The following is a compilation of ideas I’ve had recently about how to write effective opening scenes for a novel or short story. The usual caveats apply: I’m an idiot, this is not a secret formula, a great writer can make anything work, etc. Use, ignore or argue with at your leisure.
Ah, big science fiction conventions. So exciting, so exhausting, overflowing with possibility and inevitable disappointment. Dragon Con 2014 is over, I’ve had a post-trip nap and several showers, and the feelings I’m left with are…mixed…
Eren Arik is an incredibly talented concept artist from whom I was lucky to be able to commission a piece of artwork. The subject is a scene from Aetheria’s Daemon, my current WIP (click the image for a larger version):
Aetheria’s Daemon is what some might call a non-traditional fantasy novel. It takes place on a world with a landscape and ecology much different from Earth, where all the humans (or at least they think of themselves as human) are immortal, and any object can be conjured from the air with a thought. The elements shown here–the castle, the mountains, the drakenbird and even the dust clouds in the distance are all important elements in the story, but you’ll have to wait to read it to find out what they mean.
What I can tell you about the story is that it begins with Meli, a practitioner of the arts of plant and animal creation. Meli has had a dream in which she is holding a baby, something no one in Aetheria has heard of before. Drawn by a powerful urge to make her vision real, she recruits Ariden, an unsociable vagabond and legendary fighter, and Karis, an aged airship engineer with the appearance of a teen girl, to help make a perilous journey across the ocean. But when an attack by air pirates splits the companions and leads Meli and Ariden to the lair of an ancient cult, they begin to learn the truth of her quest, and its connection with a mysterious being who plots the destruction of all Aetherian life.
You can see more of Eren’s work in his CGHub gallery.
The exposition…here we go…the exposition…what a show!
Ahem. Sorry about that, was channeling Mel Brooks for a moment.
Where were we? Ah yes, exposition. The bane of freelance editors and critique groups everywhere, because generally speaking, exposition is boring. In it’s purest form, it’s simply a way giving the reader information in the simplest, flattest way possible. No plot, no characters, no emotion–all the things we love about fiction are stopped dead so that the budding author-to-be can clearly explain everything he or she thinks you need to know about the cultural mores of his race of talking marmosets.