Sunday, August 11, 2013

Three Easy Steps to Penning a Catchy Opener

I am not saying that this blog post is the end all and be all for captivating openers, but it is the steps that I always follow:

1.      Make it active—Active openers are, by nature, attention grabbers. They put the reader right in the know and the go from the start, which is imperative as far as I’m concerned. They also help to set the tone for your story. I do suggest you stay away from cliché openers as they can turn a reader off. It’s the—“Oh, I’ve read so many of these types of stories before.” or “Not another one of these stories.”

2.      Watch your stack—If you’ve never heard of your stack, it is the subsequent paragraphs following the opener. This isn’t just for the beginning of the story, but I do this for every scene of the story I’m writing. So, if we look at a proper stack—it is the first paragraph leads to the next paragraph in a consistent order in which the story is built from line one downward until the scene breaks or the chapter ends. I will go into this more in a future blog post so don’t worry if you’re slightly confused. Plus, I’ll be putting an example in this blog post so you can see my stack clearly.

3.      Word control—Lots of writers think they need to put everything in the opening—actually you don’t have to do all your set-up here. You just need to give enough information to get the reader hooked. I would never recommend waiting too long to start layering in your information, but at the very beginning isn’t the right place to do so. A simple rule of thumb is in the first 13 paragraphs of any story/scene/chapter is to plant the setting, plant the character/s, plant the plot/thematic premise for the chapter and move on.
Chapter One

You’re crazy. I’m insane. Let’s party.

“Well, this is just fucking lovely,” Sophia whispered under her breath.

Anger—white hot and virginal—flowed through her system. She curled her fingers into a fist as a tear of impotent ire traced down her cheek.

Intent on beating down the warding doming the supposedly ‘protected’ area, she rejected the urge. It wouldn’t help the humans trapped within. No. Nothing could help them now.

Not fairy magic. Not the kiss of her kind, the Aos Sidhe, the fallen angels. Not even a miracle.

Nadda, zip, zilch. The plague was merely an indicator that a new curve ball was being hurled at humanity.

A quick prayer flittered through her head, but she shook the supplication away. “What good do appeals do them?” she wondered aloud.

The stark, pale face of a reaper lifted in her direction. The visage hissed at her. She knew the damn creature was only doing its duty, collecting the souls of the dying and ushering them on to their final destination, but the unadulterated hate harbored in its glare stirred her fury higher.

In truth, she wanted to—no—needed to destroy something.

Her breath came in harsh gasps as she forced herself to turn away from the sight of humans falling over. Their bodies were covered with massive sores. The bloody, pussy marks blared like overly-bright neon signs against the sickeningly gray skin of the infected. Indeed, the sores were a warning that effectively said, “Touch me and die, horribly.”

“Don’t do it, Sophia,” Dexter Coorling stated.

“Do what?” As if she didn’t know. Power of the awing type flowed through her system. Add that to the fact that she was a member of the omnipresent kind known as the Aos Sidhe made her a force to be reckoned with.

Have I achieved all my objectives? Yes, I believe so.

Here is my checklist:
Active opener – I started with dialogue which is always active. I could have started with a thought or an action, though. Thoughts and action are active as well.
Stack – I’m fairly good at stacking. Most likely this is because I begin with a firm concept of my story. If I’m stuck, I lay down a few lines of dialogue and let the dialogue lead the characters.
Word Control – Again, I’ve been at this a while and pretty much can sense if I have enough information in the beginning to hook my reader. The story above is part of a series, so I will have to make sure that I tie back to the first story in the series.

Granted, I do have a little work to do on this opener to remove my crutch/echoes, but I’m not worried about that now. I’ll handle those minor issues in my next edit.

So, would you buy this book just on first peek? Questions are always welcome. Comments are nice. No flaming. This is for educational purposes and not to get your panties in a wad. 

Until next time -- Happy writing, doodling or napping!


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