An opening I’m tired of

John Smith did something as another thing happened. “Unexpected statement that sets the tone of the story,” he said. 

Stories that open this way somehow lose my interest in an instant, no matter how interesting the things John is doing or saying are. Why? Because the structure of the opening is so familiar it induces a sigh regardless of the words? Maybe…

Turk Johnston vomited vampire bats out his glowing mouth while the gates of hell crashed open behind him and released a hoard of demons. “What a day to quit my addiction to summoning demons,” he said. 

Is it possible to write an opening in that format that is good? Somehow that structure just tells me the story is going to be schlock.

Debbie Wilson sighed at the crinkled photo of her husband as tears trickled down her cheeks. “I can’t believe it’s been a century and I still love you,” she said. 

Better? Maybe? But somehow, the structure saps everything out of it. I think it is the  name that really does it. Is it so important in any way that her name is ‘ Debbie Wilson’ that it has to be the first words we see?

She sighed at the crinkled photo of her husband as tears trickled down her cheeks. “I can’t believe it’s been a century and I still love you,” she said. 

Why is that suddenly so much better? But still, it could be improved to not be trapped in that simple structure of ‘here’s what’s happening everyone.’ Must everything be so direct?

Her withered finger hovered over his fresh, vibrant face, and she wished that version of him could rise above the crinkled, creased and torn surface–weathered as her own hand–that trapped him. 

Now I’m not being directly told ‘she is looking at an old photo and being sad.’

I guess that is really what it comes down to. Show don’t tell.

And now I know why I dislike that kind of opening!

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