Great Beginnings for Children’s Stories

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Well begun is half-done.

In other words, a story should begin with a bang. This advice is especially true for children’s writers. If you don’t grab your reader’s attention real soon, you will lose them to TV, computer games or some other gadget.

And when it comes to the publishers, they are most likely to dump a submission that does not grab them within the first chapter. Even better if you can hook them in the first page or even the first paragraph.

Drop them in the thick of things

In the opening scenes, give your young readers characters to identify with. Introduce the action, lay out the conflict. Use dialogue to keep things moving.

Setting, background, facts and explanations can wait. Save them for when the reader has latched onto the story and is settled in, ready for the details.

Harry Potter and the Splendid Start

“Mr. and Mrs. Dursley, of number four, Privet Drive, were proud to say that they were perfectly normal, thank you very much. They were the last people you’d expect to be involved in anything strange or mysterious, because they just didn’t hold with such nonsense.”

This is one of the most famous beginnings in the history of literature. Words that captivated millions of children and adults and kept them wanting more.

Characters, action, intrigue – all slammed down in the first two lines. Followed in rapid succession by the diabolical mega villain and the central character, Harry Potter.  The back-story of “the boy who lived”, the “secret” and “magic” are all introduced in the first chapter. A page-turner to hook the readers, the details saved for further chapters.

Avoid the False Start

Many children’s writers believe that it is necessary to begin from the beginning. So there are chunks of descriptions and long-winded explanations, which can cause the readers to lose interest before the story has even taken off.

The fact of the matter is that children don’t need to know every back story and related fact to understand the action that follows. As long as the basic premise is clear, the gaps can be filled in the following chapters. Moreover, if the details are sprinkled in gradually, you will not overwhelm the young reader with information overload either.

Let’s refer back to Harry Potter series once more. J.K.Rowling had an elaborate alternate world set up for Harry Potter and this unfamiliar milieu was expounded upon gently and gradually as the book progressed. Nevertheless, the basic premise of the story was clear in the first chapter. And as the numbers show, this suited the children just fine.

Keep the Reader hooked

Of course, this is not to say that a brilliant beginning is everything. Once you have drawn the reader in, you have to keep them turning the pages. You have to provide a middle and an ending which is just as satisfying for the reader. But a great beginning sets the tone for all that follows after. After all, well begun is half-done.


avatar a.raodcruz (58 Posts)

A specialist in Children’s book writing and Guide for Children’s Authors

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