Opening Styles That May Turn Your Writing World Around

Opening Styles That May Turn Your Writing World Around

Today’s post on writing beginnings is from E. J. Runyon. E.J. is a novelist and short story writer, with two literary fiction novels, one novella, and a short story collection. In non-fiction, she has two writing guides: Tell Me (How to Write) a Story and Five Ways of Thinking to Turn Your Writing World AroundAnother novel and writing guide are due out in 2020.She runs the writer’s website, Bridge to Story, and coaches writers, from around the globe, online. Spring sessions are still available. Contact her at

 E.. J. Runyon

Take it away, E. J.!

Let’s say you are ready to tackle that Opening. Maybe you’ve read about how important a good beginning is. You’ve read warnings like: Get the reader’s attention right away. Introduce conflict from the start. You need to hook your reader at once.

Maybe you intend on doing that, but when you read your own work you find that all of your beginnings start the same way. It’s the only way you think to start.

• The Character wakes up and moves through her morning, to show she’s a normal person except for today’s stresses, or last night’s partying.
• The Landscape and weather are described in detail, to show where the novel’s set, and how things look.

You think, how many possible ways can you start a story? What else is a way of beginning a book? Or a scene for that matter? Are there tricks to starting?

This blog post will use a few ways of opening a piece and break down the why’s and how’s for trying them. It’s from a page of my site, which has a full half dozen other ways to try.

Let’s take a short story that already has a main character, a plot line, and an ending thought out: Goldilocks and the Three Bears.
We all know how it goes. As an exercise, take a look at each of these Start methods and their explanations, then try to write an opening for the Goldilocks story using as many as you can:

1. Narrator directly to the reader:

Let’s say Baby Bear is narrating.

“Let me tell you this, if poppa hadn’t been in such a growly mood I would’ve had a helluva Show and Tell come Monday.”

What this does:
• It gives us someone to listen to who may know what’s going on right from the start.
• It gives us that impression by sounding like this line is between Baby Bear and the reader.
• It’s intimate. Hooks right from the start with its tone of voice. Knowing.
• Using this one creates our wanting to be invested if we agree to go along with this statement

2. Thematic:

The narrator’s (not the Author’s) opinion or thoughts.

“Trespassers, no matter their rationalizations, are the scum of the earth.”

What this does:
• It gives us a full idea of what’s to come, but in a sharp statement. No narrative reporting or explaining.
• It gives us the impression that one of those Bears is opinionated and willing to tell us more in the following lines to come.
• It too is intimate in its own way. Hooks right from the start with its tone of narrative voice, which is opinionated more than likeable as Baby Bear above was.
• Using this one creates our wanting to see this proven true or false in the forthcoming story.

3. In the middle of things, in medias res:

You don’t begin with Goldie’s life before her visit to the bears, but right there where they find her napping in bed, and the porridge is already gone.

What this does:
• Begins your story in the action, like TV shows and films do.
• Creates a bit of stress for the reader, because the action hasn’t begun with describing, or an explanation.
• Jump starts the reader’s heart rate if written well.

4. Characterization:

Describe the character, and not just how she looks either.

Try for tone in what she says, how he says it, or what she’s doing as she says it. This is called slipping into scene. No describing, just motions that have motivations behind them. Your word choices help here.

What this does:
• Begins your story by other means than narrative or description.
• Cuts out most of the telling, because you’re showing us the scene and your character in actions or making decisions that are tied to revealing her characterization.
• This is where what she’s doing as she says it comes in.

5. Factual, journalistic in the tone:

At 8:47 AM, the little girl was pronounced dead.

What this does:
• The ending is given and now we will move back to see what all has happened.
• The plot can now be revealed in any order you want.
• And feeding it to the reader out of order can heighten how we feel all about this event.

As you can see, none of these employ morning routines, or landscape details. Take anything you’ve got and try all five of these options on it. See where you can go, just for practice. You don’t even have to keep any of it. Though you might find that you want to.

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