1. Nicolle Evans
    Offline

    Nicolle Evans Member

    Joined:
    May 3, 2016
    Messages:
    26
    Likes Received:
    15
    Location:
    Oswestry, Shropshire

    How to get past the beginning?

    Discussion in 'Plot Development' started by Nicolle Evans, Aug 27, 2016.

    I have so many different variations of beginnings it sends my head spinning.

    I've already written the "book" once but I wasn't happy with so many elements I decided to re-write. However I've been stuck on getting the right beginning for so long that I can't even write anything else in the book. I know the advice is to write something else in the book but I can't when I don't know how it begins as I feel it's too integral to the story.

    I know how the story goes and I know how it ends but I just can't seem to find the beginning but I don't know what to do about it? I am so fed up of being stuck - I WANT to write this but every single beginning I write is not satisfactory.

    Any help?
     
  2. IcyEthics
    Offline

    IcyEthics Member

    Joined:
    Aug 19, 2016
    Messages:
    33
    Likes Received:
    26
    Location:
    Netherlands
    The beginning is so prone to change that it's not something you should be too hung up on. Decide which are the integral factors for your story, and make sure those exist, and just start writing. In later rewrites and second drafts, the beginning is the most likely to change, as the story evolved the most from there. Your vision is going to change, and certain elements will change in importance. It sucks to not be entirely happy about something what you've written, but it's hard to write the perfect beginning without knowing where it goes, anyways.
     
  3. Lifeline
    Offline

    Lifeline The Dark - not in Wonderland Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    Oct 12, 2015
    Messages:
    1,393
    Likes Received:
    1,545
    Location:
    UK - the place betwixt and between
    A famous author (Walter Moers) gave this advice: "Sit down, take up your pen, and write 'And here the story begins...' " ;)

    I don't know how your mind works, but the beginning should be before the story starts, should engage the reader, giving him a vested interest in the MC (hint: small scale character inconsistencies are your friend there, they hint at backstory so that the reader will want to find out more *aehm, and I'll stop preaching*), show that there is some problem on the horizon plotwise.

    Only you can answer these questions, but think back to where you find tension, before the large-scale conflict starts.
     
    Lyrical and zoupskim like this.
  4. Sack-a-Doo!
    Offline

    Sack-a-Doo! Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Jun 7, 2015
    Messages:
    2,231
    Likes Received:
    1,511
    Location:
    [unspecified]
    Look to your third act. Make note of the MC's circumstances, attitudes, relationships, etc.

    The beginning should be like a mirror image of all those things, the reverse of circumstances, negative attitudes that are cleaned up by the end, relationships that don't work at first that begin to work as the story reaches an end.

    I know that's not a lot to go on and you might feel you need more in-depth guidance. I'd suggest starting by reading up on endings and how they relate to beginnings. Something like Save the Cat! might be quite helpful.

    Of course, you'll want to leave a few of these threads dangling because making too neat a package at the end can seem a bit too on-the-nose.
     
    Last edited: Aug 27, 2016
    hawls and Lifeline like this.
  5. deadrats
    Online

    deadrats Active Member

    Joined:
    Jul 7, 2016
    Messages:
    628
    Likes Received:
    291
    I have to disagree that the beginning comes before the story starts. The story should start with the story. That's what I believe, anyway.

    If you are having a hard time with the beginning, maybe you aren't starting the story in the right place. I would look at your options there and see if you can't come up with something you like.
     
    Nicolle Evans and Lifeline like this.
  6. Lifeline
    Offline

    Lifeline The Dark - not in Wonderland Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    Oct 12, 2015
    Messages:
    1,393
    Likes Received:
    1,545
    Location:
    UK - the place betwixt and between
    Yep, sorry I mixed up my words. I completely concur with your statement, sorry :meh:
     
    deadrats likes this.
  7. Ryan Elder
    Online

    Ryan Elder Contributing Member

    Joined:
    Apr 15, 2015
    Messages:
    1,607
    Likes Received:
    78
    This is just my experience so far, so I may be wrong. But in my writing I tend to come up with the 'all is lost moment' first, when structuring the plot. This moment comes somewhere between the middle of the story, and the second act climax, in a lot of three act structure theories. This seems to be the most pivotal moment, cause after all is lost, you have to decide how the main character can get out of it and resolve it. The all is lost moment not only determines how you will end the story, but it also determines how to begin it, in order to build into the all is lost moment and how.

    So if you haven't come up with the all is lost moment first, or you have but are not satisfied with it, perhaps you need to change that before knowing how to begin? But that is just my writing theory.
     
  8. Lea`Brooks
    Offline

    Lea`Brooks Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    May 11, 2013
    Messages:
    2,613
    Likes Received:
    1,714
    Location:
    Virginia, United States
    I had this same problem with one of my WsIP. So what I suggest to you is to go backwards.

    Pick the first part of your story that you know needs to happen, and keep moving backwards until you arrive at a comfortable beginning.

    For me, it was my character going to a certain location. She needed to be there... So how did she end up there? She went there voluntarily, looking for something. But her father would never let her go if she'd told him. So she had to sneak out. But what made her go at that time, on that day? She must've gotten into a fight with her dad and decided to go out of spite. So what would he have said to make her so angry?

    And so on and so forth. It might not work for everyone, but it worked for me. Start with what you know and go from there. The rest will eventually fill in.
     
  9. jannert
    Offline

    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    Mar 7, 2013
    Messages:
    7,783
    Likes Received:
    7,298
    Location:
    Scotland
    That's an excellent suggestion.
     
  10. Solar
    Offline

    Solar Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Jan 27, 2011
    Messages:
    538
    Likes Received:
    253
    Get a bunch of books and spend an afternoon studying beginnings.
     
    Sack-a-Doo! likes this.
  11. Scot
    Offline

    Scot Active Member

    Joined:
    Aug 3, 2016
    Messages:
    312
    Likes Received:
    245
    Location:
    Argyll, Scotland
    When and where does the first thing happen that is an integral part of your plot?
    Who has to be there?
    How do they get there?
    Why did they go there?
    The 'What did they do to get there" may well form the beginning of your book.

    Damn. Just scrolled back and read @Lea`Brooks' contribution. She said it all far better than me.
     
  12. EdFromNY
    Offline

    EdFromNY Hope to improve with age Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    Jun 13, 2010
    Messages:
    4,683
    Likes Received:
    2,534
    Location:
    Queens, NY
    THIS^!

    I would add that "moving backwards" means filling in what logically would have had to happen just before your point of reference.
     
  13. Malisky
    Offline

    Malisky Fuzz Overdriver Contributor

    Joined:
    Apr 11, 2012
    Messages:
    537
    Likes Received:
    536
    Location:
    The Middle of Nowhere The Center of Everywhere
    All of the above suggestions are really helpful I think, because I had problems with beginnings too and I invested in every single one of them. I studied my favorite books beginnings, I went backwards - forwards and re-winded again and again with my story, made some outlines, etc. And all this really helped but! After a while, I realized something completely different. What I had a problem with, was not the structure of the plot or my characters. This was the easy part. So easy, that I could use any of my beginnings and make them work. Non the less, I had no problem getting back to them and rearranging them if I saw fit. (I mean, cut the first paragraph off, start with the second, paste the original first as a second, completely erase third, etc). What I really had a problem with, was with the "voice". It had to be one. It had to be consistent throughout the whole book and this is a big commitment. It is unnerving.

    I have such a diverse influence of writers and voices, and on top of that I want to be able to be heard through mine. So, which is my voice? What am I going for in this story? Is it going to be dramatic? Melancholic? Is it going to be light-hearted? Maybe, I want to have some humor inside to break the ice from time to time. How do I balance all of the emotions I want to express in a single piece that is going to be so long?

    In case that this is part of your problem with beginnings, I got some suggestions that helped me out.
    1) First, think of your main character and his psychology overall. Is he a rough person? If yes, then probably your voice should not be mellow at least. If he is melancholic, then maybe the description of the environment should be like a dead nature painting.
    2) Think about why you want to introduce him this way. Why is it important for you that he/she is introduced that way? The plot can always change, but the character grows. He doesn't change. How "grown" do you want him to be from the point that you start narrating his story? Is it going to be the calm before the storm or the middle of the maelstrom?
    3) What is the conclusion of the story? Maybe you haven't figured that out yet, but at least figure out the conclusion of your first chapter. Why is it there? Where do you want it to lead? Is it a statement? Is it about injustice? Is it about misfortune? Is it about a chance? Maybe it's about expressing existential angst and it ends with a question mark. (Not literally).
    4) Now, this will sound kind of experimental and difficult, but I think that it also clears things up a bit. You said that you overall know how your story ends. Then go from the end straight to the start. Leave the in between chapters out. What "satisfaction" did you get from the ending. In order to get that "satisfaction" that you were building the whole story through, then the key should maybe lie somewhere in the beginning. I'm not speaking about the plot necessarily. I'm speaking about an emotion. The redemption. It's not only about what your character achieved, but it is also "why" he achieved it. What was his inner motivation? For example, Harry Potter is introduced lonely, neglected and weak (bullied). He ended up with a bunch of good friends, became famous and won the battle with the strongest wizard there was. Start - End. He felt good. I don't mean necessarily that there should be a happy ending. But that there is a more immediate connection between the beginning and the end than meets the eye.
    5) Put your ass down and get to work! :p (Probably the most important part). In case you can't decide but have some ideas, write them down. Still not satisfied? Write other ones down. Get them out of your head before they drive you nuts. Until you write them down, they will just keep on repeating in your head making you more nervous and confused. When you write them down, a big weight is lifted off of your chest and your mind clears up and you are more prone to be more critical about your work, because it's right there in front of you. Your mind gets unblocked and moves on to the next parts.

    Hope this helps! :)
     
    Nicolle Evans and Lea`Brooks like this.
  14. Lea`Brooks
    Offline

    Lea`Brooks Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    May 11, 2013
    Messages:
    2,613
    Likes Received:
    1,714
    Location:
    Virginia, United States
    This!

    In my fantasy WIP, I had a completely different beginning in my first draft than in my second draft. The original was a fine beginning, but it wasn't good. And the reason for this was that I hadn't properly fleshed out my character. I thought she was a Mary Sue who grew into a stronger woman, when it was really the other way around. She was irrational and hot-headed who grows into some more stable. So my beginning was very weak because it gave the reader no reason to keep reading. Who cares about a Mary Sue coming into her own? Not many people. But an unlikable character growing into someone likable? More people will read that.

    So the "feeling" of the character can be just as important, if not more so, than the scene.
     
  15. jannert
    Offline

    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    Mar 7, 2013
    Messages:
    7,783
    Likes Received:
    7,298
    Location:
    Scotland
    I like what @Malisky said about voice. Yes, that's tricky, and it's something that can certainly change as you write. As @Lea`Brooks suggested, sometimes it's because the person hasn't evolved yet. If the story is about their evolution, fair enough. If you want them more evolved at the start, though, that can be a problem.

    One trick I've discovered is to start your writing in the middle of your story, in a scene where the POV character is in full flow. Never mind how they got there, etc. Just write them as they are behaving, just then. I think you're more likely to discover their voice in a situation like that, than at the beginning. Beginnings nearly always need major overhauls during the editing process anyway, and often this is why. The character changes. Unless the character changing is the point of your story, you'll need to go back and change them—so why not start with the way they'll end up? If that makes sense.
     
    Lea`Brooks likes this.
  16. big soft moose
    Offline

    big soft moose Active Member

    Joined:
    Aug 1, 2016
    Messages:
    1,349
    Likes Received:
    945
    Just accept that the first draft is not going to be fully satisfactory - and that good enough is good enough but perfect is always a pain the arse.

    Give yourself permission to write a weak beginning, write it and move the story on, later you can return and rewrite it (or you might 'find' something in a later chapter which needs to be the beginning"

    My current Wip has had three different starts in the current iteration, and i'm relatively certain that it will change again before i'm done.

    Expecting everything to be perfect straight out of the pen is a procrastination method which essentially says because i can't write perfection i'm not writing anything.
     
  17. TheApprentice
    Offline

    TheApprentice Contributing Member

    Joined:
    May 24, 2013
    Messages:
    1,198
    Likes Received:
    154
    Alright, I got a question on this topic.

    So were I to go from what little I have written for the intro then transition quickly with literally something like "And then the mercenary company responded to Joe's application with a helicopter which landed right in front of him and took him to the island" that would be a good idea? Do other authors struggle with this same issue and get through it this way, do you think?
     
  18. EdFromNY
    Offline

    EdFromNY Hope to improve with age Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    Jun 13, 2010
    Messages:
    4,683
    Likes Received:
    2,534
    Location:
    Queens, NY
    I couldn't answer that without knowing what's in the intro. Does the sentence above flow logically from what came before? Is it believable in the context of the world you're creating or is it a cloud of smoke to allow you to figure out where you're going? The cloud of smoke can work to get you moving, I suppose, but it may create more headaches for you later on.

    I rarely struggle with getting from the very beginning to deeper into the story. My ideas about what I want to do are usually pretty firm for the early parts, fuzzier for the later parts. And that makes sense, because both stories and characters evolve as we get to know them better.
     
  19. BlessedbyHorus
    Offline

    BlessedbyHorus Member

    Joined:
    Dec 22, 2014
    Messages:
    32
    Likes Received:
    6
    To be honest if I were you I would worry about the beginning later. Like one poster said beginnings are prone to change a lot. This has happened to me many times where I had to tweak my beginning.
     
    Sack-a-Doo! likes this.
  20. Nicola
    Offline

    Nicola Member

    Joined:
    Sep 14, 2016
    Messages:
    45
    Likes Received:
    19
    Location:
    U.K
    Print out copies and ask a writers group what they expect or want the beginning to be

    Maybe interview your characters?

    Read the beginning of a novel similar to yours and do something like that.
     

Share This Page