1.3 Beginnings: Ways to Begin a Story

Based on the writing exercises of What if? by Anne Bernays and Pamela Painter. (NB: I choose not to follow all the exercises or to share only those that I found interesting).

Exercise 3 – Part 1: Experiment with different types of openings (with a generalisation, with a description of a person, with a narrative summary, with dialogue, with several characters but no dialogue, with a setting and only one character, with a reminiscent narrator, with a child narrator, by establishing point of view) for different stories until you feel comfortable with technique of each. – This is a fairly big exercise so I will only pick a three or four of the opening types for this one (the book gives example for each).

With a generalisation
Rosewood was one of those towns which was great if you were retired or raising a family with small children. It was quaint, quiet and safe. If you belonged to the sixteen-twenty four demographics however, Rosewood was the sort of town you couldn’t wait to leave behind, dull, predictable, boring. That is to say, until Elle Adams moved in.

With dialogue
‘We shouldn’t be here’ Lola whispered, looking terrified.
‘Oh come on, it will be fun!’  replied her boyfriend Mark, with a lot more enthusiasm than he actually felt.
‘Sure, when has that ever happened? A group of teens sneak in an abandoned house at night…that’s a recipe for the next Romero movie, not a fun night!’ said  Zoe Daniels who had tagged along on Lola’s insistence. Zoe was not as easily frightened as Lola but she wasn’t keen on the “fun” trip Mark had planned for the night. Mark was an idiot.

With a setting and only one character
The changing room smelled of sweat and mould. The paint, which might have been white once, was peeling off at random places, giving the room an air of neglect and abandon. There were rows of metal lockers, half of them with broken doors hanging off and most of them dented in a way that suggested they had been punched, often. Sitting on the wooden bench, earphones in, Matt wasn’t paying much attention to the decor. His hands were already wrapped with bright red wraps, his wife, Stella, had picked them. In less than fifteen minutes, he would be walking the long, dark corridor, in his red silk robe, black and red gloves on, ready to defend his title. But for now, he was getting himself ready in his head.

With a child narrator
My dad was furious with me. It was the first time he had taken us on holidays since the divorce and I had gone and ruined it already by closing the car door on my little sister’s fingers. Dad had no clue what to do with the sobbing and wailing mess that she had become. I felt really bad looking at her little red fingers and watery eyes. He was yelling at me for being so “useless” and the more he yelled, the harder Nina cried. I just stood there, head bowed down, making faces at her until she started to giggle again.

Coming up next
Exercise 3 – Part 2
: Do the same but for the story you are working on. Same opening, different styles.
Sorry I just didn’t have the time this week to do it all.




One thought on “1.3 Beginnings: Ways to Begin a Story

  1. Pingback: 1.3 Beginnings: Ways to Begin a Story – Part Deux | Awakening Chymeeras

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