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The Art of Storytelling: Your Opening Scene

Many experienced and inexperienced authors struggle with the opening scene. You are seated comfortably in front of your computer, a cup of coffee or your favorite beverage is resting beside you; you probably spent a great portion of your day/night mulling over the details of this amazing story you have in your brain. Now that your fingers are ready to fire away, the desire to write is burning hot, the house is quiet and now all you can do is stare at the computer and blink.

All of that mental energy spent, imagining your line up of characters and spectacular events you envisioned happening in your story just disappears. Trust me, that happens to the best of us. So what do you do? How do you move on from the blank screen and blinking curser. Where CAN you start? This is going to be a multipart discussion simply because 1: this is a suggestion; and 2: it is all up to you. But for some, this may be easier approach to getting those creative juices flowing.

The answer is simple: Give your readers a place to go. Your opening scene will determine whether or not the reader will continue the journey with the character or if he or she will simply close the book and move onto something else. So why not begin with giving your readers a place to go; a place for them to settle into as you introduce them to the main character(s). For example, this is one of the opening paragraphs for my book, The Lost Queen where I introduce my character and the pending action that the reader can anticipate experiencing in the story:

Ducking behind the protective covering of a red brick building. I shove my daughter behind me as our protector rounds the corner, unloading an entire clip at our attackers. Her silent tears remind that our life would have been better had I never discover discovered what I am.

What my daughter is.

Pop! Pop! Pop!

I cup her mouth with my hand while trying to stifle my own scream. This has been our life for the last three days. Running. Hiding. Near misses. According to our guardian, we just have to make it out of the city, and then that should put enough space between us and "them" that will allow us time to gather resources and to push forward. That's all he told me.

Pop! Pop!

Now granted, there is a bit of mystery as to her exact location, but nonetheless, she is outside, struggling to take cover behind a building as bullets are whizzing by. And this is another tip that I will go into detail about in another blog: action. While you are staring at the blank screen of your computer, your coffee growing cold and the cool touch of anxiety begins to settle in like the morning fog, imagine the WHERE and the WHAT (the action). Not only will this capture the attention of the reader, you will find yourself growing more confident as you move forward with the first chapter. Why? Because you have a place to start and now that you have a place to start in the story, you can easily build from there.

Think about the genre and the overall direction of your story. If your main character is a vampire on the run from a gun slinging cowboy hunter, you can introduce a scene that involves the two of them preparing to engage in a fight. Or, you could start off with the vampire hiding out in a crypt, praying to his vampire god to save him. I know, I know...that was a bit lame. But it is not my job to feed you creative ideas for the direction of your story. My job is just to inspire and to offer some helpful hints to get you to the next phase of your journey as an author.

And it may help for you to brainstorm your opening scene before you get settled in front of your computer. No need to suffer from eye strain from staring in front of a bright light while you are pondering on what the opening scene will look like.

Remember, it is YOUR idea, YOUR story, YOUR dream... The opening scene and the however many chapters there are to follow, will bring you closer to accomplishing that main goal of yours: publishing. Just take it one word, one sentence, and one page at a time...

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