Friday, November 19, 2010
Opening-- what constitutes?
Anon, good question. What constitutes the opening? That makes me think that we might have one of two different openings. The first is in media res, in the middle of the action, so that the opening of the book is inside the first scene. This has the effect of plunging the reader into the action and getting the story going right away. Often an opening like this is "deep POV", right inside the character experiencing the action. That might increase reader identification with the character, as there's never a moment of being outside the character.
In that case, I'm not sure the "opening" is a true opening with an ending. It's just the start of the first scene, and it ends when the first scene ends. Does anyone have a good example of that sort of opening, where the reader is immediately plunged into the moment of the scene?
The more traditional opening is a true opening, that is, an opening to the whole book and not just the first scene. This type of opening might have a bit of context (who are we, where are we) and/or set up some question the story will answer or start the process of developing the scene.
This sort of opening might be a paragraph or two or three, but while it might kind of take place within the time of the scene (the action that is about to happen), it's more outside, more contextual. It might be omniscient, and it might be "overall" rather than specific to this moment.
In that case, I think of the opening "ending" when there's a transition into something else, like the starting of the action of the scene, or a descent into one character's mind. In that sense, the opening is a bit different, not just the start of the scene. It's -before- the start of the scene, and ends when the scene starts.
Examples? I'll look for some, but if anyone has examples of 1) in media res openings, and 2) context-setting openings, please post in comments! I think I've done both, and which I'd do would depend (of course) on the needs of the story. But I would say that a faster-paced book might start in the middle of the action, within the scene. What do you think?