There’s a difference between writing and storytelling. Writing is easy and storytelling isn’t. You pick up a pencil and scribble words, that’s writing. Storytelling takes imagination, forward-thinking and planning. Crafting powerful beginnings and endings is crucial in captivating your readers from the very first page to the last. Understanding how to write effective beginnings and endings will elevate your writing. Let’s take a look at techniques and tips that will help you create compelling openings that grab attention and conclusions that will linger in your readers’ minds.
A well-crafted beginning sets the tone for your story and entices readers to continue. Here are some techniques to create compelling openings:
Hook Your Readers
The first line is everything. Make it attention-grabbing. The opening scene needs to raise questions or present an intriguing situation. This can be an engaging dialogue, a dramatic event, or a vivid description that piques curiosity. Pose questions that compel your readers to continue on for the answers.
Introduce Compelling Characters
Create characters that resonate with readers from the start. Give them a chance to shine. Take the time beforehand to develop unique personalities, and use this opening scene to make them relatable or intriguing to establish an immediate connection with your audience. Have them ‘save the cat’, which is a term meaning to have your protagonist do something positive to establish them as a good person to get the audience to root for them straight away.
Start your story with a problem, dilemma or mystery to create suspense. This can be an internal struggle within the protagonist or an external obstacle they must overcome and will be what drives the story forward. You’ll be able to add context as you progress through the story, so don’t worry about details. In the beginning, the less your audience knows the better.
Go a step further by planting hints or clues about future events to create anticipation. Foreshadowing can add depth to your story and keep readers engaged, curious to uncover how the clues will unfold.
An effective ending is the final impression you leave on your readers. Consider these techniques to create memorable and satisfying conclusions:
Resolve Your Issues
This isn’t television, give your audience a satisfying ending. Tie up almost all of your loose ends too (it’s okay to leave one or two little ones unresolved for two reasons. Firstly, it gives a little authenticity to your world—not everything in life gets resolved. Secondly, if you ever get that sequel lined up, that unresolved plot might just come in handy.
Hold Up That Mirror
Use the ending to reflect on the character’s growth, lessons learned, or the overall message of your story. This allows readers to contemplate and appreciate the transformative journey. Leave room for interpretation by crafting an open-ended conclusion that sparks discussion or allows readers to imagine possibilities beyond the story’s confines. Just what did your hero do next? Don’t spell it out, give them a line that could mean one thing or another, or just point them in a certain direction. However, be mindful here of how subtle you’re being, if you’re too obvious or heavy-handed, you could just end up pulling another loose end.
Crafting effective beginnings and endings in fiction is an art that requires careful consideration. No matter what you do, at the very least ignore cliché and try your best to be original.
If you want to learn about writing beginnings and endings in non-fiction, an article on this subject will follow next week, and a link will be provided.