness. It enveloped her, clinging to her, refusing to let her go. A thud to her left. Her head whipped round. Silence. Nothing there. She reached out her hand, took a step forward. Something tugged at her hair and the stench of rotting flesh filled her nostrils. She gagged, tears spilling from her eyes. She wasn’t alone.
See how the hairs on your arms stand on end, as you read the passage, making you feel as if you’re right there with the character.
- Addressing your reader directly compels them to feel part of your story:
Just one more, that’s all I was going to take. You know that, don’t you? You understand. Well, they didn’t. And they wouldn’t listen. Looked at me like I was dirt.
In the opening to this monologue, see how you feel as if the character is appealing to you personally and how involved you already feel in her tale.
- Introducing your reader to your main character and making them care for that character guarantees that they become instantly involved in your story:
She looked at the big, balding man, her lower lip trembling. An adult would have known she wouldn’t make it to the stairs in time. She knew really but still she tried, the scream catching in her throat as hands grabbed her.
- Whichever way you choose to open your story, you must leave your reader wanting to know more. Don’t feel as if you have to tell your reader everything in the opening paragraph. Leave them dangling, feeling compelled to read on.
- Don’t make your opening paragraph too long. If your reader is faced with a big block of words, this will put them off straight away.
- If the beginning of your story is littered with mistakes, it’s likely that the rest of your story is, too. A judge or editor won’t necessarily mind a mistake or two, but a lot and your story won’t succeed, even with a cracking opening. So, make sure you read your work through carefully.