The all important opening scene- part 2

Last week I wrote about how opening scenes work, and showed some early roughs of the opening scene for Last Viking.

I tried various options that didn’t quite work, which helped me become clearer about what I wanted the opening scene to achieve. It needed to do several things:

  • Introduce Josh and Wolverine, and show the closeness of their relationship (who)
  • Show that Josh is a creative, imaginative and resourceful kid (who)
  • Introduce Josh’s problem (fear) and have the reader empathise with his feelings (what)
  • probably show Josh in his room- night-time would be easiest to show fear, but daytime would be easiest to show Josh and Wolverine playing (where, when)

So with those things in mind, I kept sketching. I did a little set of thumbnails where the double page spread would have two panels. One would be big and dark, showing Josh’s room at night time. Josh and Wolverine are visible only as silhouettes, seen in a cubby made from a blanket. The bulk of the text would relate to this panel and go in a column at far left. The thinner panel on the right would show Josh and Wolverine poking their heads out from the cubby the next morning, with the line, “But other than those things, Josh is as brave as a lion” written close by.

p2-3-v8-roughsHere’s a bigger version with some tone added. There is still a silhouette of a dinosaur on the far wall. Josh’s skateboard is on the floor next to Wolverine’s cushion.


I liked the dramatic extreme perspective, but there was a problem- part of cubby house could disappear into the gutter at the centre, where the pages fold in to the spine of the book. The gutter would be directly in the middle of the image- about where the left side of the cubby is.

So I tried some variations. Here Josh is still curled up in the doona, but his whole face is visible. The dinosaur silhouette is back, and the branches in the window are meant to outline a ghostly face. Like one of the first sketches I did, this was too obvious and not subtle enough. But I really liked the light coming through the window, and I liked making the left-hand panel extend over the gutter. p2-3-v10_2-text

In this variation, the two panels form a continuous view of Josh’s bedroom- half at night, half in daylight.  I liked the idea of continuous backgrounds in panels, and used it elsewhere in the book, but here it was a little unclear what was going on. The gutter slots directly between the two panels.


Here’s a different angle of the first version above- slightly higher viewpoint, and Josh’s bed goes across the window like it did in the first sketches. The cubby doesn’t go as close to the gutter now. I’ve added in a treasure chest and a chest of drawers, the same as I had in my bedroom when I was Josh’s age.


I like this extreme perspective, but Wolverine is going to fall into the gutter in this picture.


I came back to this view of his room, but moved the viewpoint. I liked showing his empty bed, and the window and the treasure chest. But I wanted an extreme perspective.


By this stage I’d tried a few extreme viewpoints from ground level- what if I tried a bird’s eye view?

I’ll show you next week how it turned out.

Author: James Foley

James makes books for courageous kids. He’s the author/illustrator of the S.Tinker Inc graphic novel series for middle primary: Brobot (2016), Dungzilla (2017) and Gastronauts (2018) star Sally Tinker, the world’s foremost inventor under the age of twelve, and Joe Tinker, her stinky baby brother. The fourth in the series, Chickensaurus, is out in late 2020. He is also the illustrator of the Toffle Towers series written by Tim Harris. James’ earlier books My Dead Bunny (2015), In The Lion (2012), The Last Viking (2011) and The Last Viking Returns (2014) have all scored several honours, including children’s choice awards, shortlistings in the Children’s Book Council of Australia Book of the Year awards, and selection to the International Youth Library’s White Raven list. The sequel to My dead Bunny - There's Something Weird About Lena - is out in late 2020. James comes from a long line of queuing enthusiasts. Follow him on FB/twitter/insta/youtube @jamesfoleybooks, or at .

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s