How to Write the Introduction in a Story: 5 Tips & Examples

introduction of a story

Key Takeaways:

The introduction of a story is that “set the scene” moment where you get a feel for the world and its characters. It’s the initial setup that gives readers or viewers a glimpse into the setting, mood, and potential conflicts to come.

  • Start with a dynamic or surprising scene to grab attention.
  • Ensure the story maintains the energy of the opening.
  • Introduce the main characters and setting early on.
  • Hint at the upcoming conflict and the protagonist’s challenge.
  • Balance the introduction’s details without overwhelming readers.
  • Keep the overall narrative arc in mind while perfecting the beginning.

Click to go straight to the best story introduction examples in books and films!

When you’re reading a short story, novel, or screenplay, the introduction is one of the most important parts. It’s where the author introduces the characters and sets up the narrative.

The introduction is also very important when you are writing a story – it’s your chance to hook your readers from the first sentence and make them want to keep reading.

I love working on the introduction to a story, as it’s my way of revealing the world-building in a dynamic and exciting way through the characters. It’s my chance to show their world before it upends to propel them on their journey.

Whether it’s a period setting full of gunpowder and mystery, as in Iron Dogs, or a taste of aliens in the midst of our otherwise normal world, as in Terra Alpha One, the possibilities are endless. If there’s one thing I’ve learned about story introductions, it’s that they’re limited only by our imaginations.

In this article, we will discuss what makes for a great introduction and give examples from famous books and movies!

Prefer to watch rather than read? Here’s my YouTube video on the topic of Story Introductions:

What Is The Introduction of a Story?

infographic describing the introduction to a story

The introduction is the beginning of the story, which, as the name suggests, introduces the characters, setting, and plot. It should clearly depict the time period, genre, and the main character’s normal world in general.

It is also where you hook the reader in so they’ll want to read on. There are many ways to do this, such as starting with an exciting action scene, a vivid description of the setting, or a creative description of a character’s personality through a deed.

An effective beginning should also hint at what will happen in the story so that the audience knows what to expect. It is generally shorter than the other parts of the story, such as the rising action and resolution. Authors should put their best writing into the introduction to ensure that the audience is hooked!

How to Write The Introduction of A Story

infographic describing how to write the introduction of a story

It’s no secret that first impressions are important. The same is true of stories. It is essential to start a story with a strong opening to hook readers and make them want to keep reading. But how exactly do you write a memorable first paragraph, first scene, or first line?

  1. Start Strong: One option for an introduction is to begin your story with a bang! This could be an action-packed scene or a shocking revelation. This kind of opening focuses on grabbing the reader’s attention right from the start.
  1. Maintain Consistency: If you start with a high-energy opening, ensure the rest of your story matches that intensity. You don’t want to set high expectations and then disappoint your readers.
  1. Slow and Steady: Not every story needs a dramatic start. Sometimes, it can be a good idea to begin with a calm scene and gradually build tension, drawing readers deeper into the narrative.
  1. Introduce Key Elements: Right from the beginning, familiarize your readers with the main characters and the setting. Avoid confusion by clearly establishing the who, where, and when of your story.
  1. Tease, Don’t Overwhelm: Give readers a hint of the conflict to come, but don’t give away too much. This also means showing your hero’s fatal flaw. The goal is to pique the reader’s curiosity without bombarding them with information.
  1. Remember the Bigger Picture: While the introduction is crucial, it’s just one piece of your story. Perfect it, but also remember to focus on the overall narrative arc.

Story Introduction Summary

1. Introduce the characters and setting
2. Establish the conflict
3. Set up the stakes
4. Pose a question or problem for the reader to think about

Whichever approach you choose, just remember that the first few paragraphs of your story are crucial for making a good impression on your audience. So take your time and make them count!

Don’t forget to use the best book-writing software or screenwriting software programs to write and format the introduction of your book or screenplay!

You can even use artificial intelligence (AI) story-writing software to help you get over writer’s block and come up with plot points, dialogue, and character development!

The Role of the Introduction in Story Structure

The beginning of a story is called the introduction, which should be like a first impression. It should be brief and to the point, introduce the reader to the main character(s) and setting, and hint at what is to come.

In many ways, it is the most essential part of the story. The introduction sets the stage for everything that follows and, if done well, will leave the reader wanting more.

RELATED: Check out my list of tons of unique story setting ideas for storytellers!

Freytag’s Pyramid

freytag's pyramid

Freytag’s Pyramid is a dramatic structure that writers have used for centuries. It is named after German writer Gustav Freytag, who first described it in his 1852 book Technique of the Drama.

The pyramid is divided into five sections: exposition (introduction), rising action, climax, falling action, and resolution.

The exposition (or introduction) is the first section of the plot structure pyramid, in which the story’s conflict is set up, and the story begins.

rising falling action in a story

While similar to the three-act structure outlined by Plato in Poetics, there are marked differences between the 3-act plot structure diagram and Freytag’s Pyramid, particularly in terms of the length of rising action, the point of occurrence of the climax, and the length of falling action (as illustrated in the diagrams above).

The Exposition is the introduction of the story—the characters, setting, and fundamental conflict are established here.

Rising Action is when the story starts to pick up speed, and tension begins to build.

Climax is the point of most significant tension in the story—this is typically when the protagonist confronts the antagonist.

Falling Action is when things start to wrap up—the tension starts to dissipate, and we see events leading to the resolution of the conflict.

Dénouement is the resolution of the story—all loose ends are tied up, and we see the aftermath of the events that took place.

In addition, in a classical three-act structure, the resolution is not merely the very end of the story, as Freytag indicates, but the entirety of the third act, which includes the climax, falling action, and ending.

The Importance of the Introduction

The introduction of a story is essential for several reasons. First, it sets the stage for the rest of the story. It introduces the characters, setting, and central conflict and gives the audience an idea of what to expect.

Second, the story set-up establishes the narrative’s genre, tone, mood, and theme. It can be futuristic sci-fi or a period drama. It can be light and playful or dark and foreboding.

Third, the introduction gives the reader a taste of the writing style that will be used throughout the story. Is it formal or informal? Descriptive or spare? The author can keep the reader engaged throughout the story by hooking the reader with an intriguing opening.

What Happens After the Introduction in a Story?

After the introduction, the story typically starts to unfold following the inciting incident and the protagonist’s decision to proceed on their quest. This is where the character development occurs and the narrative takes shape.

The middle of the story is generally when things start to get exciting, as the conflict begins to build and the stakes become higher, with multiple obstacles and surprises. This is also where readers start to get to know the characters and their true motivations. The climax is typically the most suspenseful part of the story, as all of the tension comes to a head.

After the climax, there is usually a resolution of some kind, whether it’s a happy or tragic ending. And finally, there is often a brief epilogue that ties up any loose ends and provides closure for the reader.

So what happens after the intro to a story? Well, it all depends on the type of story being told! But in general, this is where things start to get interesting!

RELATED: Check out my thoughts on why low stakes are killing modern Hollywood!

Can I Skip an Introduction in My Story?

Without an introduction, your reader will likely be confused about the events in your story. Think of it this way – if you were thrown into the middle of a movie without any context, you would have difficulty understanding what was happening. The same is true for any story, regardless of the medium in which it is told.

An effective beginning provides the reader with essential information about the story’s characters, setting, and conflict. It also helps to establish the piece’s genre, tone, and mood. By skipping the introduction, you are depriving your audience of important information they need to follow along with your story and connect with your characters.

story beginning

How to Write an Introduction for a Subplot

Many elements must come together when writing a great story to create a cohesive narrative. One of the most essential elements is the subplot. A subplot is a secondary storyline that runs parallel to the main plot and helps to develop the characters and world further.

While the main plot is usually the story’s driving force, the subplot can add depth and dimension, making the story more well-rounded and enjoyable. So, how do you create a compelling beginning of a subplot?

There are a few things to keep in mind when introducing a subplot. First, ensure that the subplot is relevant to the main plot. It should add something new and essential to the story rather than feeling like filler material.

Second, you want to introduce the subplot in an organic and interesting way. Don’t just throw it in randomly; take your time and find a natural place in the story. Typically, subplots are introduced at the start of Act 2 or the rising action section of the story.

Finally, don’t forget to conclude the subplot once it has served its purpose. A well-written subplot enhances your story and adds to the main plot and character development.

Examples of an Introduction in Literature and Film

A good introduction should make clear the subject matter of the work to follow, whether it be a book, story, film, or another form of media. It should also introduce the key players involved and set the scene for what is to come.

There are many ways to achieve this, but a few examples from literature and film stand out.

Example 1: The Catcher in the Rye

catcher in the rye

In the novel, The Catcher in the Rye, J.D. Salinger tells the story of Holden Caulfield, a teenager who is kicked out of a prestigious boarding school and becomes a wanderer in New York City. The book opens with Holden’s thoughts on his life and his current situation. He is critical of almost everything and everyone, but he is especially hard on himself.

Despite his negative outlook, Holden is funny, intelligent, and sympathetic. He is also incredibly honest, making him someone readers can immediately relate to and root for.

The Catcher in the Rye is an example of a good story setup because it gives readers a clear sense of Holden’s character and his voice (as well as the writer’s voice and tone of the novel). Additionally, it sets up the conflict that will drive the rest of the novel.

Example 2: Amélie

In the film Amélie, we are introduced to the title character as she narrates her whimsical yet tragic life story over images of Paris.

We learn about her unique perspective on the world, which begins with a solitary life where imagination is her only escape, to a decision to become more active in the world around her and bring happiness to others. This helps us to understand her actions throughout the film and connect with her on a more personal level.

Example 3: The Godfather

In the film’s opening scene, The Godfather, Don Corleone listens to requests before his daughter’s wedding.

The contrast between the corrupt backroom deals and the joyous occasion of a wedding creates a powerful effect that immediately draws us into the story. It also gives us a sense of the rules of this criminal world and the code of honor by which Don Corleone lives.

This is an excellent example of how an opening scene can set the stage for an engaging and captivating film.

These are just a few examples of how the beginning of a novel or movie can give us a glimpse into what is to come.

Common Questions (FAQs)

What does a story introduction need?

A story introduction needs a hook to grab the reader’s attention, background information on the story’s fictional world and characters, and a hint of the conflict to come. The best introductions are short and snappy, so don’t get too bogged down in details. However, you also don’t want to give too much away, or the audience will lose interest. Think of the introduction as a teaser for what’s to come – it should whet the appetite without spoiling the main course.

Do stories have an introduction?

Stories usually have an introduction that offers background on the setting, characters, and plot, often with a hook to grab readers’ attention. However, some authors opt for an “in medias res” start, diving straight into a dramatic scene. The choice of having an introduction varies by author, with some preferring immediate action and others setting the context first.

How do I write a short story introduction?

When kicking off a short story, think of it like setting the stage for a play. Dive right in, maybe with a burst of action, a snippet of dialogue, or a peek into your character’s mind. Remember, you don’t have a lot of time, so get to the heart of the conflict fast. And most importantly? Write a hook that makes readers think, “I’ve got to know what happens next!”

story introduction pin

To conclude this article, if you want to write a great fiction story, you must start with a strong introduction. This section introduces your story’s characters, setting, and plot and hooks the audience so they will want to keep reading.

It’s essential to make sure your introduction is well-written so that readers are drawn in and invested in your story!

Love learning about great storytelling? Check out these helpful articles!

Protagonist and Antagonist: How Are They Different?

What is Pacing in a Story? Tips for Story Pacing for Writers

Examples of Themes in Books and Literature: Definition & Types

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