1. Alexander Wallis
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    Alexander Wallis Member

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    How to start a novel or any story?

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by Alexander Wallis, Jun 28, 2011.

    Every time I try and start on a novel or story, I can never figure out how to actually start it. I usually just describe the sun or moon reflecting on something, or starting off in the middle of a battle. To be frank both of those suck to me. I need advice on how to start a fantasy story. Thanks:D
     
  2. marina
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    marina Contributing Member Contributor

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    It's different for everyone. Some people start with description of the weather or the setting. Others work on a sentence that hints at and can propel the story. Or you might just start a bit further into the story, to the part that grips you or inspires you. Then track back later to build the intro.
     
  3. minstrel
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    minstrel Leader of the Insquirrelgency Staff Supporter Contributor

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    Read some fantasy stories and see how those writers do it. That'll give you some idea of how it's been done.

    Then, don't do it that way. Come up with something more interesting of your own!
     
  4. Dandroid
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    Dandroid Senior Member

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    take some time to think about an idea or large theme that you'd like to explore....picture characters in different contexts...once the sphere starts spinning, all the elements will pull into its orbit....well....hopefully.
     
  5. Venom.
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    Venom. Member

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    Usually for beginner novelists, they start with an exciting incident. A gunfight, a robbery, explosion. Something which will make the reader want to keep reading. Nobody wants to read three pages of how the rain affects every little thing it touches. Narration is only 10% of the game. :)
     
  6. EdFromNY
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    EdFromNY Hope to improve with age Supporter Contributor

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    I don't think starting a fantasy story is inherently any different than starting a story in any other genre. You want something that is going to pull readers in and make them want to know what happens next. You want to give them a reason to care about your hero.

    You can start with your hero in the middle of a conflict (not just a battle, can also be some kind of interpersonal conflict or even an internal quandry). Or it can be at a point looking forward to great things, and then lead in to turmoil (sort of like graduation day, when everything looks bright for the future, before the graduate actually has to deal with reality). It can also be some event that seems trivial, but turns out to have massive implications as your story unfolds. I vaguely recall a story, possibly by Joseph Conrad (possibly not) in which a seemingly unimportant act - throwing a drink in someone's face at a social gathering - set the character's life on a downward spiral in led him to ruin.

    I agree with Minstrel's advice, but would add this to it - after you've seen what fantasy writers have done with openings, take a look at openings in other genres to see what else is possible. Then have fun.

    Good luck.
     
  7. Daydream
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    Daydream Contributing Member Contributor

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    I wouldn't start with the weather though. It's way to cliche to start a novel like this. Best way to start a novel is with an opening paragraph that keeps the reader guessing and wanting to read more to find out what happens. JK Rowling did this quite well actually. The title of the chapter "The Boy Who Lived" alone gets you thinking. I forgot the term for such an opening but I'll see if I can find it and add it later.
     
  8. mail3diplo
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    mail3diplo Member

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    Try to make it start by having an elder telling a young kid (protagonist maybe) a story or legend that is relevant to your plot.
     
  9. SilverWolf0101
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    SilverWolf0101 Active Member

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    There is an endless possibility to how one can start a story. I myself can never seem to choose one method entirely.

    Sometimes I start with describing the world around the characters. Othertimes I start with a simple statement that can be a fleeting thought. I've begun in the middle of battles. At the end of the story then brought it back to the beginning. I've started in the middle of conversations.
    The possibilities are truly endless.

    How you start your story is left pretty much entirely to your imagination, at least to me. You definately want something that'll draw readers in and catch them on the hook.
    Even if it is just a chapter title like Daydream pointed out.
     
  10. Rex
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    Rex Member

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    I personally believe it is important to start the story with involving the main character, or the main conflict, or the antagonist. To me the beginning of a story is meant to be an introduction. You can use the beginning to introduce the recurring unknown of the story, IE mystery whether in perspective of the main character, or the reader etc etc. You can use the introduction to acclimate the reader to the setting of the story, IE time and place. No matter what is used, to me it's sole purpose is to inform the reader and prepare them for the events about to unfold. Sometimes the story starts from the beginning, sometimes from the end, or one of my favorite forms, a story already in progress.
    I once read some interesting points about the protagonist. They must be doing something. I mean we don't want to give the impression that our protagonist has simply sitting around waiting for something to "happen", our characters need to be doing something, which is normally interrupted by the main plot. When you think about it, that is how real life operates. No matter where or when you start the main story, there should always be something else that was happening.
    Just my two cents anyway.
     
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  11. WriterDude
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    WriterDude Contributing Member Contributor

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    The first line should make me want to read the first paragraph. The first paragraph should make me want to read the first page. The first page should make me want to read the first chapter. The first chapter should make me want to read the book. :)
     
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  12. Spring Gem
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    Spring Gem Member

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    Different people work in different ways, so you may have to experiment to find what works for you. For me, I start with whatever helps me get into the story even if it is describing the weather. I sometimes have to write several hundred words of fluff/garbage to get going, but that's fine because it can be deleted later. I used to get stuck in editing the beginning and never finishing. Finally, I started just pushing through to the end. With a complete first draft, I was able to see where the story needed to begin. Remember, the first draft doesn't have to be perfect so use it to discover the story, then edit to perfect it.

    Hope this helps.
     
  13. Declan
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    Declan Senior Member

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    Starting in media res (in the middle or end of things) is a good way to start a novel, although not a technique I personally favour.
     
  14. darkhaloangel
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    darkhaloangel Active Member

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    "Start at the last possible moment before the climax that will make sense to the reader"

    I've seen that advice quoted often and it seems to make sense to me.
     
  15. AmyHolt
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    AmyHolt Contributing Member

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    I love this.
     
  16. AmyHolt
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    AmyHolt Contributing Member

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    I think this is the best way to start a story. Just start it anywhere without thinking about if it's perfect or even good. After you're done with the book you'll be able to better see if you need to chop off the first chapter or tack one on.

    For me, it's so much easier to fix something you already have than come up with something from sratch.
     
  17. thewordsmith
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    thewordsmith Contributing Member Contributor

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    Remember, you want your first paragraph/page to engage the reader to the point that they will turn the page and read the next ... and the next ... and the next 60 or so pages.

    Look at it as an agent would. Does this grab me? Is it interesting? Does it draw me in? Does it tell me about the character/situation/problem/setting? Does it make me care anything at all about the character?

    You need to be able to answer 'yes' to at least half of those questions in your first page or three hundred words. And, since the sunset has nothing to do with your character or his plight, it's probably not the best place to start.

    Remember, too, not to get sucked in to a false sense of security by virtue of the fact that you know your characters so intimately. You need to be able to step outside of your writer-god mode and consider what you know vs. what your readers know.
     
  18. thewordsmith
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    thewordsmith Contributing Member Contributor

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    Epic. I would have said it but you beat me to it.
     
  19. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    I think that there's a difference between starting to _write_ a story, and the actual beginning that the reader will encounter when the story is done. I suspect that you can't really know what will be best as a beginning, until you've written the whole thing. I think that worrying about the beginning of the story, when you're at the beginnig of writing it, is generally a waste of time.

    So if your concern is how to start writing, I'd say just start writing. Go with the moon if it gives you a nice smooth feeling of entering the story. And then, when the story is written and you no longer need an easy "on ramp" to writing it, kill the moon and start with something else. Similar with prologues - if you feel that you can't start writing without sixteen pages of background and social history and family tree, write the sixteen pages. Then, when the story is done, slice them off again.

    If your concern is what the reader should experience, I think that it should be something immediate and engaging, usually action. It doesn't have to be a gun battle; it could be as simple as a small child dropping her ice cream cone and crying. But it should be vivid action that brings you into the scene. And, yep, there are exceptions, lots of them.

    ChickenFreak
     
  20. jwatson
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    jwatson Active Member

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    If I were you, I would just write and have fun with it, not worrying about the perfect way to start it. Write, have fun, and you'll be the one to figure out how to start it. If someone here suggests a nice way to start, ten bucks says in 6 months when you look back at it, you'll consider something else. That's how writing is... constant changing and changing.
     
  21. Bobbyking
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    Bobbyking New Member

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    see it inside your mind

    Another way to begin is to see it inside your mind first, like a video or movie clip. Extend the clip as long as you can and then pen it down as a first draft. This is how I start for my writing.
     
  22. MRD
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    MRD Senior Member

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    I always used to have trouble when it came to the first sentence of a story. I’d spent (quite literally) hours trying to make it as artistic as possible only to find that, even then, it wasn’t up to my perfectionist standards.

    What I kept on forgetting is that I was just writing a first draft, and that I could come back and reword (or recreate) the entire chapter later on.

    Now I start of simple, and worry about the artsy stuff later. Which is what I recommend to you. Start off with you character’s name and an action, and then write from there. It’s much easier to get into the flow of writing (for me, at least) than wasting time trying to get everything picture perfect for the first draft.

    Example:
    “John Doe sat there in silence, eating his apple pie as he pondered the...”


    Then just take it from there. Get into the rhythm of writing and everything else comes easily.
    Hope that helps.
     
  23. Declan
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    Declan Senior Member

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    I usually find that I scrap at least the entire first page, so don't sweat on getting started, in all honesty the first page is usually rubbish. Mine are.
     
  24. Daydream
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    Daydream Contributing Member Contributor

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    Just remember DON'T start with the weather xD
     
  25. Ashrynn
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    Ashrynn Active Member

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    I always start out describing the scene, though it varies.

    The story I posted here starts with "Santa Cruz General Hospital is/was...blah blah blah", yet the new story I am doing starts with a grand description of the actual area.

    Don't think I could start with a sentence!
     

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