8 Types Of Opening Scenes That Could Work For Your Book


Most of us know what we want to write about, but if we’re honest many of us have no idea where to start. I have written about inciting moments and ideas for how to start stories in the past. In today’s post, I want to write about the type of opening scene you could choose.

The opening scene is a promise that sets the tone for your book. It should suit the genre. If it is well-written, it allow readers to imagine and anticipate the coming story in their minds.

Whenever we start a story, we need to set the scene, orientate the reader, create empathy with our characters, set the tone and the mood, and capture the reader’s attention. Remember that we should always avoid starting with too much backstory.

I was reading this post about The Opening Scene for writing a screenplay, and I think they also work well for novels. Of course, they need to be changed slightly to suit the different format.

In the post, Screenwriting Tips & Advice include eight types of opening scenes in film. I have included some of what they say (in italics) below and then added how you can use these scenes when starting your novels.

8 Types Of Opening Scenes That Could Work For You

1.  ‘The Blatant Opening

In this first ten pages of your script you will introduce the hero, the villain and exactly why they oppose each other. The blatant opening works particular well for action films.’

How to adapt it for novels:

You can use this type of opening scene for any novel you write. It is particularly useful if you are writing crime fiction or romance. You need to define your protagonist, your antagonist, and your story goal. This opening includes an immediate major conflict, action, change, and a reaction from your protagonist. Read: The Two Types Of Inciting Moments. The first one on the post explains this type of scene.

2.  ‘A Regular Day

… a regular day for your main character. Then an event will happen which breaks the normality of your character’s life, one which they will need to rectify for their life to return to the way it was.’

How to adapt it for novels:

This is an excellent way to set up your protagonist. Make the reader empathise with him or her. Show us their life, loves, and a dream or two. Read: The Two Types Of Inciting Moments. The second one on the post explains this type of scene. Remember to be brief and not to bore us with too much backstory.

3.  ‘True Beginning

The script starts right along with the start of the story for the main character. They might have just been given a million dollars, or landed in a new country.’

How to adapt it for novels:

Anthony Ehlers wrote a post titled Why Is This Day Different? and he says: If you’re not sure where to start your story, ask yourself: ‘Why is this day different for my main character?’ Use this opening when something dramatic and life-changing happens in your protagonist’s life.

4.  ‘Dramatic Irony

This is the only beginning that won’t contain your main character. Instead you give the audience some information that your main character won’t know and will soon affect his/her life greatly. Dramatic irony allows the audience to be in a superior position and sets up both tension and anticipation.’

How to adapt it for novels:

You would have to do this as a prologue in a novel. Because of its nature, it would need to stand alone. This is the least successful type of prologue. Readers often get annoyed when the prologue does not match the book’s blurb. You have to write this well so that you do not alienate your readers. We use dramatic irony in novels to create suspense, to create empathy, to create romantic tension, or to create comedy. Use this as an opening scene if you want to create one of these effects.

5.  ‘Foreshadowing

This opening takes place before your main story begins and anticipates what is going to happen later in the story. Like the dramatic irony opening the audience is placed in a position to predict what is going to happen. This is often used for doomsday and horror movies.’

How to adapt it for novels:

This is another time where your opening would be a prologue. We don’t recommend it for fiction writing, but if it is done well, it can be effective. A prologue should take nothing away from your opening scene, and generally speaking, there should be no other way to convey the information. Foreshadowing is a literary device that creates expectation. It is a preparation tool that is more effective when employed throughout a novel.

6.  ‘Narrator

The narrator can be the hero, a secondary character, or just a stand alone narrator. The narrator tells the story of the events which happened to the main character at a important time in their life.’

How to adapt it for novels:

While this works well for film, it is often intrusive in fiction writing. Using a narrator is an old-fashioned way of telling a story. You can use it if your narrator is an investigative journalist or an observer of the story. A good example of this was the reporter in Midnight In The Garden Of Good & Evil by John Berendt. Using a narrator distances your reader from the protagonist. Make sure the opening scene of your story suits using this technique.

7.  ‘Flash forward

The flash forward has two stories running side by side simultaneously. The A story is the main story, the B story is of the narrator looking back.’

How to adapt it for novels:

You could do this effectively in a novel if you were using an unreliable narrator. You could also use it by employing two totally different viewpoints with the Rashomon Effect, where multiple characters tell their version of the same events in the story. Example: As I Lay Dying by William Faulkner.

8.  ‘Montage

This is a great type of opening if you have a lot of information to get across before the main story begins. Also known as a shotgun, a collection of short clips accelerate through the information until the story proper begins.’

How to adapt it for novels:

Fairy tales use this technique to great effect. You can use it for most novels, when you want to get the reader up to date quickly. It can be a fun exercise to get you to your inciting moment. Start writing with: Once upon a time…

If you want a reminder on how to structure scenes, click here: 10 Important Things To Remember About Scenes And Sequels

 by Amanda Patterson

If you enjoyed this post, read:

  1. 10 Cliffhangers That Make Readers Turn The Page
  2. 6 Simple Ways To Help You Find Out What Your Memoir’s About
  3. How To Write A Non-Fiction Book Proposal

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