In Chapter 4 of the Dynamics of Reporting & Writing, we talk about how a narrative open can be valuable to putting the readers in the right frame of mind or helping to draw a “word picture” for them. The goal is of any one of these things is to make the readers feel like they are right there, seeing what the words are describing.
The example we created for the book pales in comparison to this real narrative opening that Tisha Thompson and Andy Lockett wrote in “I Just Wanted To Survive.” Give this a read:
Niko Kollias watched his blood swirl down the bathtub drain. There was so much. And it was coming from so many places. His head. Both of his legs. And the gaping cuts where they had sliced the webbing between his toes.
Even more blood was coating the clothing iron sitting on the sink. He didn’t know where they’d put the hedge clippers; he was just glad they were gone. He could still see the roll of duct tape nearby, covered with the bloody fingerprints they’d left behind when they taped his hands and feet together before slamming the rebar and heavy metal pipes down onto him, over and over again. His khaki pants and ripped University of Rochester Football T-shirt sat crumpled in the corner, the blue and yellow of his college colors turning brown as his blood began to oxidize in the fabric.
Kollias wanted to take off his ACL brace, the one he’d been wearing after knee surgery for a recent football injury. He wanted to clean it and his skin underneath. But he worried that if he pulled the brace apart, his leg might actually fall off. His femur was shattered; he’d felt it explode after they shot him there when he tried to run. He didn’t realize they’d also shot him in the calf of his other leg. He could no longer feel that leg and couldn’t see it because so much blood kept pouring into his eyes from his scalp, over which they had smashed a long, fluorescent lightbulb. It was only then, when the blood just wouldn’t stop from that last blow, that they halted their attack and threw him in the shower.
He could hear the men in the room next door, laughing, smoking weed and maybe still wearing those terrifying plastic masks.
But who were they? Kollias didn’t know. He could see only their eyes through the masks when they attacked him. He couldn’t even see their mouths move as they screamed for revenge. As he sat in the folding chair they’d put into the grimy shower, Kollias, a 6-foot-1, 215-pound University of Rochester senior defensive end, realized he had no idea where he was, who the men were or even what they wanted from him. All he knew was that they had shot and then beaten him for more than three hours.
As he sat there in the shower watching his blood pour down the drain, Kollias had no idea that it was all connected to his football team. And he had no way of knowing that the torture had only just begun.
To finish reading this story of survival, head here.