1. Torana
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    Torana Contributing Member Contributor

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    Advice needed

    Discussion in 'Plot Development' started by Torana, May 26, 2007.

    I have been writing short stories for a while now and have been helping a friend out with a novel that she is writing.

    But the problem that I always come up against is how to begin my short stories. I have never been able to write a successful beginning to any story and was wondering if anyone could give me some tips or advice with how to begin a story.

    The last one I started just jumped straight into the action, is that a good thing or a bad thing?

    I would really appreciate some advice as I have a piece that I have been working on that I recently have let a friend of mine read over and he has told me that it is good but the beginning sounds more like it is the second chapter to a book rather than the beginning.

    Thankyou kindly
    ~Torana
     
  2. adamant
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    adamant Contributing Member Contributor

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    Eh, this is a difficult area for me as well. I usually try to start out in an action scene as well -- to draw in the reader. However, it's hard to say if you're going too far without actually having any of the manuscript (or what you're even writing about and the genre).

    One way I've read about is to "watch" the protagonist in somewhat of an everyday activity. This would aid in showing the world s/he is immersed in, and also showcase the magnitude of the life-changing event, assuming there is one.

    [Go to my thread on dialogue in the the creation/novel thread and leave some feedback! :)]

    ad·a·mant
     
  3. Torana
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    Torana Contributing Member Contributor

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    Thanks adamant that does help a bit.
    When I have the courage I will post up part of the piece I am working on and see what everyone thinks, it is just I have never shown my short stories off at all until the other day...:S

    I will go take a look at your thread now and give you some feedback lol :D
     
  4. Crazy Ivan
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    Crazy Ivan Contributing Member

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    In media res, or starting in the middle of the action, is considered a GREAT way to start stories. It's intriguing, and it pulls the reader in. Just be sure you can have it make sense without being overly expository.
     
  5. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    there's no best way to start any story... what works best for one won't necessarily work best for all...

    what you need to do is read lots of the best short stories by the best writers of all time and see how they did it... after reading/studying/absorbing enough of the best, you should be able to judge how best to start your own...
     
  6. Onoria Westhrop
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    Onoria Westhrop Contributing Member

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    I'll have to limit my comments purely to personal taste on this one.
    When I read a short story, I like it to establish a tension of some kind between characters as quickly as possible. There's a lot of discussion about how best to "hook" a reader. I think there can be a temption to make this tension too grand, or to include a lot physical activity that is hard for the reader to follow. I like a story that draws me in with clear, easy-to-follow descriptions of a scene which portrays people interacting and establishes some kind of dilema or problem, even if that problem isn't the main problem that achieves resolution throughout the work. I suppose I like a prelude before the fugue...
     
  7. Torana
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    Torana Contributing Member Contributor

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    Crazy Ivan thankyou kindly, your advice and comments really do help me out.

    Maia thankyou kindly, I will definately try that approach and see how I go with it.

    Onoria thankyou kindly for your advice and comments, they do help me out.

    I really do appreciate you all taking the time to offer me some advice with this. It really does help. :)

    ~Torana
     
  8. TWErvin2
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    TWErvin2 Contributing Member Contributor

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    Torana,
    With a short story, you're limited in words. beating around the bush (so to speak) takes away from the # of words you can use later on...may be one way to look at it--as many markets have word limits, and often state that stories on the low end of the spectrum have a better chance than longer ones.

    Starting in the "action" can mean a lot of things, but it should mean that introducting the conflict or getting to the meat of the plot should follow pretty quickly.

    As Mammamaia indicated, there is not one right way to start a short story. However, the story should hook the reader early on as possible. Some would advocate doing this in the very first paragraph. Crazy Ivan's suggestion of "starting in the acton is great" very often works, and is sound advice, I think. But like anything else, not a blanket true statement. However, I think the first lines, if not paragraphs, should at least orient the reader and give them the direction the action is taking.

    If you read enough short stories, you may find examples and trends, and it may inspire and help to find what works for you with the story you're working on.

    Terry
     
  9. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    here's a handful of great opening lines from a variety of mediums... see how many sources you can identify:

    "I had this story from one who had no business to tell it to me, or to any other."

    "They're out there."

    "Behold the fat man."

    "Come into my cell."

    "It was the best of times, it was the worst of times."

    "In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth."

    "In the middle of the journey of our life, I found myself in a dark wood."

    "Call me Ishmael."
     
  10. Crazy Ivan
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    Crazy Ivan Contributing Member

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    Ermm...I got the Bible, and the three D's: Dickens, Dante, and 'Dick, so to speak...but beyond that...hopeless.
     
  11. Torana
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    Torana Contributing Member Contributor

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    TWErvin2 thankyou kindly for your tips and advice, it really helps me out with this.
     
  12. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    sorry, ivan!... here's the rest:

    "I had this story from one who had no business to tell it to me, or to any other." ...erb's 'tarzan of the apes'...

    "They're out there." ... kesey's 'nest'...

    "Behold the fat man." ...david finkel in the st. pete times...

    "Come into my cell." ...walker percy's 'lancelot'...
     
  13. Sophronia
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    Sophronia Member

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    Sometimes it's hard to find inspiration to write a story (hence the dreaded writer's block), but one thing you could try is when something comes to mind, write it down. It could prove useful later on.
     
  14. Alice in Wonderland
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    Alice in Wonderland Contributing Member

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    I like to put a lot of description in the beginnings of my short stories... That's sometimes why I don't finish them or when they turn into continuous stories that I don't finish. xD
     

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