This is now my third attempt of writing the opening of my book. I took What's advice and tried to send a message to the readers. the message was:

What makes us strong is our courage.

In the story, the protagonist was weak and finds himself being beaten by strong people. Later in the story he grows stronger, but is still faced with stronger people who abused their power. He still continues to fight them, even though he isn't as strong. He has determination and courage; this is what drives him forward.

I finally think that I've found my beginning, but I might not be wording it correctly. Please tell me if it does relate to the message. Please be critical.

The dog was weak and fragile. There was nothing it could do to protect itself from them. That didn’t stop them from kicking it around. They were laughing at its pain and continued to beat it to death. The pup had bruises all over itself. The poor thing could barely open its eyes. Yet, they didn’t stop.

I couldn’t stand there. It made me sick to my stomach to see this. It was infuriating to just stand and watch. Before I knew it, I was throwing punches and taking hits to the gut. They outnumbered and overpowered me. I had taken the dog’s place. It hurt immensely, but it was nothing compared to the pain of not doing anything.

The strong picked on the weak. It was a simple as that. Nothing more, nothing less. But, what makes someone strong? Muscles? How hard you could hit? No. It wasn’t either of those. There had to be something that made someone stronger than others. So, the question remains.

What makes someone strong?


The cuts on my face burned as my sister cleaned them. She used an old, red rag dipped in cool water to wipe my face. Her expression was calm and understanding. It always was; this was our regular routine almost every day. I would always come home with cuts and bruises, but she wouldn’t say a word until she was almost done tending to my injuries.

“What happened this time?” She asked, soaking the rag in water.

“Nothing. I just fell down some steps.” I lied.

“You say that every time you come home bruised up like this.” She asked once more. “Now, what really happened?”

I sighed. “There were these jerks and they were beating this dog and I-“

“-and you couldn’t let it slide.” She finished for me.

“Yeah.” I admitted. “Are you mad?”

“No.” She answered.

Of course she wasn’t. She never got mad. Her only emotions were kindness and caring. All she would do was just fix me up and tell me to be more careful.

“Just be more careful.” She said after finishing up.

I lied again. “I will.”

“Good.” She stood up. “Come on. It’s time to go.”


As a suggestion, why not open with the altercation itself? You can use the fight to illustrate your protagonist. Is he short and slight? Tall and gangly? (Also think about how this might change as the story progresses.) Show his reaction to the dog's mistreatment as a way to provide insight into his internal motivations. Why is he fighting? Most especially, why is he fighting when he probably knows he won't win? Give a brief glance of who he is fighting. Is this a 'same-bullies-different-day' fight, or an unknown group?

Painting a compelling snapshot of your protagonist (not just appearance, but his frame of mind, motivations etc.) right from the beginning emotionally invests the reader in who he is as a person and drives interest in who he might become by the end of the story. Beginning with the fight would, imho, be a strong entrance that is true to your theme.


I like it a lot.

I feel the part about falling down the steps is a bit unbelievable, because if he comes home with cuts and bruises every day, his sister must already know that he gets into fights. So I wouldn't have him try to evade the truth but let him tell it straight-away.

Or, if you really want it, you could comment on it:

"Nothing. I just fell down some steps." It's what I always said, since the first time, though by now we both knew I never fell.

Or something like that. That way it does not appear contradictory (him attempting the same lie every day). And delete the "There was nothing I could hide from her". If this happens every day, there is nothing to hide anymore.

Other than that I like it very much. Cool.

I'd let it stand like that (with the little edits, if you want) and then work on the rest of the story and only come back to the beginning after you finished everything else. Because after you wrote your book, you will know if this beginning works for you or if you need to adapt it to what you found out while you wrote it. Don't try to perfect the beginning, before the book is finished! Since the beginning is the most important part, polish it last.

A comment on the other answers (by NE1HOME and Dale Emery):

You'll have to think about this yourself (and, as I said, I'd suggest you wait with it until you wrote everything else), but I don't think you need to start with a fight or any kind of action. It depends on the type of book you want to write. Is it a book about action? Then start with action? Is it more reflective, focussing on the inner strength of the protagonist, his personal growth, the relationship to this sister? Then I would start with those. Start with what the book is about. Not every book is a thriller. But if it is, you need to thrill in the beginning.

  • I added a bit more to the beginning, please tell me if this is better or not. Jan 15 '14 at 0:44
  • Not to me. I found the first version, without the dog scene, better. For three reasons: (1) I find the scene between the MC and his sister much more seminal. (2) I don't care about some random dog. (Well I do, but not in a story I read.) If your MC does these things every day, the story must begin with one that is different. Otherwise, why begin the story here? A story begins, when a change occurs. Maybe he makes friends with the dog, gets hurt more permanently, or encounters something else that changes his life. [contd.]
    – user5645
    Jan 15 '14 at 9:45
  • [contd.] (3) There is too much reflection in that action scene. If you want an action opening instead of a reflective one, then don't put reflection into your action. If you want reflection, there is no need to paste an action scene before the reflection you already had in the boy-and-sister scene, and much better written and more interesting.
    – user5645
    Jan 15 '14 at 9:46

I like it, it gripped me to read more and that's what makes me read and write in the first place. I would have rather started with the protagonist being in the fight to emphasize his current standing in his scenario and then merged into this segment you have here, but that of course is only a suggestion and how I would have done it.

Keep at it, it's looking good :)

  • I took your advice. Please tell me if it is better or not. Jan 15 '14 at 0:43

It's well done. But to me it reads like the aftermath of the opening.

  • I took that into consideration, please tell me if I did an appropriate fix. Jan 15 '14 at 0:43

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