1. historymom
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    historymom Member

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    Begin at the beginning?

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by historymom, Sep 5, 2015.

    I really couldn't tell you why, but I find it next to impossible to begin a story at the very beginning. Maybe I should clarify that: I can never think of a beginning. I have no problem launching into a plot line somewhere in the middle and tell myself that I will invent a beginning later on when I know my characters better. Does anyone else have trouble with this? I'd love some pointers on how to construct a quality intro that pulls the reader in immediately but doesn't reveal the entire plot in the first couple of paragraphs.
     
  2. Mumble Bee
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    Mumble Bee The writer formerly known as Chained. Contributor

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    No writer is ever excited about the beginning of the story; its the foreplay of writing. But you have to get the reader in bed so put on some smell good, wear your best, and lie. ;)
     
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  3. Steerpike
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    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    You can start in the middle of the action. It's a viable option, and plenty of books do it.
     
  4. Inks
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    Inks Contributing Member

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    I began with the creation of the universe without a prologue, introduction or information dump.

    Beginning at the beginning is hard, but also rewarding.
     
  5. RevGeo
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    RevGeo Member

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    Write the good part first. You know - the part that sounds really cool to you. It may be the beginning, the middle or the end. You'll know where it goes.
     
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  6. OurJud
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    OurJud Contributing Member Contributor

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    I don't really suffer this problem and always feel that what I start with will end up as the opening chapter, but I doubt this is the case for everyone. I suspect it's more common to just 'start'. Maybe what you write first will end up as the opening, maybe it won't.

    I don't think you're approaching things all that differently to others.
     
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  7. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    I think that a lot of writers start well before the beginning and then need to cut their story's head off, so your strategy may be just right.
     
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  8. OurJud
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    OurJud Contributing Member Contributor

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    How do you start before the beginning?
     
  9. Steerpike
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    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    Writers sometimes choose a starting point that is too early in time and end up with a couple of boring chapters before anything happens. Of course, you can start like that to set the scene, just keep it interesting. Modern works tend to start very near the first point of action, and as I said above many start in the middle of the action.
     
  10. Mumble Bee
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    Mumble Bee The writer formerly known as Chained. Contributor

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    I think the only o possible way to start before the beginning is to use a prologue?
     
  11. historymom
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    historymom Member

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    If Chanel and a push-up bra could outline a novel...
     
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  12. Link the Writer
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    Link the Writer Flipping Out For A Good Story. Contributor

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    I'm the same way. I can launch into a story in the middle of an action, but not at the beginning when things weren't as chaotic.

    A woman waking up in the morning to prepare her cup of coffee doesn't have the same grasp of interest as woman running from flaming unicorns that spew fire because she took a sacred gem they held dearly.
     
  13. Tenderiser
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    Tenderiser Not a man Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    Launching straight into the action is not a bad idea at all. You just have to juggle it with giving the reader a reason to care about the character right away. E.g. if you start in the middle of a battle, we need to be rooting for one side or the other to win. You could do that really easily without adding a couple of backstory chapters - maybe the main character is a 14 year old boy who didn't want to be caught up in this war and is terrified of dying. Instantly we feel sorry for him without knowing anything else.
     
  14. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    Joe wakes up, brushes his teeth, goes to school, avoids his annoying little sister who's just started as a freshman, gets through two classes, avoids his little sister again, starts to trudge home, and THEN the aliens attack. The beginning may be the aliens, or the beginning may be establishing the little sister who will be his focus because has to rescue her from the aliens, but it's not brushing his teeth.
     
  15. OurJud
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    OurJud Contributing Member Contributor

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    Ah! Got you.
     
  16. peachalulu
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    peachalulu Contributing Member Reviewer Contributor

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    My beginnings can be sort of rough. I like to launch into things but there's only been a few stories where I've really struggled to find a beginning. Usually I start the story where I want to begin writing. And my idea's themselves can have a natural starting point making the issue less difficult. For instance the novel I'm working on now is a weird psychological story about a man who is stuck in a futuristic prison in which no one gets paroled. The story has a natural start - he's put in prison. So I started the story with exposition about how he got to that particular prison, and then I started with a scene of him being transferred to the prison from a chain gang on a bus.
    I could've started in the jail but I wanted one scene of him outside of jail as slight contrast. The very last things he sees on the outside world.

    Usually I do the same thing with most of my stories I find a natural starting point where the characters are on the cusp of change and start there. Then I decide how far back I want to go before starting like for my novella Worms of Wicher-Woo - it's about a young orphan who is put in a walled garden to oversee a batch of worms that can create wonderful vases. I started with her being lowered into the garden because I wanted the garden to become the reader's world ( even though I could've started with the mc Tetty at an orphanage being chosen which would've also marked a change. )

    Opening images can also play a lot in my decision as they can stir up an idea about the players. Or set a tone. My robot story starts with the robot interrupting his owners shower and kind of embarrassing him which is weird when you know the mc is a male stripper and the robot has seen him naked all kinds of times. The idea though was to start the story with the mc being irritated with being caught vulnerable which plays a part in the overall story.

    I wouldn't worry about it too much in the first draft though, I actually chopped three chapters off a story to find a good beginning.
     
  17. GingerCoffee
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    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

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    Speak for yourself. ;)

    I've been in love with all 5 or 6 (lost count) of the first chapters I've written for the novel I'm working on. :D


    As to the OP, maybe the middle actually is the best place to begin and you mistakenly think you need more backstory in the beginning than you actually do.
     
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  18. Tesoro
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    Tesoro Contributing Member Contributor

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    I agree! The beginnings are the easiest part for me and have always been. It's not until I get to around 10/15/20K that I encounter some problems. Then I might have to rewrite them after wards but I do find it easy to get started and going.
     
    Last edited: Sep 6, 2015
  19. maydaytea
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    maydaytea New Member

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    Its an accepted strategy in short story writing to start in the middle because they're already so short it's more economical to jump right into the story instead of bothering with the foreplay.
     
  20. DueNorth
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    DueNorth Active Member

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    Just always begin, "It was a dark and stormy night..." It'll have to get better from there. :). Seriously, though, as others have suggested I come back to the beginning and do ultimately spend an inordinate amount of time on those first sentences and paragraphs--but later, otherwise I get lost in the dark and stormy night.
     
  21. Wreybies
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    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    I never start writing at the beginning. Ever. The first bits that come to me usually end up being Chapter 3/4-ish and they never serve the purpose they originally seemed to serve. The real fist paragraph of Chapter 1 comes to me later after I've warmed up to the story and the mist has settled a little. I don't think of it as trouble or a problem. It's just my writing process.

    Such is life for the nonlinear writer. :)
     

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