The Most Vital Thing to Include In Your Opening Scene

Today I finished watching Randomhouse Editor Sara Sargent’s digital SCBWI workshop on opening scenes.  I watched it in the hopes understanding why the opening scene in my mystery doesn’t quite work.  I’m still not sure but I also know why.  As Sargent said, finish your novel and then revisit the opening.  I haven’t made it to the end yet so I know what the next step needs to be.

But I did come away with a better understanding of what I need to do for an earlier piece of fiction.  Yay!

Something that Sargent said stuck with me throughout the day and has had me thinking about not only my story but the one I am reading.  What is the most important thing for your reader to know about your character?  As it stands, my fantasy opens with a chase scene because later on a chase scene is pivotal.  Winning it is literally a matter of life and death.

That’s how I justified keeping this scene even when readers questioned it. It mirrors what happens later.  Mirroring!  That’s an advanced technique – right?  Right?!  Maybe it is, but only when it works.  And in this case it doesn’t reveal what is most important about my character.

In addition, I set it up so that you think her friends are pursuing her as in “I’m going to get you, my pretty!”  The reader is well into the scene when it is revealed that it is all a game of chase.  I meant that to be clever but it proved to confuse at least some people.

The scene doesn’t show how important her friends are to her.  And because that is the core of the story it really needs to resonate through out my opening scene.   I don’t know yet exactly what I’m going to do but I have a much better understanding of what this scene needs to accomplish.

Thank you, Sara Sargent!

–SueBE