My favorite types of story entrances are these “bang” ones. I want to be thrown into the action immediately, get set in the tone and conflict of the story. It’s beginnings like these that keep me reading, while other entrances don’t pull me as well.

What is a “bang” entry, you ask?

The Bang: a shocking, wow factor that immediately draws and immerses the reader into the story. It’s often a high stakes action sequence or stressful scene that makes the reader engaged and interested.

The bang can come in many ways. It can be through a shocking fight scene, a whimsical chase, a tense mystery, steamy romance, or even an interesting turn on the world and cahracters. A bang is about starting your story in the middle in some sort of action, an action that either introduces the main conflict or a concept that will be vital in the story later, and is effective in drawing readers in.

Bangs are diverse, but they need five components to be a “true” bang.

Bang 1: Jump starts the story/introduce the conflict.

Bang 2: Introduces and humanizes the main character.

Bang 3: Raise the stakes…a lot.

Bang 4: Show off your best writing.

Bang 5: Leaves the reader craving more

Do you need a bang?

Some stories start off with a slow, gentle entry (examples include most things by John Steinbeck), other stories start in a mundane setting with no evident clues for what’s next. A “bang” beginning jumps the story into the throttle of conflict. Sure, the story may not immediately start in a fight scene, it starts in a moment where a conflict is being faced.

You don’t need a bang to have an interesting beginning. A lot of writers, espeically literary fiction writers, begin with a vivid description of a scene that gets the reader hooked on their writing. Others start in the middle of a rather mundane action, like Star Daughter. These are not bad hooks in any sense of the word. I do think, however, that high fantasy, action, horror, and high stakes genres do benefit from having a bang entry.

If you’re debating on whether your story would benefit from a bang beginning, consider these questions:

  1. Who is your audience? Are they use to stories that begin slowly or have a bang? This is important, because while some readers love being thrown into action, readers of other genres, like romance, may prefer a more gentle start. Also consider their age? Are they people that have a lot of time to get into stories, or are they younger and more impulsive?
  2. What is your genre? Genre is a very important component in this discussion. Different genre’s have different preferences. Read the next point for an elabortation.
  3. What type of “bang” would you use? We’ll dive into the types of bangs soon, but when you read that, consider which one you’d use. Not all readers of genres like the same bangs. Readers of fantasy, for example, tend to enjoy a good whimsical chase or interesting conflict. Readers of middle grade may prefer a more mundane beginning where the character looks more like them. Action readers may like jumping straight into a fight scene. Research what your readers like, and what your genre seems to do well with, and consider adapting that to your work.
  4. Do you as the writer think that the bang seems authentic to your story? This is perhaps the most important compenent. As the author, you must feel confident in your beginning. If there is a smidgen of feeling that it doesn’t fit, then consider tweaking it or changing it altogether. You know what’s best for your work. After all, you created it.

Now that you’ve got those questions, let’s dive into the most common types of bang beginnings!

Types of Bang Beginnings

The Bloody Action Scene

I myself did this beginning for a while, but eventually changed it. Here’s an excerpt from it though–

Varona Korinas was not going to die today. 

She had far too much to gain and far too much to lose.

Blood smelt like iron, and this arena reeked of it. Her feet rubbed against the rough, gritty mat worn from age. She looked up at the quiet audience sitting on chairs five feet above her. Paradise, the fighters called it. Somewhere up there, a scout for the Blood Battles watched keenly, deciding if one of the girls who fought today deserved their sponsorship. 

At least that was the rumor.

Varona Korinas was also not about to let that opportunity slip out of her fingers. 

“Puta!” A man screeched, his fingers peeking through the holes in the fence. While there was a tranquil and wealthy audience watching from the balcony, the ground scene was far more vile.

Varona leaned her head on the fence separating her from the people below. Another typical day in the ring: coarse men who smelt so badly of soot it nearly canceled out the metallic aroma from the blood stains. They barked and yipped at each other, their knuckles blackened from long days in the petroleum mines. 

Her fingers curled around the holes in the fence, wanting to pry it open. It took significant restraint for her not to tear the tightly knotted wire, cut through the crowd and race towards the exit and out of the warehouse until only the wind chased after her. 

But there were things to be done. Far more important things than freedom.

Excerpt from my novel in progress, Of Suns and Spirits

I personally love that beginning, but it was too polarizing for my audience, which mostly consisted of YA readers and teenagers. They felt both unsettled and startled by the chapter, and while they kept reading, it didn’t start the book of with the best impression.

For a raw bloody action scene, though, this was effective. It hooked readers who loves action and gore in with a promise of stakes, introduction into conflict, and characterized the character well. If a hook like mine resembles the effect you want for your hook, then pursue this type of bang (but don’t plagiarize my work, it’s copyrighted.)

A great example is Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo. I remember her first scene being something shocking, like something being tested on. Then she followed with an extra bang beginning of a fight scene. That hooked me into the story.

A mundane situation of conflict

This is often the most used bang, and it’s very effective in slyly introducing an underlying conflict while showing how the character acts in a certain circumstance. It’s effective in revealing the character’s thought processes, those around them, and the world.

A Burning, written by Megha Majumadar, starts off with the aftermath of a terror attack, something that every character in the book experiences. She’s watching the news reports and responding on social media like everyone else does. Here, though, Jivan, the MC, makes an intriguing decision to post something negative towards the government. Immediately, we learn a coupel things about Jivan–she is bold, she is slightly reckless, and she speaks for what she believes in. Immediately, I’m hooked on her character and want to see how this rather normal action affects her later.

An Intriguing revelation

I see a lot of stories, particularly in mystery and crime, utalize a mysterous revelation. It is so effective in giving me that “bang” omg what just happened feeling.

For example, V.E. Schwab starts her book, Vengeful, with the line

“The night Marcella died, she made her husband dinner.”

Vengeful, V.E. Schwab

Schwab goes on and details this event (Marcella is the MC by the way). This intriguing revelation makes us think…huh, this is interesting. Then you keep reading, and reading, and reading until you can’t stop.

A clever, high stakes scene

Think of this as a larger version of the mundane situation of conflict, but the pressure is on. It’s much harder to pull off, and it’s dependent on your character. Since this isn’t the actual conflict, your character should be able to solve this issue, at least temporarily. It shows how your character deals with stressful situations, how they find ways out of it, and what they care about. What’s important here is the stakes. They should be high just so we get a glimpse of what comes next, and what the character is so desparatly fighitng for.

As humans, we love relationships, whether it be friendships, courtships, familial bonds, etc. We love them, so when you get the reader attached to the supporting characters, to the stakes, then you get them attached to the plot. You still have to get them abord with the MC, but now since they care about the stakes, they care about the story.

There are tons of more examples of “bangs,” but this blog post is more about how to accomplish them. Without futhur ado, let’s dive into HOW to accomplish a great “bang.”

Bang 1: Jump starts the story/introduce the conflict.

Some stories start off with a slow, gentle entry (examples include most things by John Steinbeck), other stories start in a mundane setting with no evident clues for what’s next. A “bang” beginning jumps the story into the throttle of conflict. Sure, the story may not immediately start in a fight scene, it starts in a moment where a conflict is being faced.

This conflict doesn’t have to be your main conflict. It can be something that worsens the main conflict, like a character hiding in a carnival to escape guards, or a bar scene where they react poorly to rejection, influenced by events in their life. Bangs need to have an interesting conflict to pull the reader in, so start in the action.

Whether your bang is small or large, it needs to have conflict at it’s center. That’s what makes it a really good bang. Conflict, whether it be a side-plot or a main plot, drives your story, your character’s choices, and your message. Great bangs use conflict to reveal one of those things about your story, so you need it for a bang.

But Riya, I don’t want to do that! I want to show off my characters in their normal life.

You don’t need a bang entry if you don’t want to have one. Bang is not synonymous with hook. A good hook could be moving to another country or hanging out with friends, but that, in my opinion, is not a bang entry. A bang entry centers around conflict and how characters react to it. It puts the reader immediately into the story and gets them hooked on the problem. It’s totally okay NOT to do a bang beginning, but just make sure you know what works best for your book!.

Bang 2: Introduces and humanizes the main character.

Every beginning of a story should introduce the main character, but bang beginnings are specifically powerful because they put your character in the middle of a decision. Nothing shows your reader more about your character’s personality than how they respond in times of conflict, stress, and pressure. It’s a great way to humanize them as well. In these instances of important conflict, we’re drawn into the story because of how interesting it is. Is your character clever? Maybe they outwit an official. Are they witty? Maybe they joke. Are they entitled? Maybe they’re denied something and make a fuss. Use this conflict to introduce us to your characters and get us attached to them.

This could be a character coming back home and being put in the middle of conflict. It could be a lover’s quarrel. It could be a murder scene. It could be in the middle of action. Whatever it is, bang beginnings are supposed to be different than the status quo. That’s what makes them bang.

Bang 3: Raise the stakes…a lot.

Stakes are perhaps the most important way of getting your readers to care about a conflict or character. What does your character have to lose in this circumstance? What will they have to lose in future circumstances. Why should I root for them? Prove to your readers that your characters have something keeping them here, something they have to lose. This could be a wife, a son, a friend, their job, their life–whatever it is, make it the similar to what they may lose in the real conflict. Show how your character fights to resist these stakes, and show why the stakes matter to them. If you succeeded at bang #2, your readers will begin caring about your MC, so they’ll care about the stakes.

Stakes elevate conflict and make it a lot more intriguing. You should have a good amount of compelling stakes that makes the reader think “woah, if something happens to them I’ll cry.”

Bang 4: Show off your best writing.

Your first chapter should feature some of your best technical writing. You can make a compelling story, character, and stakes, but if your writing isn’t vivid, immersing, and evoking to read, people may drop your work. Your bang shouldn’t just include your story, it should include your writing. Your readers should be impressed by your writing at the end of chapter 1. Your technical and stylistic writing skills should seem effortless. Think of it as the quality of the paint on a painting. When we see amazing paint, we don’t even notice, and focus on the meaning of the painting and the choices of the artist. When the paint is bad, it’s all we notice.

Show don’t tell, near perfect grammer, immersive inner dialouge, intriguing general dialouge, effortless phrasing of words and use of figurative language. Let your style and technique enhance your story, not detract from it.

Bang 5: Leave the reader craving more

Note: bang beginnings aren’t always effective in exposition, but that’s kinda the point. Your readers can get a tease, and the circumstances may be revealed as the conflict or scene unfolds, but the point is to hook them in. Leave the details for later.

After your reader finished the first chapter or section, they shouldn’t be able to put the book down. This is a great way to see if your bang worked or not. A true bang leaves them thinking 1. I love this character, 2. I love this concept, and 3. I’m already attached to this story.

Beware of the over-bang, though. You don’t want the scene to be so intensive to the point that your readers get exhausted reading it. Leave those goodies for the middle and end. The first chapter is your pitch to your readers, a promise that this is content that’ll be shown more in the book. Readers should feel interested, but not overwhelmed.

This little instagram post doesn’t go into the full realm of the “bang.” On my blog, I’ve posted a much more comprehensive, example based post about your bang

My website is linked in my bio, click blog to read more! My blog post includes: Real examples from stories, excerpts from my own pieces, and more tips relating to those 5 components of a bang.

Extra Bang Tip

This isn’t a necessity, but a great way to enhance your bang is to leave your first chapter off with a cliffhanger that builds off the events of your beginning. This keeps them like…wait, what happened? Then they’ll read the next chapter. That’s your goal.

Misconceptions about the “Bang”

It makes your story too fast paced

Just because you have a bang beginning does not mean that you’ve started the inciting incident. A bang beginning could be a conflict that is different that the main one, and a conflict that doesn’t greatly affect the story after. Bang beginnings set the tone, not the pace. Your future chapters set the pace.

I need a bang beginning to have a good hook

You do not need a bang beginning to have a good hook. I’ve read plently of books that start off with mundane, literary, and rather normal beginning (Crazy Rich Asians, A Darker Shade of Magic, Three Dark Crowns, the Selection, etc).

These are effective because it makes you interested in the characters and the world! It may take me a bit longer to get into the story, but a well-crafted hook, whether it’s a bang or not, can keep me reading.

All readers like bang beginnings

Not all readers like beginnings. A lot actually like more tamed down, smooth beginnings. Again, it’s all about your audience, genre, and type of story.

Bang beginnings have to be all out

They don’t, and in fact, shouldn’t be. Remember when I talked about the original beginning of my book, Of Suns and Spirits? It was waaaaay too much of a bang beginning, so much so that it felt more like the climax than a beginning.

Balance is super important. You want the reader to be enjoying the story, not exhausted by it. It should give them a taste of the tone, not the full deal. Leave your most rigourous, your most impactful writing, for the climax.

Moderation is key.

I hope this article helped you guys! I’d be super grateful if you could leave a comment, like, and follow my blog! I’m working on creating more content like this! Follow my instagram for aesthetic summeries of the main points! @rmcwrites.

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See you later,

Riya Cyriac

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