During last week's Friday Tidbit, Victoria asked me what my favorite kind of book opening is. Here is her question:
"Anne Elisabeth, what is your favorite kind of book beginning? More specifically, I mean. A lone person crying? The middle of an extremely important discussion? A frantic search for someone or something missing?"
And I started to write up an answer, got so caught up in it, that I found I'd written an entire blog post's worth of material. So you're going to get that answer now for this week's Friday Tidbit!
My favorite type of book opening is something I will call a "Declarative Opening." By this, I mean that the story starts with an important, stated piece of information. Something intriguing that soon points to the primary character and an important conflict, but without immediate action or dialogue.
Jane Austen did this kind of opening to most famous effect when she wrote: "It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a large fortune must be in want of a wife."This is a declaration of what will end up being the driving conflict of a great part of the novel. Ms. Austen goes on with a certain amount of narrative embellishment and then, eventually, moves to the characters themselves.
I did something similar with the opening chapter of Veiled Rose, which begins:
They said a Monster lived in the mountains.
They couldn't say where it hid. They couldn't say when it had come. They certainly couldn't say what it looked like, though they had plenty of conflicting ideas on that subject. But they all agreed that it was there. Somewhere.
They being no one in particular and everyone in general who lived and worked at Hill House, where Leo spent the summer of his eleventh year. (Veiled Rose, p. 16)
You see how this begins with one of the important conflicts, but it's neither a conversation nor an active scene. It's a an opening statement that declares a conundrum and that eventually leads on to our hero, who will now face the conundrum for himself.
This is a trick that works very well if your story is written in the omniscient narrative, as my stories are. Doesn't work with every narrative voice, but I'd definitely recommend experimenting with "Declarative Openings."
How might it look in your current novel?