Every story has a beginning and every beginning has an end
You’ve probably heard people saying that the way you begin your story will define your story to your reader–and they’re quite right!
The opening of a book is kind of like the step where you mix the incredients together and put it in the oven. If you put too little flour or too much of it, your cake will not come out well.
Your opening establishes characters, themes, and the story itself.
So, how do you actually write a powerful opening?
I’ll give you some tips that I’ve learned to use in my writing and I can promise you that these will improve your opening by a ton!
As I said earlier, the opening will establish the basic things your story will build upon. If you don’t get these things right, your story is in danger of collapsing as you get closer to the end.
The fist thing we need to establish, unsurprisingly, is our characters.
This includes our protagonist and the first supportive characters of our story. Friends, family members, bullies, possible enemies… they all must be introduced during the opening chapters.
(BEWARE! You don’t necessarily have to introduce your main character first. Sometimes it can be better to first introduced another character, for example someone from the past.)
Our characters build the story and in order for our reader to actually understand what the heck is going on, we need to offer them someone who can work as their eyes to the world of our story.
In the opening chapters, we should establish the core of our protagonist. Is he a greedy man, struggling to gain trust from others? Or maybe he’s a bitter man, hateful towards the world for all the things it has put him through?
The opening basically is the still image of our protagonists life. It shows how his life is going before the story kicks off, leading him to the path of change.
In my current WIP, I’m establishing the main problems of my protagonist. For example, she’s very depressed and afraid of emotional connection. She can’t seem to say what she really thinks because of these fears.
By finding out these things about my protagonist, I can write an interesting story, in which she must face these flaws of her’s and in the end, hopefully, get over them and become a bit less flawed.
In addition to your character’s flaws, we should try to establish his motivation and needs. These are the things our character will try to reach as the story progresses. Without them, our story might lose steam, which, of course, is not a good thing.
Exploring our protagonist’s relations with other characters is also important. Does he have a conflict with a family member? Maybe he’s a lonely fellow, who is jealous of other people?
Relations are important because they too create conflict for our character. In order for this to succeed, we must give some thought to the supportive characters, but remember that they will not stick around as we enter the middle of the story.
Conflicts with the characters you create in the opening chapters should be solved at the end of the book, for in the middle, new characters shall show themselves.
To recap, these are the things we shoud establish about our character in the opening chapters:
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Next thing we must think about is themes.
And no, we don’t have to write a deep and philosophical story, but some kind of “deeper meaning” is necessary in order to create a story that sticks with the reader.
Themes of the story are tied to the flaws of our main character. If our theme is “learning to trust yourself,” our main character should be unconfident and afraid to take action. As the story moves on, he slowly learns to trust himself, until the end where he has transformed his character into something new and better.
The theme is working there, giving that kind of “wow, I’ve maybe learned something about life” feeling to our reader, which is incredibly powerful. The theme is also usually introduced to the reader via the flaws of the character.
Though, we must keep in mind that we shouldn’t make our story seem like a school lesson about life. The theme should be like a spice, a force behind the scene, which makes the whole story a bit more colourful.
You can pick whatever theme you wish, as long as you remember to tie your protagonists’s flaws into the theme.
To conclude this post, the opening chapters build the foundations for you story.
The way your characters live during your opening should be vastly different to the way they will live in the end.
Themes should be build strongly from the beginning and the character traits and flaws must be shown in order for the reader to understand your character, and in the end, your story.
When you start your opening strong, you’ll gain the attentino of your reader and make it easier for yourself to proceed in the story.
When the foundation is strong, not even the strongest of winds can bring the house down
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