The 1st 10 pages — you’ve heard and read countless times how important they are (regardless of whether you are writing a novel or screenplay) – so important — they are the genesis of this site.
If you are a screenwriter, you most likely have heard of THE BLACKLIST, and hopefully in the past year have been introduced to THE BLACKLIST blog, GO INTO THE STORY, by Scott Myers. Scott brings over 20 years of candid and organic experience to his perpetual hosting and I highly recommend his teachings if you want to hone your craft.
So when Scott answered a readers question about The 1st 10 pages hook, I naturally sat up and took notice.
“Now I’ll grant you it’s probably easier to grab a reader by writing something “shocking, mesmerizing, tantalizing,” than “something that simply sets the stage for things to come in an interesting manner.” But if the latter is what fits the genre and tone of your story, so be it — that’s the type of opening you will almost assuredly need to write.”
Go ahead and click the post, it will open in a new window – come back – I’ll wait.
Scott of course is spot on in his note that how you open, specifically the opening shot, depends on your genre.
“But whatever you write for an opening sequence must be a reflection of the genre and tone of your overall story.”
Below you will find links to the script pages he used as examples, THE MATRIX and LITTLE MISS SUNSHINE, as well as additional genres with a summary of how they set the tone and the stage by cementing the theme and/or main plot thread in the opening scene.
As Scott points out, the independent comedy, LITTLE MISS SUNSHINE, opens on a televised pageant and Olive’s obsessive study of it and the scenes that follow highlight the quirky personalities and how they relate to each other. A few side notes: these 1st 10 pages are a great example of unique, individual dialogue AND exposition within that dialogue without being too ‘on the nose’ and the scene where Olive screams thus beginning the real journey to the pageant, is on page 20.
Drama: THE KING’S SPEECH opens on a BBC broadcaster’s throat ritual before his own announcement.
On page 10 the speech therapist is hired.
Romantic Comedy: WHEN HARRY MET SALLY: In case you don’t know it by heart, it opens on the doc-style footage of an old (real couple) discussing how they met, which segues to Sally picking up her friend’s BF, Harry, for ride. (THIS IS A SHOOTING SCRIPT – DON’T NUMBER YOUR SCENES AND ASTERIK YOUR CHANGES FOR A READING SCRIPT) By a production page count of 10 pages — (there’s a lot cut up here) – on or very near to page 10 is the diner scene, this script got through this many versions and that scene still hadn’t been included, (proof that a script is a living document that constantly changes) but you can see where it will fall and how it buttons up their beginning journey nicely. The next scene is him saying they could never be friends followed by her dropping him off in NY, and saying goodbye.
Thriller/Suspense: THE SIXTH SENSE opens on: Anna is in the dank basement, a beauty in a creepy place – ‘DRIPPING BLACK DEVOURS THE ROOM’.
What a great line. That is the poetic voice you often hear referred to when discussing what is being looked for in emerging writers (who knows what happened to MNS’s voice since). At the bottom of page 10, my dear Bruce (the Doc), is shot. And the very next scene we see him so the twist is set.
Enjoy these pages:
LITTLE MISS SUNSHINE
Any other genres you want to see how the opening tone is set up?