1. SilverWolf0101
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    SilverWolf0101 Member

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    Starters, How Do You Start Your First Chapter/Book

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by SilverWolf0101, Nov 25, 2009.

    Me and my sister got into a thirteen hour discussion about what's the best way to start a chapter and/or book. After some time we deicided that the topic was best discussed where the writers prowl, so I figured I'd see what other writers think.

    So here's my question:
    How do you start of a chapter and/or the book?

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    I'm not really looking for the best way to do it, I'm just curious as to how others do it.
     
  2. jlauren
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    jlauren New Member

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    I always try to start my writing with a character (usually the MC) in the middle of something. It pulls the reader in becasue they want to find out what's going on and before they knew it, they are turning page number 5 and are totally hooked.
     
  3. thirdwind
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    thirdwind Contributing Member Contest Administrator Supporter Reviewer Contributor

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    I start with a character (or characters) doing something, whether interacting with each other or with the environment.

    As for what I avoid, I don't like excessively describing the setting or backstory. That's something that can be described along the way and only if it's important.
     
  4. InkDream
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    InkDream New Member

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    Usually in the beginning somethings going on. Almost immediately. I figure if you don't grab your audience in the first few paragraphs you likely wont. So I make it a goal to either make the reader curious or give them some sort of important event. (For instance, in the piece I'm working on now my MC takes a shot to the chest in the second paragraph.)
     
  5. Irish87
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    Irish87 New Member

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    I've found death to always be a good way of starting a new story... alright, I'm being facetious. My inner Mr. Writer (like Mr. Wizard but without the television show) abhors the stereotypical intro where you meet the main character and immediately fall in love with him. Well, that's the idea at least. Nevertheless, it seems to be a common and popular way of starting a novel, so I guess it's the best.

    Personally, I like giving a reason for the main character to exist before I introduce him. Whether he's fighting off the hordes of angry mongoloids from Neptune or just some guy living through a relatively poor time in his life, he is nothing without the story/villain. Without that element of opposition he is just another schmuck selling snake oil.

    Meh, to each his own.
     
  6. Unsavory
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    Unsavory Member

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    Like Jessica pointed out, I think it's a good idea to start in the middle of some kind of action to create a hook. The action can't be frivolous however. I like it when the action represents the overall conflict of the story in a meaningful way. This can either be in metaphor, or it can be the turning point that thrusts the protagonist into the conflict itself.
     
  7. bruce
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    bruce Member

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    I'd start with a sentence that surprises the reader. :D
     
  8. WanderingStar
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    WanderingStar New Member

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    I review books on my shelf, the thought process goes a little something like this.

    "Which one did you pick up and not continue reading after the first page? Oh there you are, sneaky little guy, how did you manage to stay in my book case. Come here you."

    Flip it open. Brain drifts away to some lala land with daises and bunnies..

    "Oh crap, I was reading wasn't I? Damn, how did I end up fantasizing about Santa? Oh, there's the problem. Found it, found it. I win. Okay, don't do that in my book. Mission accomplished."

    Of course this process also works from the other side of things, choosing a book which immediately drew me in and practicing a similar technique. (I am not talking about plagiarism here just to clarify.)
     
  9. Goldie
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    Goldie New Member

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    I looked through some of my old novel-pieces (none are finished) and noticed that I most often start with dialogue of some kind. It thrusts the reader into the thick of things since dialogue is pretty dynamic. Something is almost always going on.

    With my newest endeavor, I started with .. a prologue. Yeah, sometimes it can be cheap, but I don't know how long to make it. So right now it's a paragraph and a line that gives the reader a look at what's going to happen. Then chapter one starts with the MC's sister waking her up to go shopping for their birthdays.
     
  10. architectus
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    architectus Banned

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    By placing my fingers on the keyboard.

    But seriously, I start with establishing scene and what a character or character's are doing.

    Sometimes I start with a short paragraph that foreshadows, then follow it with what I said above. Here is an example of what I mean.

    I could just as easily started with the second paragraph, but sometimes I think a starting with a paragraph like the first one is better. It just depends on the story.
     
  11. bluebell80
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    bluebell80 New Member

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    I usually like to dive right into the middle of something happening at the very beginning. I like to get the reader engaged in what the character is experiencing and put them in the middle of some sort of action/drama/suspense so that they want to continue to read on. I never start with descriptions of the weather, the surrounding background, or what the character's name or appearance is. When I read books like that I am turned off almost from the very start.

    With my current endeavor my opening line is this:
    It all started with an email.

    It's my hook line. I'm telling the story first person pov from my mc's recounting of the story in her own book, about the events that lead up to the end of the world as we know it. I jump right into the action, give some background on my character, her job, where she lives, her living situation...ect. Then she kills her best friend in self defense...all within the first 9 pages. It's probably the wildest opening scenes I've ever written and is very fast paced. The next section is going to slow down, give the reader a break, and then pick back up again. I like to do that with the pacing, fast, slow, fast, slow, fast... or full of external action, introspective voice...alternation. I don't want to exhaust the reader with non-stop action,but I don't want to bore them to death by having my character drone on like say...Bella does in Twilight.
     
  12. TWErvin2
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    TWErvin2 Contributing Member Contributor

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    I start with something happening, something of consequence to the characters. It is written to both interest and orient the reader in the story and provide a notion as to the direction it'll be going.

    Terry
     
  13. jwatson
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    jwatson Member

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    I started my most recent re-write with my main character reading some poetry. Chapters usually begin where I left off. Or, if my character is traveling to a new destination, the next chapter, instead of write every bloody thing he did on his travels, will begin with him at the destination.
     
  14. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    i'd never recommend setting a rule [or even a 'usually'] for how to start writing anything... each piece of writing should start in whatever way works best for it...

    an exception might be if one is writing a series, featuring an on-going character, where similar beginnings for the stories/books would make sense... but for anything else, i'd say don't limit yourself, or allow your writing to get stuck in a rut...
     
  15. thewordsmith
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    thewordsmith Senior Member Contributor

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    Although this was said as a joke, Irish might not be far off. An agent at a conference I attended Ohh so many years ago said, "Shoot the dog on the first page".

    Yeah. It's cruel and heartless but - boy! - are you gonna get their attention.

    The actual gist of his comment was, start with something that's going to catch the reader's attention and imagination right from the first page. If you can't do that, forget it. I've written books starting so many different ways from someone dying on the first page (Yeah, I shot the dog!), to the m.c. stuck in the middle of the muck from first paragraph, to an abstract introduction of the m.c. through a second party discussion. I have one where the entire first paragraph is two words - "Excuse me." The second paragraph find the two main characters, meeting for the first time, squabbling over who was at fault for running into whom. (It's a he and she so there are plenty of sparks in the first, 'real' paragraph which is a precursor for the entirety of their relationship. (They are about to become partners.))

    There are any number of ways to begin, you just have to figure out what works best for you in any particular circumstance.
    You know ... Whatever works!
     
  16. samessex
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    samessex New Member

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    lots of little ideas, but where to start?!

    hey all,

    firslty, must say, i have been away for a while. Work has just been completely manic and i havent had time to get on line much or do any writing.

    What i have noticed recently is, i have been having little ideas, and have been jotting them down. Also, if i am listening to music, the words, content or beat might inspire me to think of something, so i have been jotting this down too.

    Now, im just thinking i wish i had time to get cracking with writing. Its always something i have struggled with though. i have tons of little ideas, but not one big one. And i never know where to start with it all.

    theres no real question here, :p just a little babble.

    :redface:
     
  17. Atari
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    Atari Member

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    I believe that how something is written is generally a thousand times more important than what is written.
    Many people detest the background story being written in the first chapter, and most people skim or ignore prologues, and for good reason; the prologue is usually boring.

    Nevertheless, I can imagine a back story being written in such a fashion that it makes one giddy with excitement as the main character is thrust to the forefront and captioned with, "And this man will bring peace."
    It has been done too many times. Too many times, yet it is usually done poorly and with trite wording.


    Besides that, I think I would like to start my story with my main character doing something like going to an important meeting or function, maybe show him getting dressed and interacting with the people about him.
    Something that makes him seem interesting and gives him importance. A character who is important to people in the story is often more interesting to read about.

    (I speak from personal experience. Reading about a powerful, influential person is more interesting than reading about a weak, unimportant character who has no significance to anything)
     
  18. Bongo Mongo
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    Bongo Mongo New Member

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    Wow.
     
  19. Operaghost
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    Operaghost New Member

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    Most people have already told you the best advice, start it in the middle of something, it’s the best way to draw your audience in, think about the number of films which do this, the reason being that many studios will only look at the first few pages of a script , some in the centre and the end to gauge whether they wish to buy it or not, and so it has to draw them in immediately, books are the same, if the audience isn’t drawn in within the first few pages then you will lose the majority of the potential audience
     
  20. crashbang
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    crashbang New Member

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    you start it how you want. it does need something to hook them though, be it mysterious or awe inspiring or a shock or a cliffhanger.
     
  21. Lemex
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    Lemex Hey there Contributor

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    I usually have an idea and jump into it, not stopping untill I've either finnished it or got a good way into it. But that's just the first draft, and maybe 10% of my overall work input.
     
  22. candafilm
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    candafilm New Member

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    I usually like to set the tone of the story within the first few lines. The novel I am writing is a political satire so I start the book with some cynical humor. Action, mystery and humor usually are the best things to immediately draw in an audience.
     
  23. Gallowglass
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    Gallowglass Senior Member Contributor

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    I usually start with a conversation that includes a remark by one of the characters that the other doesn't like, and that's often a reference to a family member, hobby, career, or something they're not that proud of. It generates the tension, and that's usually easy to put into the conflict of the rest of the book.
     
  24. Ecksvie
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    Ecksvie New Member

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    Mine normally just come to me. I dont actually recall any situation where I've had to it and ponder on what my opening should be.

    Generally, I reference the themes and tone of the story. These are both things which will make me read a book, therefore I use the same trick to make other people want to read my books.
     

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