Tips on Crafting the Perfect Opening Scene For Your Novel
“The beginning is the most important part of the work.”Plato
Every good novelist knows the importance of beginning a novel impactfully. Think about your favourite novel. You would surely remember its opening lines. Some novels, like Pride and Prejudice, have gone down in literary history for their remarkable opening lines. The works of modern mystery writers like Stephen King owe their success to perfectly crafted opening scenes that leave their readers in awe.
Hence, to make your story seem irresistible, you have to craft an intriguing opening scene. This blog will guide you through the intricacies of beginning your novel masterfully so you can extend your readers an invitation they can’t resist.
- Consider your story as a whole
The beginning of the novel sets the tone for the rest of the story, so readers know what to expect. This entails looking at your story from beginning to end. Your opening scene must be coherent with the rest of your story. You need not have a detailed plan for your book. Instead, have a blueprint in mind for your own convenience while crafting the beginning of the story. Consider the opening lines of A Tale of Two Cities written by Charles Dickens, which encapsulates the atmosphere of England during the industrial revolution-
“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times”
- Focus on setting the mood
Consider the opening scene in a movie. If it’s a fantasy film, it usually begins with special effects like smoke in an other-worldly setting like a magical forest. Viewers are immediately thrown into the setting, so they feel like they’re a part of it. Similarly for your book, use your imagination to evoke certain emotions in the reader using vivid imagery or sensory descriptions. You could talk about the season, the colours and the sounds. Readers must feel like they’re a part of the scenery. It is important to evoke the right mood in the beginning for the rest of your story. For example, consider the opening lines of the bestselling horror novel It by Stephen King-
“The terror, which would not end for another twenty-eight years – if it ever did end – began, so far as I know or can tell, with a boat made from a sheet of newspaper floating down a gutter swollen with rain.”
- Establish the point of view
Depending on the genre of your novel, you must choose the most suitable form of narration for your story. It is the most important decision for your narrative. If you’re writing a coming-of-age novel, you would want to choose the first-person narrative. On the other hand, if you’re writing a detective novel, you can adopt a bird’s eye view of the story by creating a third-person, omniscient narrator. Feel free to experiment with the conventional styles of narration. Some novelists even introduce unreliable narrators to add intrigue to the story. The novel Moby Dick by Herman Melville is known for its crisp, cryptic and claustrophobic opening line. In a sentence, the narrator introduces himself, but the reader is left to wonder about the mysterious man who only gives his name
“Call me Ishmael”
- Begin developing your inciting incident
This is crucial if you want your readers hooked in, and fast. The opening scene is the driving force of your story and it is also the beginning of the inciting incident of your story. The inciting incident triggers the main action in your story and hence it has to be compelling. Make sure you craft it in such a way that it brings the tension to the forefront. This is the “exposition” that should match the overall energy of your plot. Again, take a cue from films. An action movie often begins with a car chase. This creates a sense of excitement that is suitable for the genre. Similarly for your novel, design your opening scene so it cogently leads up to the main events of your book.
- Revisit your opening scene once you’re done writing your novel
Once you’ve developed your entire story, ensure that it is a coherent whole. The beginning, middle and end must fit perfectly with each other and flow into each other with ease. Your opening scene must make sense in the context of your novel as a whole. Check if the tone of your opening scene still fits. See if the changes that you had introduced into the setting throughout your story are incorporated in the beginning. Check if the characterization remains consistent. Doing so will make your work seamless. In fiction writing, a great story consists of a series of scenes woven together to craft a journey for the reader. Each scene has a specific purpose and propels the story forward towards its climax. A strong opening scene keeps the reader engaged from the very first
line. To craft an opening scene that will cast a spell on your readers, keep the aforementioned tips in mind. We hope that your next novel is unputdownable from the very beginning!