Opening with a suggestive setting description can be useful for setting the mood of a story. It can foreshadow what is to come, and the words that you choose will shape your reader’s perceptions of the characters and their relationships.
Here is a story opening:
By mid afternoon the sun will cook the air into the upper nineties and the wildflowers that separate Ann’s house from the road will surrender their moist insides to the heat. Blossoms and leaves will go brown and collapse, their stems dried to brittle sticks, their roots to filaments and dust in the parched earth. Paul will tell the truth today because it serves him.
This opening suggests a relationship between Ann and Paul. Key images and words predict devastation that is somehow linked to Paul telling the truth. It also introduces tension by expressing a contradiction – truth telling, in this case, is ominous.
Here is another opening:
It is unreasonably cold on this, the last night of summer. They sit in an open-air restaurant, lit by the radius of candlelight, a white square of tablecloth between them. Two men and two women. The salted chill of evening causes the young women to hug their trim, bare arms. The men, larger and beyond middle age do not feel the cold.
The choice of the word ‘unreasonably’, where you would expect to see ‘unseasonably’, introduces perspective about more than the weather. It appears that the women are the ones who feel something, not the men – but what? We also know that the women are younger and more fit than the men. We don’t know what any of this means yet, but it inherits significance by virtue of being in the opening.
Now you try it. Imagine what is about to happen with the people in this photograph and write an opening to their story using suggestive setting description, and incorporating words that will help to evoke the mood you want to create. For tips on creative editing you can refer to Stage 2: edit your way to a smokin’ story.
If you like you can post your story opening here.