Let's start at the end

Analyse the following example of an opening paragraph for a story based on an older person, feeling lonely and looking round the room at photographs of family.

Highlight the key features. You could highlight just the verb or the part of the sentence.

Key Features

An opening paragraph which deals with a character’s thoughts and feelings will focus on emotions and can use a variety of verbs tenses to achieve particular effects on the reader in the following ways:

  • Use of the present tense for present feelings – how you feel now
  • Use of the past tense to describe how it was before
  • Use of the conditional tense to express possibility
  • Use of the future tense for what shall/will happen

As I sit here today surrounded by the memories of the past, all I have to keep me company is the tick of the clock and the hissing of the gas-fire. I remember when this room was full of life, when I was not alone. Alex demanded his tea when he was only five and Carol chased him round and round until they were both exhausted. That boy was so full of energy! His young face stares at me from the Year Two school photograph on the shelf and I still see that boy in the man who visits me when he can. What a wonderful childhood he had – and his sister. Alice laughed and smiled with him all the time. When she left home for University we were all broken-hearted but I knew I would never regret giving her that chance of independence. Her smile is still strong – whenever I see her. She explained why she had to work abroad and we understood but I still miss her so much. A phone call helps but the last time I saw her was three years ago. I would give the world to hug her again like we did every day when she ran in from school! I am tired but the memories fight for my attention and take me back to happier times. I am sure that I shall see them both again soon and we will laugh about their childhoods!

As I sit here today surrounded by the memories of the past, all I have to keep me company is the tick of the clock and the hissing of the gas-fire. I remember when this room was full of life, when I was not alone. Alex demanded his tea when he was only five and Carol chased him round and round until they were both exhausted. That boy was so full of energy! His young face stares at me from the Year Two school photograph on the shelf and I still see that boy in the man who visits me when he can. What a wonderful childhood he had – and his sister. Alice laughed and smiled with him all the time. When she left home for University we were all broken-hearted but I knew I would never regret giving her that chance of independence. Her smile is still strong – whenever I see her. She explained why she had to work abroad and we understood but I still miss her so much. A phone call helps but the last time I saw her was three years ago. I would give the world to hug her again like we did every day when she ran in from school! I am tired but the memories fight for my attention and take me back to happier times. I am sure that I shall see them both again soon and we will laugh about their childhoods!

Now try and write your own paragraph in a similar style. Use one of the following ideas or one of your own.

  1. The victim of an accident six months into treatment, looking back at what happened.
  2. A person in prison – describing their current state of mind and reflecting on why they ended up in prison.