Opening Your Story

Do you read books on how to write?

The latest I read talked about opening a story and checking for four criteria.

Does your opening start with:

  • the protagonist,
  • conflict,
  • movement,
  • setting?

This is a lot for an opening, and I’ve been studying novels to check if authors do this.

The first point, the protagonist, doesn’t seems to happen consistently. There are books that start with the protagonist, the villain, a minor character, or a character that doesn’t appear in the rest of the novel at all. I like all of them. So I guess on this one, you have to decide for yourself if your protagonist is the best place to start. I do agree the protagonist should appear early in the story.

Conflict: This one seems more consistent. Sometimes the conflict is quiet or subtle. Sometimes it’s a full-out battle, but it’s there.

Movement: I find books with no movement boring. Even if the character is walking, it’s better than sitting still, or worse yet, if there’s no mention of what the character’s doing.

Setting: This might only be one word, one line, one paragraph or this could be more. To me the setting it important at the beginning. I like to know where the character is. Are they in a city, in the country, on a mountain or in outer space? This helps me figure out what kind of story I’m reading.

Do you follow any guidelines for opening your story?

Thanks for reading . . .


5 thoughts on “Opening Your Story

  1. To me, conflict and setting are the most important hooks for an opening. But I’m finding that’s so much more easily said than done! I sure appreciate reading a nicely turned opening paragraph now that I’m in the driver’s seat with my stories. 🙂


    1. Conflict is so many different things. It can be not being able to do a simple function in life and frustration takes over to a full out battle scene. That hard part for me is figuring out what fits best in my story. I find it easier in later scenes once the characters are developed.


  2. I never really thought about it in a list like this, but I do try to place these elements in my stories. My setting is almost always lacking, though. It’s something I need to work on without going overboard and ruining my pacing. Setting is my nemesis.


    1. Setting is hard. The list helps me keep focussed and make sure I don’t get lazy with my writing. One of my favourite setting questions is: Is this the best place for the scene or could another location give it a higher emotional impact? This forces me to think past my first idea of where the scene should take place and maybe find better place.


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