The Opening Scene: Tips for Writers

Question book

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What’s one of the toughest challenges for writers? Is it deciding what the cover should look like? How about  the marketing process? How about the outline for your project? If you answered yes to any of these perhaps some or all of these are tough for writers. But what will the reader think? That’s what you should be asking yourself. Can I, the writer, hook  you the reader at the very beginning?

C.S. Lakin has some tips that will get you thinking about your action packed opening scene.

The Crucial Question You Must Ask in Your Opening Scene

The True Definition of a Scene

One of the main points discussed in previous posts involved picking just the right starting place to begin your book. This means the story starts in present action, in the middle of something happening, with your POV character right in the situation and revealing her (or his) fears, dreams, needs, or goals and the obstacle that is in the way and presenting a problem. I like the way Jordan Rosenfeld in the book Make a Scene defines what a scene is: “Scenes are capsules in which compelling characters undertake significant actions in a vivid and memorable ay that allows the events to feel as though they are happening in real time.” I talked before about eliminating back story and starting right in with your protagonist and hinting at her visible goal.

Mind Your MDQs

You’ve now learned why the visible “goal” of your protagonist needs to be revealed in some measure in the first few pages, and what we’ll explore today is the need to establish both the plot question and the spiritual question your book is raising. For the plot question is tied up in the visible goal (they are pretty much the same thing), but the spiritual question is a little different but just as crucial, if not more.

You may not have a deeply themed book, but there must be some reason you are writing this story. We talked about this in an earlier post. What is your story about? If you were asked, “Why did you write this book?” (and spend months, maybe years of your life doing so!) how would you answer? Hopefully, there is a specific thing you want to say to your readers. It doesn’t have to be a “message” or sermon on life, but every story deals with themes on one level or another, and your views as a writer will come through the story, sometimes whether you intend it or not. Better to begin a book with intention—intending to say something and leave your readers with that “take-home” thought when they read the last line and close the book.

This ties in with your MDQ or major dramatic query (or question). I think the most important, mind-blowing material I learned in recent years that helped me in my writing craft was to learn about the MDQ. And I hope after you read this you will feel similarly. Now, with every novel I write, I begin with this. And don’t worry, you can learn about MDQ PDQ (pretty darn quickly). Read more here.

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4 comments on “The Opening Scene: Tips for Writers

  1. Jamie, we’ve all been there. It’s a constant struggle for me too. But we just have to keep plugging away. After all, writing is revising. Thanks.

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