The First Scene

It’s hard to start writing that first scene. So much rides on it. You have to:

  • Build a world
  • Produce the beginnings of the plot
  • Introduce a character or two
  • Create suspense
  • Hook the reader

And a billion other things. It’s pretty intimidating when you first start. You’ve probably been prone to stare at that blank page wondering which key will be the one to start the endless flow of literary genius that will be your work. So far, I haven’t found that magic key yet. There is no endless flow of words that come to anything halfway decent here. I’m not even sure if I should start the story with the word “The” at this point. Even though I’m at an almost writing gridlock, doesn’t mean you should be.

Here are some of the things I look for in a first scene (as a reader):

World Establishment

No matter what form of fiction you write, there will be a setting. If your reader doesn’t know where the story takes place they will more than likely create it on their own. When it comes to something as detailed as High Fantasy, a world needs to be created and fully realized the moment you start writing the first scene. If your world is set where magic is used, that should be known and seen within the first chapter even if ¬†your main character isn’t someone that has magical abilities. If the world is a part of the bayou in Louisiana, then there better be something alluding to it.

Plot Introduction

No you don’t need the plot standing there with a giant neon sign flashing “Plot Point!” but some some of hints to the plot should be included at this point. You may not have to include the main character yet but adding in little pieces, like a newspaper being read that mentions something suspicious going on, can be good.

Character Creation

Normally the first scene is designated to the main character of the story, but this doesn’t have to be the case. If you have a narrator you can introduce them here instead. If your main character is actually a companion the “hero” this is where they begin to tell the story. For those times where you don’t want the main character to be introduced just yet, then introduce another important character instead and use them to introduce the main character to the reader. This important character can also be used to introduce the plot!

A Great Hook

I’m not the person that is easily swayed by the first sentence in a book. You need to take a whole scene or chapter to keep me around. So when you are writing that first scene take the time to keep your reader intrigued past that first sentence. Sure you may have gotten them to open the book, but you still need to keep them reading.

What do you look for when you are reading that first scene? Do you have goals for your first scene in your work?

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