page oneThere are many maxims or general rules for openings. Here are a few:

  • “You can’t write the beginning until you write the end.”
  • “The beginning is somewhere in the story.”
  • “Never begin at the beginning”
  • “Harry the Explainer loves to come in at the beginning”
  • “Start with action.”
  • “Start with a character who has a serious problem.”
  • “Start with a character who has a dream.”
  • “Look for the verb ‘to be’ in your opening. It might indicate a weak start.”
  • “Get your audience to care about your hero right away” (I use the word ‘hero’ to refer to m and f)
  • “Be careful not to start with a volcano. It’s a hard act to follow.”

Now compare these rules with the 100 most memorable openings at:

For me, the perfect opening is from Charlotte’s Web, by E. B. White (of Strunk and Charlotte's WebWhite fame):

 “Where’s Papa going with that ax?” said Fern to her mother as they were setting the table for breakfast.

            “Out to the hoghouse,” replied Mrs. Arable.  “Some pigs were born last night.”

            “I don’t see why he needs an ax,” continued Fern, who was only eight.

            “Well,” said her mother, “one of the pigs is a runt.  It’s very small and weak and it will never amount to anything.  So your father has decided to do away with it.”

            “Do away with it?” shrieked Fern.  “You mean kill it?  Just because it’s smaller than the others.”

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