Writing Competition Tips: Great Beginnings, Great Expectations…
Here's Harlequin Presents editor Joanne Grant with some tips for all those aspiring writers getting their entries ready! This one is all about writing strong opening scenes. More posts coming soon! ~Amy
Starting something is sometimes half the battle — wouldn't you agree? I don't mean the battle to stop procrastinating and just to get on with it, but the knowing where to start part of the battle. For example, I can never decide how to start these blogs. A general 'hello, how are you all?' is polite, but not that interesting, so I tend to spend ages typing, deleting, typing… But at the end of the day, I'm not an author, and this is only a blog, so the opening line is not as important as, say, the beginning to a 50,000 word contemporary novel.
Grabbing the reader immediately is essential in a Harlequin Presents. How you go about it is up to you, your story and your characters, but here are a few tips:
- Begin with a bang not with a slow build-up; you want your reader to be engaged straightaway. Appeal to them intellectually (in terms of the plot) and emotionally, because romance is all about feelings.
- Set the mood and tone of your story — the author's unique voice needs to come through
- Various ways of grabbing your reader may include: using dialogue, a controversial statement, creating intrigue etc. By doing this you should always be making your reader question what is going on and compel them to find out the answers.
Once you have the reader's attention, keep hold of it with a gripping first scene:
- Chose an exciting moment to start your story — this should be a point of change for one of more of the characters
- Get your reader personally involved in the outcome of the situation presented
- Even when the hero and/or heroine aren't on the scene, they should somehow be the focus of what is going on
It is essential that you engage the reader with your characters:
- You need to create unique personalities in your heroes and heroines who are intriguing and empathetic
- Engage the reader with the characters' conflict, so they are dying to know how it will be resolved and come together at the end
- Make sure there is an immediate spark and attraction between your hero and heroine, even though they may be at odds; any antagonism must sits within the realms of realism
I hope these tips help and inspire you to write a fabulous opening to your first chapter. I'll back soon with another blog to offer some advice on how to stop the plot ruining your first chapter, if only I can work out how to start it… 😉