Opening scenes

» Posted on May 31, 2006 in Blog | Comments Off on Opening scenes

I have been judging some contests and have been asking myself where should a story start. It is one of the important decisions for a writer when telling a story. If you start too soon, you might lose your reader as you set up a situation. Pacing is important. Too slow and the reader will put your book down. Too fast and you will confuse the reader and leave out details and feelings that need to be in your story.

So where do you start? I like to start in the middle of a scene or at a change in your hero or heroine’s life. In my newest book, Once Upon a Family which will be out next April for Love Inspired, I start when the heroine has to pick up her troubled teenage son from the principal’s office (he’s the hero) and deal with problem involving her son. Another opening where the heroine is facing something new in her life is with my Love Inspired Suspense out in January 2007, Heart of the Amazon. Kate, a prim and proper secretary of a church, must go into a bar in a small town on the Amazon to hire a guide to help her search for her missing brother. She’s never been in a bar and doesn’t drink. Then when she meets the best guide in the area, she meets her worst nightmare–everything she isn’t. Talk about opposites!

A word about prologues which sometimes an author will use at the beginning of her story. I don’t usually have one. Unless the story really should begin years before, don’t do a prologue but start with chapter one even if it is months between the first and second chapter. A lot of readers skip prologues. A lot of time the information in a prologue can be fed into the body of the story in pieces. If you can avoid a prologue, you probably should.
The opening line or paragraph is important and should be considered at length. But even more so is the whole opening scene. Where is the best place to start a book? What are some of the best openers you have read lately?