Chapter Two: Components of an opening scene. I know this, I think to myself going in. And on some level I did. It doesn’t mean I have consciously thought these out every time I write an opening scene. However, on some level, I was definitely listening in grad school because as I read this chapter it was like a reunion with an old friend. If I could give the book a high-five [without people thinking I’m nuts], I would have.
According to Les, an opening scene has ten core components with four being the most important. Those are the four I want to talk about.
The first component is the inciting incident, the “event that creates the character’s initial surface problem and introduces the first inklings of the story-worthy problem” (25). This is exciting because the first scene of my young adult novel opens this way. Ginny’s father throws her into a panic room in the middle of the night. Her parents disappear, and she’s off on a journey of self-discovery as she tries to stay one step ahead of everyone chasing her.
The second component is the story-worthy problem. This is the issue that exists “just beneath the surface of the story on a more psychological level” (25). Okay, I’m a bit squiggly on this one. Ginny does have this. She knows she’s adopted, but then she discovers even that was a lie. Instead, she discovers she’s genetically engineered. Talk about your identity crises.
The next component is the problem that results from the inciting incident. It’s certainly a plot piece and may be the driving force for the surface plot but isn’t necessarily the deepest part of the story. Hmm…well. The driving force for the plot is that government forces are chasing Ginny in the hopes of containing the “danger” she represents to them and a senator and his henchmen seek to “sell her to the highest bidder.” Surface problem, check.
The final of the main four components is the Setup. This is the fear factor for me. I see the setup as a visual piece. See the scene clearly so you can point it out clearly to the reader. Maximize the reader’s experience. Dude, I’m so out of my element here. First, Les says don’t open with dialogue. On the Run‘s opening scene is Ginny complaining about her father ripping her from her bead just before midnight. Oops.