Ways to Start a Story

If you want to make your stories more emotionally engaging, there’s an excellent book by David Freeman called “Creating Emotion in Games.” While the book focuses on techniques for adding emotional engagement to video games, the principles apply to screenwriting as well.

One technique is to begin with a fake out scene, which appears to be what the story is about but isn’t. “Passenger 57” does this by advertising itself as a thriller where the hero must stop a hijacker, so the opening scene shows the hero on an airplane, trying to stop a hijacker. As it turns out, the hero is actually in a training session and showing others how to deal with a hijacker on an airplane.

A far more common opening method is to create a mystery that hints about the danger without explaining what’s going on. This occurs in “Ghostbusters” where a librarian is in a library where supernatural occurrences are happening around her. The scene ends when the librarian sees the ghost and is about to scream, leaving us with a mystery that will eventually be solved.

Another type of opening introduces us to a unique character right away. This method is most often used in James Bond movies that begin with a fight scene such as a battle on top of a train in “Skyfall” or a chase scene among skiers in “The Spy Who Loved Me.”

Yet another type of opening is to show the audience a unique world that’s far different from the ordinary world. “Star Wars” does this by putting us in the middle of a battle between starships while “Pulp Fiction” does this by putting us in the ordinary world of a coffee shop, but where a couple is about to rob it.

So when thinking about your opening scene, think about the following techniques:

  • A fake out scene
  • A mystery
  • An introduction to a unique character
  • A glimpse into an unusual world

The book “Creating Emotional in Games” is packed with tips for making stories more emotionally engaging so it’s worth reading or owning this book if you can. If the author can make video games more emotionally engaging, the same techniques can also make screenplays more engaging emotionally as well.

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