Have you ever picked up a book and could not put it down after reading the first few sentences?
That is the power of a great opening.
In writing, first impressions count. If your opening is captivating, readers will be hooked to continue reading. If your opening is plain old boring, the possibility of them being drawn into the rest of your story is close to none.
So, it is vital to begin your story in a captivating way.
Here are 4 ways you can begin a story:
4 WAYS TO BEGIN A NARRATIVE
1. Begin with a Feeling or Emotion
Emotions are what set human beings apart from the other living things on this planet. If you are able to use strong emotions in your stories, readers will more likely be drawn into it.
Here are some examples of stories beginning with emotions or feelings.
George sat himself down at the table in the kitchen. He was shaking a little. Oh, how he hated Grandma! He really hated that horrid old witchy woman. And all of a sudden he had a tremendous urge to do something about her.
~ Geroge’s Marvellous Medicine, Chapter 2 (Roald Dahl)
Catching Walter Cunningham in the schoolyard gave me some pleasure, but when I was rubbing his nose in the dirt Jem came by and told me to stop.
~ To Kill A Mockingbird, Chapter 3 (Harper Lee)
2. Begin with an Action
Sometimes, a story can begin by diving straight into the action. I remember watching the movie ‘Avatar’. Right from the opening scene, there was non-stop action and I was immediately drawn into the story, all the way until the last scene, which showed the blue-faced man with his eyes suddenly opening.
In writing, we can do the same by beginning immediately with an action.
This is an example of a chapter from a well-loved story that begins with action:
BOOM. They knocked again. Dudley jerked awake….
There was a crash behind them and Uncle Vernon came skidding into the room.
~ Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, Chapter 4 (J. K. Rowling)
3. Begin with a Direct Speech or Dialogue
Most students are familiar with beginning a story with direct speech. This is also one of the easiest ways to begin a story. However, you need to learn to write a meaningful direct speech or dialogue that is able to hook your readers to continue reading the rest of the story.
It has to be meaningful.
Not just any dialogue or speech.
I have noticed that some students like to begin with direct speech simply because they do not know what else to write. So, they begin with meaningless direct speech, such as “Yay!” or “Hurray!” or “Yippee!”
Now, these add nothing to the plot. Neither do they captivate readers to want to read on to find out what happened next.
What kind of dialogue or speech should we begin our stories with?
One of my favourite examples of meaningful openings with speech is this:
“Where’s Papa going with that axe?” said Fern to her mother as they were setting the table for breakfast.
~ Charlotte’s Web (E. B. White)
Notice how this speech leads readers into the story? It makes readers wonder what the father was going to do with that axe. It is a meaningful speech and not an empty one.
4. Begin with a Description
This is usually a description of the setting, although it can also be a description of a character – usually the main character.
These are some examples:
It was nearly noon on the following day when Shasta was awakened by something warm and soft moving over his face. He opened his eyes and found himself staring into the long face of a horse, its nose and lips were almost touching his.
~ The Chronicles of Narnia – The Horse and His Boy, Chapter 2 (C. S. Lewis)
Danger Dan scans the terrain. The volcano is close to erupting and lava has already started flowing down the mountain.
~ Danger Dan Confronts the Merlion Mastermind (Lesley-Anne & Monica Lim)
USING LITERATURE TO TEACH STORY BEGINNINGS
When I was teaching in classrooms, I got my students to pore over piles of children’s storybooks, to search for examples of each of these 4 ways of story beginnings.
It was a great activity to expose children to the wonders of literature and reading. Most of them enjoyed this activity and there were a few students whom I had to pry the books away from! They were totally engrossed in reading!
Now, you can get your child to do the same at home too.
I have created this FREE worksheet (BELOW) that you can download for your child.
HOW TO USE THIS WORKSHEET:
Give your child a few storybooks and get him/her to look for examples of each of these 4 ways to begin a story.
Write the sentences from the stories into the worksheet.
Not only will your child learn how to begin a story in a creative way, he/she will also be spending some time reading!