short story..please help me with this.. write an essay on the importance of opening paragraphs of a short story in preparing the readers to understand the theme, mood, and conflict of the story.

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litteacher8's profile pic

litteacher8 | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted on

I suggest finding different short stories to use as examples. Find stories with unique examples, and describe how the beginning influences the rest of the story. Then you can make some generalizations about beginnings of short stories from there.
mwestwood's profile pic

mwestwood | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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Perhaps the most important elements of the introduction aside from the importance of grabbing the reader with one's style of sentence structure is the use of foreshadowing.  This use of subtle hints lays the groundwork for the story's verisimilitude as the conclusion is, then, logical.

brettd's profile pic

brettd | High School Teacher | (Level 2) Educator Emeritus

Posted on

A writing mentor I once had emphasized a style of introduction that worked in both short stories and journalism. "Keep your first line short", he said, "and your second line even shorter."

If they get to the third line," he continued, "you've got 'em".

I like poetry for a similar style, as it is the art of saying more with less.  When you boil away all that is unnecessary filler and conjunction, you are left with a more pure meaning.  Short stories can do this too.  The long setup is unnecessary.  We can start in the middle of a scene, a setting, a conversation, and let the reader take what they want from the story, whether we intended them to get that exact meaning or not.

pohnpei397's profile pic

pohnpei397 | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted on

I think that a good way to do this would be to use an actual example.  I really like the first paragraph of "The Cop and the Anthem" by O. Henry.  It reads:

On his bench in Madison Square Soapy moved uneasily. When wild geese honk high of nights, and when women without sealskin coats grow kind to their husbands, and when Soapy moves uneasily on his bench in the park, you may know that winter is near at hand.

From this, you can guess at a lot of the mood, theme and conflict  You can see that this is going to be a funny story (the part about the women being nice to their husbands).  You can see that Soapy, the main character, is poor.  You can imagine that the theme and the conflict will be something about his poverty.

It is important in a short story to get off to a good start with the first paragraph.  This is because the story is short and does not have time to waste, as it were.

the-judge's profile pic

the-judge | Student, Undergraduate | (Level 2) eNoter

Posted on

The importance of the opening paragraph is all to do with hooking the reader in and giving them a taste of what the story is going to be about, its selling the book in a way.

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