Sunday, January 27, 2019

Sunday Writing Tip: Make Sure Your Scene Beginnings Hook Your Readers

By Janice Hardy, @Janice_Hardy

Each week, I’ll offer a tip you can take and apply to your WIP to help improve it. They’ll be easy to do and shouldn’t take long, so they’ll be tips you can do without taking up your Sunday. Though I do reserve the right to offer a good tip now and then that will take longer—but only because it would apply to the entire manuscript.

This week, check how you open each scene and/or chapter and make sure you’re giving readers a reason to turn the page.

So last week we looked at our scene endings. This week, let’s look at how we’re beginning each scene and chapter.

The beginning of a scene or chapter is where we show readers why they want to read this scene. There needs to be something in it for them, otherwise they might set the book down and go watch TV. You want to ask the right story questions to pique their interest and make them want to learn the answers to them. You want to tempt them with the potential for something bad to happen. You even want to dangle the possibility of good things happening that they’ve been hoping for all along.

Look at the opening paragraphs of every scene. Do they offer readers a reason to read on? Do they have a compelling reason for the scene to exist? Do they satisfy the end of the previous scene? Is the situation to come one they’ve been wanting to see unfold?

If not, tweak, trim, or look for a stronger opening further into the scene.

For more on handling scene beginnings in your novel, try these articles:


  1. My current series is written at a high levels of emotions of love-of-family, and fear and terror of the unknown. Tears and running, and fighting beastly, sometimes unknown things.

    I feel that a breath of understatement rather than another daring-doo scene threatening destruction or, worse, death, works better for me.

    I wasn't certain I should go on.

    I really, really had to go to the bathroom--a bathroom out here on the Appalachian Trail. Yeah. Sure. Oh, did I say a CLEAN bathroom?

    I lay there listening to the vocalizations of whatever I was chasing. Hah! Who was chasing whom? What was chasing what?

    Like that.

    1. That's great. Understated can work, too. As long as it makes readers want to keep reading, it works :)

  2. I read your novel and after going through it twice I jump to the conclusion that I feel a breath of understatement as well as a feeling of death and fear is running in my mind.

    1. I'm sure I mix it up throughout the novels. Some scenes will require more drama, others a softer approach.

  3. I am doing one where Leilani’s granddaughter oceane is bethored and also one about her daughter Pearlina who meets her brother kendi because leilani gave him up because she had a vision about him becoming evil. As for character descriptions I want to maybe make maybe three sentences and not two paragraphs. What are your thoughts on that?