Writing an Effective First Scene

When crafting your novel, you may find that the first pages you write aren’t where your story really begins. Here are some tips to help you choose and polish an effective first scene.

Good first scenes include . . .

·         One distinctive point of view through which readers can experience the scene.

·         Conflict: something real at stake.

·         Hooks: story questions that pull the reader from the first sentence on and from each paragraph to the next.

·         A resolution and a new hook into the next scene.

·         Clear, concise sentences.

·         The protagonist’s ultimate need: a hint at the resolution of the novel.

Good first scenes don’t include . . .

·         A protagonist who’s confused about what’s going on.

·         Characters in harmony, a lone character simply thinking, or a dream sequence. (No real stakes.)

·         Info dumps: characters or a narrator summarizing what happened offscreen.

·         Only unanswered questions and unresolved conflict.

·         Complex, overwritten sentences. Unnecessary descriptors, repetition, redundancies, or clichés.

·         Unclear character motivation.

After you’ve polished your first scene, see how many of these concepts you can apply to the rest of your manuscript.

We look forward to reviewing your work.

All best,

The Editors

About Rosburg Helen A

Helen A Rich is owner, president, and executive editor of Medallion Press, Inc., a nonfiction and genre fiction publishing company based in Aurora, IL. Helen is also an award-winning author, who has previously written as Helen A Rosburg, and a sponsor of Triple Threat Mentoring, a not-for-profit organization devoted to helping under-resourced urban youth gain confidence and life skills. She lives on a slightly dusty farm in Florida with a zoo’s worth of rescued or retired critters, including horses, rabbits, dogs, cats, pigs, and chickens. When not running Medallion Press, writing, or showing horses and dogs, Helen enjoys traveling to exotic locations across the world.


Awards and Nominations

By Honor Bound

2005 Affair de Coeur Reader Writer Poll Nominee for Best Overall Historical

Call Of The Trumpet

Honorable Mention for Genre-Based Fiction for the 2007 London Book Festival

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One Response to Writing an Effective First Scene

  1. Excellent post, Helen. I have thrown away countless opening scenes. Sometimes writing requires surgery, no matter how painful.

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