Another trick ﬁlm directors use is to whip you right into a scene and then ﬁll in the details, where you are, who’s there, what’s going on, later on.
From Chapter 15 of my third book, Option to Die:
“Okay, here's what I know at the moment,” Randy said, as Veronica entered his small cubicle at the Sarasota Sun-Times just before six. “I’m waiting for a call back from the cops.”
Here’s an even more subtle example of starting on action, from Chapter 12 of Paramour by Gerald Petievich:
The phone rang. Landry reached automatically for the nightstand as he struggled to come awake. “Landry.”
“This is Sullivan. Meet me at Room 5412.”
“I'll explain when you get there.”
See? Even though that’s a scene a third of the way into the book, it started with action.
Tom Keane was looking forward to dropping into Sammy’s Sports Bar. It was a balmy August night, he was thirsty, and he had no reason to rush home. His wife attended her church meetings Wednesday nights and she didn't usually get home until midnight. He planned to catch some baseball on the tube, have a few brews, and be home by midnight.
That example goes on for another ﬁve paragraphs, describing the bar, the TV set, the other patrons, and including a brief dialog scene with the bartender that’s useless:
“What'll you have?”
“A lite beer.”
All that other stuff is just preparation for reaching the center of the scene and readers don't want to read preparation. Readers want to get right to the content.
Finally, ﬁve paragraphs in, the writer gets around to what should have been the center of the scene:
"A white wine, please,” said a sexy voice behind him. He turned to see a woman drenched in red.
Now, if the author had cut to the center of the scene from the start, it would have begun like this:
“A white wine, please,” said a sexy voice behind him. Tom Keane turned to see a woman drenched in red. It was unusual to see a beautiful woman in Sammy’s Sports Bar, but this lady in a red dress as tight as the drunk in the corner was downright amazing.
Get right to the meat of the scene. You can ﬁll in little details later:
Tom had planned to catch some baseball on the tube, down some brews, and be home by midnight. It’s not like he had to hurry home; Claire was at church. But, suddenly, he had reason to rethink his plans. Start right now and fill in later.
Above from the book NOVEL SECRETS,
available for Kindle for only $2.99: