Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Using an Opening Narration to Pinpoint Your Story Problem


Jill Williamson is a chocolate loving, daydreaming, creator of kingdoms. She writes weird books in lots of weird genres like fantasy (Blood of Kings and Kinsman Chronicles), science fiction (Replication), and dystopian (The Safe Lands trilogy). Find Jill on FacebookTwitterPinterest, or on her author website. You can also try two of her fantasy novels for free here and here.

Anyone watch the BBC show Merlin? If so, you might recognize this:



“In a land of myth and a time of magic the destiny of a great kingdom rests on the shoulders of a young boy, his name: Merlin.”


In the television industry, that is what's known as an opening narration. You can find opening narrations in lots of TV shows and in some movies too. Sometimes they are voiced by an omniscient narrator. Other times they are first person from the lead character's voice. Below is a list of quotes from several TV shows or movies. Some of these are super old. Still, see how many you can guess. (Answers below.)


1. “In a time of myth and legend, when ancient gods plagued man with suffering—only one man dared to challenge their power.”


2. “In the criminal justice system, the people are represented by two separate yet equally important groups: the police, who investigate crime, and the district attorneys, who prosecute the offenders. These are their stories.”

3. “Now the story of a wealthy family who lost everything and the one son who had no choice but to keep them all together . . .”

4. “A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far way . . .”

5. “You know the kind of guy who does nothing but bad things, and then wonders why his life sucks? Well . . . that was me. Every time something good happened to me, something bad was always waiting around the corner. Karma. That’s when I realized I had to change. So, I made a list of everything bad I’ve ever done and, one by one I'm going to make up for all my mistakes. I’m just trying to be a better person. My __________.”

6. “In 1972, a crack commando unit was sent to prison by a military court for a crime they didn't commit. These men promptly escaped from a maximum security stockade to the Los Angeles underground. Today, still wanted by the government they survive as soldiers of fortune. If you have a problem, if no one else can help, and if you can find them....maybe you can hire __________. ”

7. “Doctor David Banner, physician, scientist, searching for a way to tap into the hidden strengths that all humans have. Then, an accidental overdose of gamma radiation alters his body chemistry. And now, when David Banner grows angry or outraged, a startling metamorphosis occurs. The creature is driven by rage and pursued by an investigative reporter. The creature is wanted for a murder he didn't commit. David Banner is believed to be dead, and he must let the world think that he is dead, until he can find a way to control the raging spirit that dwells within him.”

8. “You unlock this door with the key of imagination. Beyond it is another dimension - a dimension of sound, a dimension of sight, a dimension of mind. You're moving into a land of both shadow and substance, of things and ideas. You've just crossed over into the ____________.”

9. “Space, the final frontier. These are the voyages of the starship Enterprise. Its five-year mission: to explore strange new worlds, to seek out new life and new civilizations, to boldly go where no man has gone before.”

10. “___________ here, your one and only source into the scandalous lives of Manhattan's elite. And who am I? That's one secret I'll never tell. You know you love me. XOXO, ___________.”

11. “A fiery horse with the speed of light, a cloud of dust and a hearty Hi-Yo Silver, away!”

12. “There is nothing wrong with your television set. Do not attempt to adjust the picture. We are controlling transmission. If we wish to make it louder, we will bring up the volume. If we wish to make it softer, we will tune it to a whisper. We will control the horizontal. We will control the vertical. We can roll the image, make it flutter. We can change the focus to a soft blur or sharpen it to crystal clarity. For the next hour, sit quietly and we will control all that you see and hear. We repeat: there is nothing wrong with your television set. You are about to participate in a great adventure. You are about to experience the awe and mystery which reaches from the inner mind to . . . __________.”

13. “It all started when a time travel experiment I was conducting went... a little ka-ka. In the blink of a cosmic clock I went from quantum physicist to air force test pilot. Which could have been fun... if I knew how to fly. Fortunately, I had help. An observer from the project named Al. Unfortunately, Al's a hologram, so all he can lend is moral support. Anyway, here I am. Bouncing around in time, putting things right which once went wrong. A sort of time traveling Lone Ranger, with Al as my Tonto. And I don't even need a mask. Oh boy.”

14. Ladies and gentlemen: the story you are about to hear is true. Only the names have been changed to protect the innocent.

15. “_________, a shadowy flight into the dangerous world of a man who does not exist. Michael Knight, a young loner on a crusade to champion the cause of the innocent, the helpless, the powerless, in a world of criminals who operate above the law.”







Something like this would be a lot of fun for a series and a great way of pinpointing your story problem at the start of every book. 

I decided to write one for Spencer and The Mission League books. Here it is:


I used to think my visions and showed me in inevitable events, that they predicted my future or someone else’s. Now I know they’re possibilities. I can embrace them or run. Considering that most of my visions or warnings, running is usually my best option. Problem is, I’m not a coward. And I don’t like people messing with me. But when you’re living in the witness protection program, calling attention to yourself is just plain stupid. Too late now, though. They’re after me. Unless I can catch them first.


Your turn!

WRITING PROMPT: Write an opening narrative for your book or series and post it in the comments below.



Answer key:
1. Hercules
2. Law & Order
3. Arrested Development
4. Star Wars
5. My name is Earl
6. The A-Team
7. The Incredible Hulk
8. The Twilight Zone (Season 4 & 5)
9. Star Trek (original series)
10. Gossip Girl
11. The Lone Ranger
12. The Outer Limits
13. Quantum Leap
14. Dragnet
15. Knight Rider



Also, I'm having a book sale! Last week I found out that King's Folly is a finalist for the 2017 Christy Awards. I'm so excited and honored. 
I had no intention of going. My husband has to work, and the introvert in me hates going to such things without someone I know really well. But then my friend said she'd come with. So I changed my mind!
To celebrate, I'm having a sale in my author bookstore. Everything is 30% off with the discount code "CHRISTY"—while supplies last. More info on my author blog


30 comments:

  1. Thanks so much for this post Mrs Williamson! I really needed it, I'm editing the start of my book and it isn't looking right. I might post it later, in Australia, it is 10pm so I have to sleep now. Thanks again!

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    1. Glad you found it helpful, Sorrel. Happy sleeps! :-)

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  2. Ahhh, this is going to be so helpful!

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  3. This was a really neat post! I liked trying to guess some of the examples that you gave, even though I haven't watched most of those movies/series. (Looking back, I've only watched one. Wow.) But this was a really neat way to get into your story - I kind of feel it's like a back cover blurb, except in first person? I know that's not exactly it, but all of these are intriguing enough to make me want to open a book and find out what they are talking about. It also reminds me of the way that Rick Riordan opens Lightening Thief. I might post one for my WIP soon, once I get a few more minutes together.

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    1. That's an interesting point, Vera. It is a bit like a back cover copy.

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  4. Fantastic post, Jill! I love this. Identifying story problems up front is so helpful!

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    1. I really just wanted to keep watching the old openings of shows on YouTube. The A-Team and Knight Rider and The Incredible Hulk... So fun.

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  5. Some say amnesia is terrifying; that it's a suffocating condition. I never believed them. At least, I don't think I did.
    But now, I am living a nightmare. My past is nothing to me, because to me, it is nothing. A black abyss of once what was. I can't and don't want to remember. If amnesia is terrifying, remembering what I once knew is even worse.
    But people will kill me for my memories.

    *this was really fun! hopefully ^ makes sense...I didn't have a lot of time to work through it. :)

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    1. Oh, man, Allison. I love that. Very cool. I'm hooked and want to know more.

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    2. Very intriguing, Allison, you've certainly hooked my interest!

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    3. It's really good, but you could say If amnesia is terrifying, remembering what I once knew is even worse.
      Because people will kill me for my memories.

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  6. My name is Sadisma, and I'm a supervillain. Relax... I'm not going to kill you. You're far more likely to get that from the leader of the heroes. You know, Hero to Man, Savior to Woman, President Justice himself. At least, you were more likely to get that from him. Now... well, I can't tell you that yet. You'll have to start from the beginning, which means the day Lightstreak finally attacked my lair.

    -novelistinthedark

    Can I actually begin my story like this?

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    1. Fun! Sure you could, especially if you are writing in first person from this character.

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  7. I don't think I'd use something like that to start any of my current stories, but maybe it could go on the back of each book in the series?

    "Imagine a world of superheroes like you've never seen before. A world where powers aren't gained through a chemical spill but through an experimental potion, not through radiation but through magic, not by being an alien but by being a fairy. That world lies within these pages."

    Something like that, anyway.

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    1. I like it, Christine! It gives the reader some info about how your storyworld and magic works. Nice!

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    2. Hey, fellow superhero fiction writer! Glad to see someone else writing in the genre, although it seems yours is going more fantasy. I would definitely be interested in your book.
      -novelistinthedark

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  8. I recognized The Twilight Zone, Quantum Leap, Star Wars, and Star Trek. Honestly, I scrolled through the first time looking for the Star Trek narration and somewhat ignoring the others. Another good opening narration I was kinda hoping to find is the one from Person of Interest.

    Anyway, writing one for a story sounds like a neat idea. I'll have to think about mine, I may post one later.

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    1. Yeah! I love the one from Person of Interest!

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    2. Cool! Can you share the Person of Interest one here?

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    3. Sure, in season one it goes like this:
      "You are being watched. The government has a secret system, a machine that spies on you every hour of every day. I know, because I built it. I designed the machine to detect acts of terror, but it sees everything. Violent crimes involving ordinary people, people like you. Crimes the government considered 'irrelevant'. They wouldn't act, so I decided I would. But I needed a partner, someone with the skills to intervene. Hunted by the authorities, we work in secret. You'll never find us, but victim or perpetrator, if your number's up... we'll find you."

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  9. Seeing the future has never done Nike any favors. It didn't stop her mother from dying in a car accident nor has it stopped her father from becoming a drunk.
    The day Nike Victor became a part of Project Stargate everything changed. Her gift gave her the ability to help people. Nike begins to hope that maybe one day, she could stop something she has seen from happening. After all, what good is seeing the future if you can't change what happens?

    That is my attempt at an opening narration for Project Stargate. Let me know if I did it right.

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    1. I think it's great. It tells us a lot about your main character, her past, her pain, her powers, and the struggle she hopes to over come. Nice job!

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  10. Here goes!

    They numbered four, four ordinary inhabitants of the small port town on the western edge. But family and kingdom are important things, and when they are threatened, four ordinary people can find themselves in distant and extraordinary places, battling forces they never could have imagined.

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    1. Ooh, interesting, Katie. I'm curious about these four and want to know more. :-)

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    2. ooh good! Thanks!

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  11. ALSO I LOVE MERLIN ahhhh

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  12. Another good one is the intro to The Flash TV show. That's a pretty good example.

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    1. I'm not sure I can really work out one for my story, though... However, I have something somewhat similar which I use while telling people what my story is about.

      Sylvester Lee met an alien when he was twelve years old.

      The problem was, no one believed him, and the only other witness had a strange lapse of memory.

      It’s been nine years since that day, and Sylvester is now an investigative reporter with one goal in mind: the aliens are living among us, and he intends to prove it.

      This presents quite a problem for Leslie Hughes, his cheerful, but dreadfully nervous intern. Because what Sylvester doesn’t know is that Leslie is the alien that he met in the alley that night.

      And she’ll do anything to keep her people safe.

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