From 2012 to 2015 I used to post over at the old Robert E. Howard forum at www.conan.com with the username Von Kalmbach. The old forum, under the generous patronage of Fred and Jay of CPI, assembled possibly the largest gathering of REH fans the internet has ever known over the fourteen years of it's existence. I used to post REH inspired fan fiction and poetry there, and had many great conversations with fellow REH fans.
When the old forum closed in early 2016 we migrated to Jason Aiken’s new forum at swordsofreh.proboards.net, where many of the old regulars still gather. I post there on a regular basis under the username Von K.
After examining some of Robert E. Howard’s approaches to opening a yarn, in part two it’s time for a snapshot overview to show how other famous pulp and Swords and Sorcery authors have also used these eight opening elements to great effect.
1) Begin right in the middle of action, or a significant event.
2) Begin just before the action, or significant event, is about to start.
3) Begin just after the action or significant event.
4) Begin by introducing an exotic character.
5) Begin with an exotic scene.
6) Begin with a sudden, bold, intriguing, or startling statement.
7) Begin with atmosphere, a scene of danger, menace, mystery.
8) Begin with a sudden or startling discovery or occurrence.
Each author’s personal approach hopefully provides a good enough example without commentary. Even the variations in style and presentation should emphasize the ubiquity and therefore usefulness of the eight elements as a palette of options with which to craft the opening of a yarn.
Of course there’s more at work here than just these elements. Viewpoint, diction, cadence, imagery and so much more are welded together by instinct and craft into a gestalt that transcends its components. But discussing all of those other factors is way beyond the scope of this article. Examining any parts of a yarn outside of the context of the whole is like looking at the parts of a disassembled watch - it only actually works when all the gears are interlocked and turning in fine precision.