I’m still running with that gag. You may be able to catch me, but you can’t stop me.
Reading back through last week’s post, I realized I barely talked about openings, other than the War of Art. For a series called Noob Notes, that’s not terribly helpful, so I’m coming back around to it today.
Openings are easy. Every time you start a project, you craft an opening. Once Upon a Time is a classic, though seldom used in the current market. Dark and stormy nights notwithstanding, one can often get away with a touch of purple. Not full-on Roman royal, but maybe some pastel lavender.
The trick is-
Let me back up: the trick is just to start. Realistically, your first opener is unlikely to be any great shakes, but the important thing is to haul out the pick, get down into the word mine, and toss some nuggets on the page. I’m not sure I can stress that enough. Put words on page; fix them in post. Or just assume you’re going to toss them, along the lines of a mental loss leader. “Sure, I wrote a sentence (paragraph, page, chapter) but that was just priming the pump, so to speak. I’ll come up with something better once I know what’s going on.”
Now, admittedly, that last is more in line with a discovery writer’s approach. An outliner would have a different justification.
Oh, NB: do this for the start of each day’s writing. Especially if you have a tendency to stare at the screen, dreading putting fingers to keys or pen to paper, having to come up with something good to add to what you’re pretty sure isn’t any good anyway. Start with the assumption that your first bit is likely to get edited out, but just up until you get into your normal flow. Then get to it.
Now, to crafting a decent opening. In looking into what other people think, I found a lot. And a lot of it was … not amazingly helpful. The most important thing an opening should do is grab the reader’s attention. In a lot of ways, it’s a piece of advertising copy. I’ve harped before on Larry’s hook for Monster Hunter Int’l. Go check it out, if you haven’t. I’ll wait.
Now, Larry does something akin to what a comic does. The first sentence is somewhat prosaic, but offers the reader a story. The second sentence twists reality to demonstrate exactly what kind of story it’s going to be. Without giving away specifics. Horror stories do this, too. Consider It. Child is playing in the gutter with a paper boat, boat floats down, down, down, into a storm drain. And up pops a clown. In the storm drain. And all the while, subtle cues are suggesting this is Not a Good Thing. And then the twist demonstrates exactly what kind of story It is going to be.
So do that. And practice at it. Do one before you get to your writing each day. Do one here in the comments. Mumble them under your breath on the way to work, or while waiting to get the kids at school, or in the drive through for your overpriced coffee-like sugar beverage. But work on those openings.