View Full Version : a question about the opening scene of a WIP What is acceptable?

05-19-2009, 10:20 PM
The first page and a half of the first chapter is mostly the MC's personal thoughts. I have only one sentence of dialog. My question is, are thoughts the MC has, considered showing or telling. I really need to start out this way to make the story work. But i don't want it to be considered and info dump. She only has a couple of sentences of dialog with her children, in the first page and a half. After the first page and a half, the MC starts interacting with The hero. This part sets the scene and explains a lot of the where, why, who and what. Thanks for any input.


05-20-2009, 12:19 AM
You have to be careful not to start off the story with too much boring. Unfortunately, a character's thoughts are often (there are exceptions to this) not all that interesting--and usually mostly backstory--particularly if there's no conflict to go along with them.

Perhaps it would be a good idea to post the first couple pages of your WIP in the Share Your Work section, under the appropriate genre. You'll quickly find out from critters whether the opening works or not.

05-20-2009, 12:28 AM
The beginning needs to draw the reader into the story, so they keep reading. Think of your favorite books - how do they begin? I agree with Isaac, post it in SYW and ask for feedback.

I think my favorite opening line is from Stephen King's The Gunslinger:
"The man in black fled across the desert and the Gunslinger followed."

How could you not read on after this one?

05-20-2009, 12:32 AM
What is acceptable? Whatever works! Getting into the POV character's head right away could be an ideal entry vector into the story. Assuming of course that she's going to be thinking about something interesting!


05-20-2009, 12:47 AM
Inner monologue is used to support action. Just IM - and a full page and a half of it - and no action sounds like a cheap way to disguise backstory. Why don't you start with action and fill in the details as we go?

Backstory. It's like having to read the entire instruction manual of a new gaming console; heck, let's plug the thing and play!


05-20-2009, 01:51 AM
Some of this depends on POV. If it's a first person piece, the narrative will be the MC's voice, interpretation of witnessed events and reaction to events.

Beginning a story with action isn't a requirement, but it does need to hook the reader's interest. That's what I'm striving for, and I'm writing first person. There's no action for a few paragraphs, it's commentary which provides the hook (I hope).

Here's my first sentence - "Meth heads have the worst tasting internal organs."

It's commentary, but hopefully it's interesting enough to lead the reader to the next sentence, paragraph, etc.

05-20-2009, 04:33 AM
Here's my first sentence - "Meth heads have the worst tasting internal organs."

Now that has some potential! Good, catchy first sentence. I'm reading The Violent Bear It Away based on the first sentence.

05-20-2009, 06:08 PM
"Meth heads have the worst tasting internal organs."

LOl I would read it just to see who had bad enough taste to want to eat a meth head.

Hollywood John
05-20-2009, 08:38 PM
Personally, I don't think there's anything wrong with starting a story with IM. In fact, the whole IM vs. Action thing is not really the issue, IMO, and neither is more correct than the other. The real key is to make sure whatever you start with is interesting and, as someone said, hooks the reader immediately. If, for the first page and half, your MC is thinking about something, write what he/she is thinking in an interesting way that pulls the reader along, and you're good to go.

In one story I'm writing, for instance, the first couple of pages are my MC sitting by himself in a room, thinking about the bug he just tried to kill. Not a lot going on there, right? But my first line is "I think I just saw the ghost of an insect." And it goes from there (and ties into the later parts of the story in an unexpected way).

So, as long as you're not doing the equivalent of a "when last we left our hero..." and you make sure to tell what you need to tell in an interesting way, there's nothing wrong with starting your story with one character in their head, or even no characters. Heck, look at the first chapter of most Douglas Adams books. He gives the backstory of the universe for several pages before we even meet the MC. :>)

05-20-2009, 11:10 PM
As long as the reader wants to hear those internal musings, they'll read on. So the musing have to be leading somewhere or offering something intriguing or interesting. If it's description or explanation, you'll lose the reader. If it's an inner monologue by a fascinating narrator talking about something compelling, they'll stay with you.

05-22-2009, 06:58 PM
Thanks to all of you for your great help. I have been working on the opening and decided to start the WIP 3 yrs. earlier with the death of Callie's husband and that will get the info out as it happens. Then move foward three yrs, to the present, and incorporate the rest of the description of setting and the W's.(who, what, why and where) she is now emotionally and physically.
I know how difficult it would to open they way I was going to. Quite frankly, I am not a good enough writer, to do that well. So I went back to basics. Again thank you all for your wonderful advice.


05-22-2009, 11:28 PM
I think it depends. The main character of my current WIP is autistic and doesn't talk. The first few pages of the novel are her trying to slip out of the house while her mother sleeps. No dialogue at all.