If you’re looking for a great way to start your next piece of writing, think Hollywood and ZOOM IN, like Jennifer Landels does in her serialized novel, Allaigna’s Song. Take a look at the opening from the first excerpt published in Pulp Literature:
If you walk down the grand staircase of Castle Osthegn, you will see a family portrait. It is placed across the landing from the wide steps so that your eye is drawn helplessly into the picture as you descend. Such is the skill of the Leisanmira painter that you are almost convinced the little girl on the right will jump out of the frame and take off pell-mell into the courtyard. And you can tell that is what she wanted to be doing when the image was painted.
The little girl was me.
Notice how Landels zooms in from the castle to the staircase, to the landing, to the portrait, to the girl inside the portrait. It’s very visual–like the opening to a movie–and it invites the reader inside the space smoothly. It’s a very effective use of second person as well, and the overall effect is that we’re part of the story almost immediately.
What separates Landels’ work from others who use a technique like this is what comes next: “The little girl was me.” She takes us into the portrait, focusing on the setting, and then with that one line, she takes us back out as she begins to focus on character. And what do we want to know early in any narrative? Setting and character.
It’s an artistic way to deal with “the basic building blocks” of story.
There is a photograph in a frame that has a cracked pane of glass on a nightstand in a ____________’s bedroom. Someone is peeking in from the outside. Focus on the room, first, then the bed, the table, the picture in the frame, then the person or people in the photo. Then let us know how the person is related to the one peeking in, and lead into telling us THAT character’s story. Have fun with this!