1. J.D. Rand
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    J.D. Rand Member

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    Best way to start my story?

    Discussion in 'Plot Development' started by J.D. Rand, Apr 29, 2011.

    I've got a sci-fi novel in the works, and I'm not sure how I should start it off. Basically, the main plot of the story is set in motion long before the events of it occur.

    Here's a rundown of the plot; in 2190, it has been 130 years since humanity has successfully colonized other worlds out in space, and developed technology to the point where interstellar travel is practical, rather than merely possible. In that time, they've come across and allied themselves with (though not joined with) a semi-galactic coaliton of species and governments united with the cause of securing peace and stability throughout the galaxy, whom I'm currently calling the Federation until I'm inspired to come up with something more original.

    However, the coaltion isn't the only group out in space, and one of them, a single-species empire, with the species heavily resembling bipedal lizards I'm currently naming the dragonians, that is run by a belligerent, dictatorial government, happens to have close borders with human territory - territory that is rapidly expanding. Inevitably, a human patrol group runs into a dragonian patrol group out in space, and an ensuing battle nearly decimates both groups, who then flee back into their respective territories. [This event right here, is one of the scenes where I could start my story.]

    The response from the human population is that of widespread panic, fueled greatly by a declaration of war from the dragonian empire shortly after the incident. As their military forces begin mobilizing for war, their central government presents their case very openly to the rest of the galaxy, perhaps in a very biased light - a budding spacefaring civilization that was attacked without reason by a species hyper-focused on conquering the whole galaxy. In outrage, the Federation, and other groups who were adversaries with the dragonians, side with humanity to form a massive join-species fleet, and rush to the offensive.

    With more than half of the known galaxy turning against them, the dragonian empire is thrown into a state of complete disarray, and their military might is eventually decimated. Under the suspicion that the dragonians were building a planet-killer to turn the tide of the war, the join-fleet used that as an excuse to assault every single dragonian-owned planet. Whole worlds are outright abandoned as billions in total end up fleeing back to their homeworld, which quickly suffers from overcrowding, along with the severe side-effects of it.

    By the time the joint-fleet is amassed in orbit above the dragonian homeworld, their world is already in a state of near-apocalypse. Severe resource shortages, mass riots, even full-blown wars spring into being, and the ruling family formerly in charge of the empire slips into hiding amidst the chaos. The state of the planet itself degenerates from near-pristine into barely better than a giant junkyard.

    Long story short, the war is over, and humanity, since it was their war to begin with, is tasked with managing the now-leaderless species, and 'rehabilitating' them.

    Cut to 2784, six centuries after the war, and the dragonian homeworld has mostly returned to a healthy condition. The same can't be said for the species itself. On their homeworld, the dragonians' culture has been completely wiped out, and most of the planet's citizens find themselves in varying states of destitution. Many of them have a lifelong goal of simply being able to find a home off-world.
    The management of the homeworld has long fallen into the hands of a prominent mercenary group, who was more than willing to be tasked with it once the central human government decided their military should be more focused on other, more productive ventures. 'Management' has gradually become 'occupation under martial law' ever since.

    The other choice for a starting point for the story lies with the mercenary group's discovery of the descendants of the ruling family that once led the dragonians, and their subsequent classification of those descendants as threats. As teams of assassins are being readied to quietly exterminate the descending families, the decision catches the notice of the Federation's espionage network, and a private meeting is held between the leaders of the respective civilizations affiliated with the Federation [which is the other potential starting scene], where it is decided that the descendants of the ruling family, now no more than second-class citizens at best and clearly in no position to form a rebellion, were to be extracted offworld.
    After that, the story follows the perspective of the descendants who are fleeing from the assassins, and the special forces unit tasked with making sure they survive.

    Basically, should I start my story off with a war and jump to the main plot afterwards, or should I start off with the meeting that holds much more immediate relevance to the main conflict of the story (or at least fleshes it out much more clearly), while still providing exposition on the war through character dialog?
     
  2. JMTweedie
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    JMTweedie Senior Member

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    It's up to you really. Either way could work okay.

    I like to start quietly, then pick up the pace and excitement towards the end. A battle scene very early on might spoil the rest of the book.

    I usually start with my ending, how do I want it to end? What is my final scene? What do I want to achieve with this novel/story? Most importantly - what emotions do I want to give my reader?

    Is your ending good, bad or bittersweet?

    I have a good satisfying ending to mine with an opening to the next novel in my series.

    How do you know how you are going to get there if you don't have a goal? Applies to anything in life really.
     
  3. TheSpiderJoe
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    TheSpiderJoe Senior Member

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    I really like your concept. It sounds like an interesting development that will unfold into something pretty amazing.

    I'm not sure how this will go as far as "advice" is concerned, but if I were you I would open up the prologue with the war in progress. Get some gritty and disturbing details locked down and then end the chapter with the war's ultimate conclusion. Start the next chapter as if the war was ancient history and then you could follow it with exposition about the previous war through character dialogue as you suggested.

    That's what I would do if I were in your shoes. Good luck!
     
  4. Jessica_312
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    Jessica_312 Contributing Member

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    Wow, I really like the concept of this story! I don't think I'm going to be much help because I think either "starting" option could work. Me personally, I like to start off a bit slower and work up to the action, but starting off the story with recounting the war (ultimately back story, but being told as current action), could work as well.
     
  5. J.D. Rand
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    J.D. Rand Member

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    Well, luckily for me, I've made sure to know how the story ends. Currently, it's supposed to end bittersweet, yet still satisfying (something I learned about ending a story: always end it in a way that has the reader put it down feeling like it was worth it.) It's a little funny about how I came up with this story; when I was first planning my series, the events of this, the first novel, were originally meant to simply be backstory for what used to be a minor character.

    As for the emotions I aim to convey, it's the myriad of emotions that comes with being forced to flee your home from a government that wants you dead, that comes with the prospects of actually being given a chance to leave a dead-end home and strike out towards the unknown with a bunch of people you've never met before this. Fear, sorrow, exitement, nostalgia, anger, joy - I'm trying to catch as wide of a spectrum of emotions as possible. I never did like stories that seemed to be stuck in one emotion. (Like Mockingjay. But then again, that book is on my list of examples of what not to do when writing a story.)
     
  6. JMTweedie
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    JMTweedie Senior Member

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    I've had another think about your story and I'm leaning towards starting with the battle scene. As a reader I think I would enjoy seeing the battle in my mind rather than have a character recount it. Sounds like something I would read, hurry up and finish it so that I can. :)
     
  7. JimFlagg
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    JimFlagg Contributing Member

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    Kind of interesting. My current story is also based in the future and there is a War that is just starting. The War is not the story I want to tell but it sets up the stimulus for the story I am trying to tell. One of my major plot points is where the main character has to make a choice to join the military or not. I chose to put a battle in my chapter 2 because it hooks the reader and gives them something entertaining to read while waiting for the main plot to build.

    I said all that to say, "Put it in."

    P.S...

    "always end it in a way that has the reader put it down feeling like it was worth it."

    You're one of those Poe readers aren't you.
     
  8. drayelya
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    drayelya Member

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    The entire concept of the story is very interesting. I'd definitely pick it up and read it once it comes out. SO I'd like to say very well done, your much farther than I am for certain...

    As for a beginning it could go either way. A battle right away could spoil the book but not in most instances. I mean the book to me appears to be rather war based am I right? If not just tell me... As for a quiet start with the private meeting, that could be a great suspense builder I think. Entering a new world you know nothing about and suddenly hearing about something that happened so long ago. It could be like watching a movie like the original Stat Wars. No one really knew what happened before Luke and his story so it dragged people in to learn more. That is my opinion but ultimately its up to you. Best of luck to you...
     
  9. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    I'd start with 2784. If you depict the war, then skip six centuries before you get to the characters that really matter, then everything before that is just going to be prologue.

    Alternatively, you could do a past-and-future braided storyline, with both halves telling the story of characters that the reader cares about. But depicting a detailed past when that past is primarily the setup for the future would, IMO, be a mistake.

    ChickenFreak
     

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