Ten thoughts on story/novel openings:
1-Your first job is to draw the reader in.
2-Having drawn her in, keep her there till the story is done.
3-You might find that working on the first line is easiest when you’ve finished the whole story.
4-The opening should set expectations which, by the end of the story, will be met in full.
5-It’s probably best to avoid being boring here.
6-Concrete is probably better than abstract. In other words, who, where, what, why and when, rather than thoughts about the philosophical meaning of grout fungus in the biosphere.
7-The opening and the ending are inextricably linked to each other. These may be the most important parts of the story, so spend a lot of time and effort on both of them.
8-Beware of writerly advice that says “always” or “never” or “must” with respect to openings. Screw that. But *be mindful of what you are screwing*.
9-The opening, above all else, INTRODUCES. It’s not the best place for backstory or side-quests. Introduce characters, world and situation.
10-For my money, the best way to learn about openings is to take books off your shelf (or from the library shelves) and close-read the openings of the narratives that work for you.
Reading: The Making of Mr. Gray’s Anatomy by Ruth Richardson
Listening to: The Lady of Rage, Afro Puffs
I’ve neglected posting sketches.
My short story THE APOLOGISTS has been shortlisted for a British Science Fiction Association award:
My novel ROSEWATER was in contention, but was booted off the ballot because it’s (shock, horror!) published in America.
But ROSEWATER made it on to the Locus Recommended Reading List:
Which is a very big deal in the science fiction world.
Hiram Warren Johnson is reported to have said, “the first casualty when war comes is truth.”, although there is no actual record of him saying it.
He may have paraphrased Samuel Johnson, who said: “Among the calamities of War may be justly numbered the diminution of the love of truth, by the falsehoods which interest dictates and credulity encourages.” (Idler, #30, 11th November, 1758)
Regardless of which of the Johnson’s said it, we are left with the impression that conflict leads to falsehood in some form or the other.
Which is really how we got to Kellyanne Conway’s Alternative Facts.
This is not new.
“There was absolutely no convincing the Fuhrer once he made up his mind. You could have the most infallible proof, anything; he just wouldn’t budge.”
Goering on Hitler
Nuremberg Diary, by G.M. Gilbert