Five Ways to Start a Chapter/Scene

As I edit manuscript, I realised my scenes overlapped throughout chapters. It seemed unorganised and rough.

A scene is a sequence of continuous action in a  creative project. The key words here are ‘sequence’ and ‘action’. A scene shows the chain of cause and effect. This could be character-centered or situation-centered.

Here are Five Ways to Start a Chapter/Scene to make them flow onto other plot points.

1. Use mystery or suspense to create direction

If you’ve ever read a story that meandered all over without getting to the point, you’ll know how frustrating it is, that is what my manuscript felt like to me. It needed a sense of Direction.In a scene is a feeling that events are leading towards later developments and it creates narrative tension.

At the start of a scene, include unknowns that readers will want answered. Mystery is more than strange fogs descending, unexplained screams in the night. It can be something as simple as the not-yet-explained reason why a character left their house, walked a few paces, stopped, frowned, and hurried back inside.

2. Anchor your scene opening in setting

It’s also intriguing if, at the start of a scene, we have a sense of where and when events are unfolding. Setting gives a scene tone and mood.

Thinking about how setting circumscribes what can or can’t happen in your scene/chapter and it will help you brainstorm possible plot developments.

3. Use action to create momentum

There’s no ‘right’ way for how to start a scene. Sometimes you might begin with riveting action, sometimes with slow, lyrical place description. It depends on the tone, mood and pace you want to create from the start and the story you are telling.

Starting a scene with action, however, helps to create immediate momentum.

4. Start a scene with context-giving summary

Show don’t tell, you might sometimes feel unsure whether you can summarize current or prior events in the narration. Yet not everything can be shown – sometimes telling is necessary.

Depending on your genre or the point you are at in the story, you might well wish to start a scene with summary. In historical fiction, for example, you might want to start a scene with a short bit of narrative describing the historical or political backdrop for your characters’ lives.

5. Start a scene with intriguing dialogue

Another ‘rule’ you may often hear is never to start a scene with dialogue. Yet if this is a rule, it’s one many authors break, and often to great effect.

So, here are Five ways to start a chapter/scene that grips your reader into your chaparcters and world – and after the chapters/scenes unfold, new plot developments arise.

Are there more ways to start a scene/ chapter?

If you think someone has an interesting point of view and answer, please invite them or

share this post to them.

#DWTSmith #chapters


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