Thursday, February 17, 2011

About Story Openings

THERE WILL be a story opening contest on this blog. Details forthcoming.

Two questions: Why a Story Opening Contest? What defines a good story opening?

Music composers from Beethoven to the Beatles understood the value of a dynamic opening. In this oversaturated cultural age, it might be the single most important key to literature’s survival, its ability to compete.

A story opening needs to be dynamic and attractive in itself—the best written part of the work. (See Fitzgerald’s “Great Gatsby.”) More, it needs to lay the groundwork for the rest of the tale—to present at least one thread or idea to be developed later—and to keep the reader reading!

The best story openings are striking from the first sentence. Remember Stephen Crane? "None of them knew the color of the sky." ("The Open Boat.") Or Stevenson: "Did you ever remark that door?" ("The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.")

1 comment:


    The explosion rocked the airliner, blowing a hole in the fuselage in the first class area and sending a cloud of flame and smoke into the rest of the plane. The large passenger jet immediately began plummeting. Everything happened instantaneously. John Ishigawa saw a stewardess emerge from the smoke, her face and arms blackened and bloody. "Get your heads down!" she yelled. "We're going down."

    Outside the window several miles away in the night sky waited the towers of New York City, their destination. They wouldn't make it.

    The Frenchman sitting next to him, Emile, with whom John had been in conversation during the oceanic flight, wrote furiously in a notebook and ripped out a page.

    "Here!" he told John, handing him the scrap of paper. "Very important. World importance. I am old. You are young. I won't survive."

    John crammed the paper into his pocket as the plane tilted forward and the black water outside the window approached faster.
    (This is 161 words, from my story "The H Group," which is more pop than literary. Other of my openings don't quite get right to it. I hope to see in the contest different styles.)