openings - How to open a serious speech?

I need to speak at the unveiling of a memorial plaque (this one, incidentally).I have an idea of what I want to say, and how I want to arrange it. My struggle is with the opening.I have spoken in public before - in academic settings, on fantasy/sci-fi conventions. In all those circumstances, my go-to strategy has been (introduce myself, then) "start by saying something funny". When I've got everybody laughing, I've got everybody engaged, and it helps me get over the first moments of petrifying stage-fright.This approach isn't going to work here...Read more

openings - How do you drop a reader in the middle of nowhere at the beginning of a story?

My story begins with a little girl waking up in a creepy and probably very haunted house in the middle of nowhere. She has no memories of how she got there, what happened or what the place even is, but she does remember who she is. The main goal of the character is to escape from this house and find a way back home.Is this a bad way to start the story? And if not, how should I start the story? What should I focus on the most when I throw the main character (and the reader for that matter) in at the deep end like that?...Read more