For the last two weeks, we've been talking about movies and their relation (or lack thereof) to novel writing. There's no arguing that a well done movie does something we all want in our own story telling, and that's to capture the viewers/readers attention.
Part of what makes movies so powerful is that visual bang, like those amazing action scenes that keep viewers on the edge of their seats.
But since I'm a big fan of romance, not all the movies I watch have those fast-paced action scenes in them at all, let alone at the beginning. Many of them do, however, have a more subtle but just as powerful way of drawing viewers in.
A great example of this is the movie P.S. I Love You. For those of you who have seen this movie, you know that the characters are crafted in a very engaging way and the opening scene sets a good pace for the movie. And for those of you who have never seen the movie, it is definitely one of those that uses well-crafted characters in a creative and relatable scene to make the viewers want to watch more.
In that opening scene, man and wife begin in an argument (which we don't know the cause of instantaneously, though it does unfold quickly), and showcase their personalities by arguing their side of the story. They end up making up and all is well, at least for that moment.
Sounds simple, right? No superheroes or car chases, no daredevils jumping off a bridge or bank robbers trying to make a clean getaway. No, this is one of the simplest scenes you could open a movie (or book) with, and yet it works.
How does this opening engage viewers?
1) It makes you ask questions (what's going on? why are they arguing? etc)
2) It introduces an immediate conflict
3) It showcases interesting characters
4) It drops in some humor
5) It makes viewers want more
And all this with a simple opening scene. Sure, humor isn't absolutely necessary, and you don't have to leave out the action either. But there are a few questions to ask yourself based off the success of this opening scene about your own novel.
1) Are you making your reader ask questions about where the story is going or what the characters are going through?
2) Do your readers feel for the character(s)? Can they relate to them and even better, sympathize with them?
3) Is there an obvious, even if simple to begin with, conflict?
4) Do your readers want to continue reading the story?
Even if your story doesn't fit all the criteria, keep them in mind during your edit. Tweaking a few things, using the less is more mentality, and getting a critique partners take on your opening pages can be just enough to draw more people to your story.
How does your opening scene compare to the one mentioned above? Do you have a gripping action scene or is it more subtle, and how did you make it effective?