Begin story location

Begin Your Story With Place

If place fills an integral role in the story, some novels open with it. This signals the importance of place and how it parallels or affects characters.

In the dark shadow of the grove, on the margin of the brook, he beheld something huge, misshapen, black and towering. It stirred not, but seemed gathered up in the gloom, like some gigantic monster ready to spring upon the traveler. — The Legend of Sleepy Hollow by Washington Irving

The sun shone, having no alternative, on the nothing new. —Murphy by Samuel Beckett

The sky above the port was the color of television, tuned to a dead channel. —Neuromancer by William Gibson

It wasn’t a very likely place for disappearances, at least at first glance. —Outlander by Diana Gabaldon

The towers of Zenith aspired above the morning mist; austere towers of steel and cement and limestone, sturdy as cliffs and delicate as silver rods. —Babbitt by Sinclair Lewis

A squat grey building of only thirty-four stories. Over the main entrance the words, CENTRAL LONDON HATCHERY AND CONDITIONING CENTRE, and, in a shield, the World State’s motto, COMMUNITY, IDENTITY, STABILITY. —Brave New World by Aldous Huxley

It as a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen.” —Nineteen Eighty-Four by George Orwell

In 1984, the reader intuits that time is inconsequential—it doesn’t matter if it’s noon or mid-night. Rather than pinpointing the story’s time and place, the opening exemplifies the nature of time and place. History’s clock has never been divisible by thirteen. On the contrary, transgressing cultural boundaries, thirteen is considered unlucky, a portent of evil.

Dark spruce forest frowned on either side the frozen waterway. The trees had been stripped by a recent wind of their white covering of frost, and they seemed to lean toward each other, black and ominous, in the fading light. A vast silence reigned over the land. The land itself was a desolation, lifeless, without movement, so lone and cold that the spirit of it was not even that of sadness. There was a hint in it of laughter, but of a laughter more terrible than any sadness—a laughter that was mirthless as the smile of a Sphinx, a cold laughter as the frost and partaking of the grimness of infallibility. It was the masterful and incommunicable wisdom of eternity laughing at the futility of life and the effort of life. It was the Wild, the savage, frozen-hearted Northland Wild. —White Fang by Jack London

Among other public buildings in a certain town which for many reasons it will be prudent to refrain from mentioning, and to which I will assign no fictitious name, it boasts of one which is common to most towns, great or small, to wit, a workhouse; and in this workhouse was born, on a day and date which I need not take upon myself to repeat, inasmuch as it can be of no possible consequence to the reader, in this stage of the business at all events, the item of mortality whose name is prefixed to the head of this chapter. —Oliver by Charles Dickens

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way—in short, the period was so far like the present period, that some of its noisiest authorities insisted on its being received, for good or for evil, in the superlative degree of comparison only. —Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens

Far out in the uncharted backwaters of the unfashionable end of the Western Spiral arm of the Galaxy lies a small unregarded yellow sun. —The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams

High, high above the North Pole, on the first day of 1969, two professors of English Literature approached each other at a combined velocity of 1200 miles per hour. —Changing Places by David Lodge

I’ve always had the feeling that the first page should somehow contain the whole book in nuce, that it should symbolize important things about the book, and this requires a great deal of calculation. —Alan Hollinghurst

You don’t actually have to write anything until you’ve thought it out. This is an enormous relief, and you can sit there searching for the point at which the story becomes a toboggan and starts to slide. —Marie de Nervaud

I do not over-intellectualize the production process. I try to keep it simple: Tell the damned story. —Tom Clancey

Written by The UnNovelist
The Unnovelist