Blog: Writing Introductions

First impressions are important. Besides a book’s cover (I know we are told not to judge a book by its cover, but be real, we have all done it), the first few paragraphs and sentences are what catch a reader’s attention. Those first few lines of a story are what sells it. If they are not interesting, then hardly anyone will read what you wrote. So how do you write a good introduction? Well, that is not an easy question, and there are an infinite amount of answers, but here are a few types of introductions you can try out.

1: Action.

You’ve probably read this type of introduction plenty of times. But that’s because it works. If well written, an action scene can get the reader’s blood pumping. It makes them interested in the story because they already want to see the outcome of one the story.

This is easier said than done. Action in books cannot rely on cool fight scenes or special effects; it only works if the reader connects with the character, if they care about them. An action scene is only interesting if a reader has something at risk. So you have to make the reader care for your character within the first few lines.
There are a couple ways to do this: you can use empathy or sympathy, give the character a ‘noble’ goal, like catch a criminal or a relatable goal, like running to an interview or date. Use whatever tricks you have up your sleeve. Remember that if you are going to use an action introduction, you can’t just draft up a cool combat scene. The reader has to care about the character or it won’t work well.

2: Setting Description

This is particularly common with older pieces of literature, if you’re looking for examples, I suggest reading some John Steinbeck. Setting description is pretty straightforward, and as the name implies, you describe the setting of the narrative. This helps set the tone of the piece right away and draws the reader into the story by making it’s world seem tangible.
But please, if you are going to use a setting description intro do two things:

1) Make sure your description is interesting. It sounds obvious, but you would be surprised by how many people mess this up. Your description here has to be poignant and distinct. In another part of your story, it might be OK to describe the weather as cold and dreary, but here it is not. You have to use imagery and figurative language; you have to make the reader feel the setting. It is not hot, it is the type of temperature that feels like hammer blows to the skin, the type of temperature that makes you forget that there is such a thing as being cold.

2) Do not over describe. This might sound contradictory when compared with the paragraph above, but its not. Make each word in the introduction count. The reader does not want to slough through five pages of what the landscape looks like. Describe what is important. If you over describe, the reader just gets lost. If you want an example of what not to do, I recommend reading some of Victor Hugo’s “Les Miserables.”

3:Characterization: In this type of introduction, your goal is to make the reader care about the character as soon as possible. You want to reader to get to know how the character thinks and acts.

I find this introduction strategy is easier with first person perspective, but it can be done in first, third and second (well, second person is a little weird, but that is for a later blog). An easy way to do this is to simply share with the reader a thought or problem your character has. But make it unique, make it stick in their mind. The thought: “I love pizza” is not as “I’ve always thought dying was kinda funny. Not in the act of it, but in how in some people creeps up slowly, while in others one day they’re smiling and the next they’re…gone.” The second thought is definitely more interesting. For one, why is that funny to the narrator? Have they experienced death recently? Why would they be thinking that?

Characters are the beating heart of any story; everything else is secondary to them. By using this type of introduction, you use the full force of that beating heart to hook the reader. Your goal is to make them fall in love with your character, or at least want to know more about them. The dangerous part of this introduction is that the reader may not like your character, and then there is nothing you can do to make them want to read your story. Also, this isn’t the easiest introduction to write. Personally, I find it hard enough to conceptualize my own thoughts, let alone those of a fictional character.

I hope that after learning a bit about these three types of introductions, you have a good idea on how to start your next piece. Please remember that these are not the only way you can begin a story. Think of them as a foundation to work on.

(Visited 6 times, 1 visits today)