1. M.S. Gabrielle
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    M.S. Gabrielle New Member

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    Best way to start a story

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by M.S. Gabrielle, Nov 15, 2015.

    I'm an amateur writer at best, despite making countless stories (that I've never finished) in the past. I'm a harsh critic towards myself, you see.

    I've recently decided on starting a novel, maybe a trilogy. I want to finish it as well. But I find myself unable to make a proper opening. I do not want to start out flat or make a cliche introduction.

    I plan on making an action/adventure novel wherein the protagonist, a bubbly yet determined girl, is introduced with some... flair? She isn't optimistic, per se, but she does have quite a lot of exuberance and edge to her, but can be analytical and serious when the situation calls for it.

    Every time I try to think of a suitable introduction I always hit a dead end. I have everything roughly planned out, but the opening is where I am struggling with. I really do want to hook the readers to the story as they read the first few pages.

    What do you suggest?

    Your opinions and suggestions do not have to be specific, I just need an outline or idea of what to do.

    Thank you very much!
     
  2. DefinitelyMaybe
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    DefinitelyMaybe Contributing Member Contributor

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    When I was asking myself the same question as you, I went to a library and spent hours reading the first pages of many books from many different genres. The same can be done using "Look Inside" on Amazon.

    Ask yourself: which of these starting paragraphs would make you want to read the rest of the book. How much detail they contain. Whether they start in the middle of the story or somewhere else. Whether they start with a static or active scene. Etc. Look for patterns that you feel make a good start to a story, and then try to think how you would do something similar for your own stories.
     
  3. NigeTheHat
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    NigeTheHat Contributing Member Contributor

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    So this is going to be pretty vague, because without some idea of what's going on in your story it's hard to suggest much, but text-wise I usually say start with a bang. This doesn't necessarily mean action - it could be a joke, it could be simmering tension, it could be a sentence so fucking beautiful it makes your reader's heart jump - but give them something interesting. It doesn't need to be so grabbing they commit to your whole book right there, but you at least need to get them to the next paragraph, the next chapter.

    But here's another, possibly more useful way to answer your question.

    The best way to start a story is later. The opening's not coming to you. Not a problem. Go write a different bit. You don't have to write from beginning to end, so write the scenes you've got clear in your head and come back to it later. Often you'll feel more inspired once there's some words already on the page.
     
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  4. Steerpike
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    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    If the opening is tripping you up, I think you should just go ahead with a starting point you've chosen and start writing the story. As you go through the writing process, the story may start to congeal a bit more and you may find a place that really works great as an opening to the story. Then you cut what you've written up to that point and you have your start.
     
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  5. peachalulu
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    peachalulu Contributing Member Reviewer Contributor

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    Maybe take it from some turning point or soon to be turning point in the mc's life? Think in terms of answering the basics - who, what, where, when, why and how. They don't have answer all the story questions but just lay the ground work for the scene you're about to plop the reader into.
    Ask yourself some questions - how do you want the reader to see the mc first off? What setting do you want to begin with? - Sometimes you can have things do double duty - when you pick a highschool classroom to set the scene in it informs your reader your mc is a highschool student, when you set it in a castle you're telling your reader it's fantasy. What mood do you want to set?
    Also never worry about getting the first scene, first draft right. You just want to get words on the screen/paper.
     
  6. Gisella_M
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    Gisella_M Member

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    This may seem basic but where does your plot start? What is the spark that ignites the story. Start here. If it's an action story then I think the start needs to contain action. As other people have said, just start somewhere, it may well not turn out to fit your story but in all likelihood you won't know this until you've written your story. Rewrites are wonderful things.
     
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  7. outsider
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    outsider Contributing Member Contributor

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    In relation to the OP's thread title, at the beginning, I find.
     
  8. tonguetied
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    tonguetied Contributing Member Contributor

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    Does anyone know where their story begins until it is finished? I have never completed anything more than a very short story but I bet there are lots of long term members on this forum who have written their story(ies) and when they were into the draft stages decided to shuffle the deck or even realized that they needed to back up further in the story timeline to really get it started properly. As the others have said, just write what you have in mind and worry about how it begins as the complete story unfolds on 'paper', it will just come to you when you see it.
     
  9. Selbbin
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    Selbbin I hate you Contributor

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    You don't have to start at the beginning.

    By that I mean that the beginning, or opening, to your book may be the first thing a reader reads, but it's not the first thing you need to write. Stories don't have to be written in a linear fashion. You can create all the bits and fit them together later. Many writers start with the end, so they know where they are going. Many people that write in a linear fashion are doing 'role-playing' writing, where they go on adventures in their as they make it up and then write it down. That can work, but so can planning.

    If you can't write a good opening yet, don't, or write a crap one and fix it later. It won't matter how good it is until other people read it anyway.
     
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  10. Haze-world
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    Haze-world Senior Member Supporter

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    Deciding where to begin my WIP was challenging, including whether it would be action packed or not. I rewrote the beginning, including a large number of chapters a number of times, then followed some advice: write the story from the beginning, including the boring stuff and once you've completed it, the true/ideal beginning will stand out clearly. Now ive finished the first draft this has worked for me I know the nature of the first chapter and the location within the story. i will have to rewrite lots anyway, but it will be with a clear focus.
     
  11. ddavidv
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    ddavidv Contributing Member

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    I wrote the first chapter of my first book with a scene in a hospital where the MC's father had just died. The next chapter I had take place at the cemetery after the funeral. I then proceeded to write the entire rest of the book.

    When I finished the first draft and re-read the first two chapters during editing I plainly saw that the story did not need Chapter 1. I could start it with Chapter 2 just as easily, and it was more effective as an opening and as a hook to the reader.

    My point: don't dwell on getting it right on the first go. Write something, then move on. It's not written in stone. You can always go back and change it or in my case delete a whole chapter. :)
     
  12. sprirj
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    sprirj Contributing Member

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    I thought I knew where and how my book was going to start. I thought it was the best bit and most interesting part of my book, but as I wrote, I changed it, and my start became chapter two. Then I wrote some more, and added a new first paragraph to my opening, then I moved my opening to the middle of the book, and changed the start completely. Now I'm thinking of removing the original opening from the book altogether.

    Let thing develop naturally. I don't think anything is set in stone and I don't see writing and editing as two seperate tasks. For me it is all the same.
     
  13. GuardianWynn
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    GuardianWynn Contributing Member Contributor

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    I struggle with this too, but if I could phrase advice. I think it would be the following.

    What action starts the plot? Take that moment, and back it up one day. That way we can see one day of the MC's "Normal" life before the plot starts forcing her into situations she may not like.
     
  14. AASmith
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    AASmith Contributing Member

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    As others have suggested, read. Re-read the first couple of pages of your favourite book and see how those writers start their stories.
     
  15. Sack-a-Doo!
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    Sack-a-Doo! Contributing Member Contributor

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    It's best not to concern yourself with finding the best opening paragraph right now. Just write the story. Deal with finding the perfect opening during rewrites.

    The biggest question you have to answer is: can I stay the course and write an entire novel? All other issues are secondary for now.
     
  16. DefinitelyMaybe
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    DefinitelyMaybe Contributing Member Contributor

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    AASmith and NigeTheHat like this.
  17. LemonadeLover
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    LemonadeLover Member

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    I did exactly this for the opening of the novel I'm currently working on, although tried to stick to the same genre. It's a great idea for a starting point to get you past those difficult first few paragraphs and start writing.
     
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  18. T'Gatoi
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    T'Gatoi New Member

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    I personally use these guidelines for when making a first(or first couple of) chapter.

    1. Make the opening line memorable. Or the opening first paragraphs.

    2.Introduce the main characters of your story. I usually only start with the protagonists, antagonists come later. Make your main character likable and sympathetic. This is important as you want your reader to stick with this character throughout the entire story so you want their hardships and triumphs to matter. What do they want? What do they love, hate?

    3.Set the tone. If it's a light story, make it light. If it's a dark murderous gory story make it so. Let your reader know what they're in for early and stick with it.

    4.Set the rules of the world and the geography. This is especially important in fantasy and scifi. It's sometimes hard to get a good balance between telling too much and too little, but it's generally important to get these figured out early.

    5.Introduce the conflict/possible antagonist. Introduce the main source of tension early. We don't have to know all about it at first, just that whatever it is, it's no good.

    6. What is the inciting event? What is the event that takes your main character from their normal life into the conflict? What stakes do they have in it? What will they gain, what will they lose? This doesn't have to be introduced right away, just early

    These are all things that a first chapter should probably be doing; but don't worry about getting them all perfect in one go. The most important thing to remember is this: your first draft of anything is always going to be really crappy. I don't care who you are. Don't be worried about making it beautiful, worry about getting to know everything you can know about your characters and their world and it can be made pretty later :^) the age old adage goes: don't get it right, get it written
     
  19. Lew
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    Lew Contributing Member Contributor

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    Depending on whether you are a planner or discovery writer. I am a discovery writer, and I did not yet know my characters well enough to write a good opening. My original first paragraph was to introduce two of my characters, get a feel for what they were like, and the feelings about being in a very strange place. It was really a character sketch for my own use, though I didn't understand it as such. The next chapter cut back to the beginning which was how they got set out on their way, and that was retained.

    I ultimately dropped the first one, a flash forward, to a hundred year flashback that set the stage for how there came to be Latin/Chinese translators: Battle of Carrhae in Syria 55BC, Roman survivors taken to China, ultimately settled Gansu, the account is fictional but is believed to have actually happened. Their descendants grew up bilingual and used as translators for the Chinese mission to Rome (actually happened also, but may or may not have made it all the way).

    Bottom line, is don't worry about writing the perfect first chapter... just write something down, you can't finish until you get started. When you are done, you will understand your characters much better and may find some twist in their life that set them on their way. A novel of a thousand pages begins with the first page, so take that step and don't put it off.
     
  20. Aaron Smith
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    Aaron Smith Contributing Member Contributor

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    I like to start my stories with a beginning in which the main character(s) is in distress.
     
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  21. Siena
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    Siena Active Member

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    You can focus on a few options:

    The theme and how it is going to be shown throughout

    Character change

    The journey (thewritersjourney.com, kalbashir.com)

    But there is no one way to start - my present work started from a couple of inspired scenes. But it has developed into a proper story as a result of considering the theme, the character's journey and change.
     

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