One of the most critical elements of the short story is the beginning. We’ve all been told at one time or another that it is only with a strong opening that you will hook the reader. And while a reader may give a new novel a few pages, or even a chapter, chances are that that same reader will only give a short story a few paragraphs.
And if you’re dealing with an editor, publisher, or agent, you have maybe three paragraphs to hook them.
So, what is a writer to do?
Consider these four elements:
While all four of these elements are mandatory throughout anything you write, they are essential in the beginning.
Character: Your opening should give the reader a person to focus on. In a short story, this person should show up almost immediately. And the writers’ job is to produce a believable character.
Conflict: Within the beginning, it is crucial to let the reader know where the problem, rub, or possible personal confrontation will be coming from. Characters without issues are bland.
Specificity: An effective beginning makes use of specific details. These consist of how your character thinks, speaks, where they are, and what they need to address. These are the things that make the character believable. Additionally, using specifics makes your beginning different than the thousand others out there.
Credibility: Are your descriptions and prose believable? This is where a writer’s skill and understanding of the craft come into play. You only have the beginning of the story to convince your reader that you – as the writer, understand how to tell this story and present it so that it’s entertaining.
Other things a reader will look at is your sentence structure, sentence variety, and your understanding of all things grammar.
These are just a few things that need to shine in the beginning. And remember – the shorter the piece, the less time you have to prove to the reader that your work is worth their time.