1. Wexeldorf
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    Wexeldorf Member

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    Style The Beginning

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by Wexeldorf, Jul 17, 2016.

    I have the basis of a story but I am unsure how to start. Not the actual plot, just the opening of the story. It starts with a meeting in a dive bar between a criminal/mercenary and an employer wishing to hire his services. But what I'm struggling with is how to set the scene.

    Do I start with a description of the area/weather first, or the mercenary who is my protagonist?

    Do I start with a bang or build from humble beginnings?

    Will too much description turn the reader off before they've been gripped or is this necessary to establish the scene?

    Is there something I'm missing in my start that I haven't accounted for?
     
  2. thirdwind
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    thirdwind Contributing Member Contest Administrator Reviewer Contributor

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    There's no right or wrong way to start a book. You should write out each scenario and see how it reads. You may choose one way for the first draft and end up changing it in later drafts. You should also consider getting the opinions of critique buddies and/or beta readers.
     
  3. Sack-a-Doo!
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    Sack-a-Doo! Contributing Member Contributor

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    Set the scene as you go along. With this being the beginning of your novel, you want to accomplish one thing: get the reader curious enough to read on.

    But to do that with description is going to be tough, really tough. So, I'd suggest you:
    • jump into the meeting (from the protagonist's POV, naturally, whether 1st or 3rd person),
    • get the emotion of the meeting going,
    • and as the characters look elsewhere around the room, introduce other elements and the environment.
    • Deal with any details of what's outside the door once the MC leaves the meeting. (although you could have one quick reference to what's out there if it will help build suspense, increase perceived danger level, or whatever)
    Even in an action thriller, it's not necessary to start with a bang (although you can if you want) but in this instance, you're better off to start with questions: Can these guys be trusted? What's the job? Who's involved? ... that kind of thing. Raise the question, hint that interesting answers will be revealed later, but do it while dealing with the guts of what's actually happening in the scene itself.

    Any description you include needs to be succinct. If you've got a paragraph, boil it down to a sentence. If you've got a page, boil it down to a paragraph.
    The first paragraph should make the genre obvious or, at the very least, make hints strong enough in that direction they won't be missed by a seasoned reader of the genre.
     
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  4. ToDandy
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    ToDandy Contributing Member

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    The best way to start a story is to just start. Don't worry so much about setting a hook or anything else. Just get the ball rolling.

    8 times out of 10, your first chapter won't survive the revision process anyways. This is because the first chapter is like an audition to the reader to help them decide if they want to continue the book. It needs to be representative of the story in its entirety, so many writers go back and re-write after discovering the tone, characters and other important details.
     
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  5. zoupskim
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    zoupskim Contributing Member Contributor

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    Think through your entire story arch as it exists in your head, evaluate the strengths of the story you hope to tell, and write several beginnings that will best present your ideas and themes. Is this an awesome swashbuckling adventure with swords and magic? Then show some action right away. Is it a dark fantasy adventure, with innocence and life hanging by a thread? Show how the characters accept and handle that truth. Is it about the feints and subtle cuts that occur in the shadows between powerful lords and starving killers? Have a character think through every situation before meeting with a mercenary commander, their next meal hanging on a few words and their posture.

    Write everything.
     
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  6. Lew
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    Lew Contributing Member Contributor

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    @Wexeldorf , the first chapter of your book is going to wind up being more for you than the reader, and will probably not fair well in the first edit. Mine certainly did not. Since it is for YOU, MORE of all of the things you list are important, because they will put you into the story. Some will be scaffolding that will serve its purpose, supporting your tale, then be removed in later edits when stronger items have been put in place and it is no longer needed. Others will remain, but need polishing. But avoid the hazard of writing a few chapters then going back and revising. I find for me, that kills the creativity of writing, because editing is critical, and directly opposite to what I need when I am creating. It is for me and many others, a recipe for procrastination. So after given chapter a quick review for consistency, SPaG and POV (and for me, run-on sentences... a paragraph should have more periods than lines!)

    The hardest sentence in your book to write is the first one, and the second hardest is the last one. So write, don't fret, get it down and started. The sooner you get the first sentence down, the sooner you get to the last one.

    Your opening sounds intriguing with a lot of possibilities.
     
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  7. Wexeldorf
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    Wexeldorf Member

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    Thanks guys, a lot of food for thought. I appreciate all of your input and I think I know what I'm going to do.
     
  8. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    I would start right inside the meeting.

    "So who do you want me to kill?"

    I could feel my eyebrows involuntarily climbing, as I hissed, "For God's sake, keep your voice down!"

    He grinned. "In this bar? Son, if you think that anyone in this bar cares, maybe you should run along and find yourself a nice tearoom."
     
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  9. Siena
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    Siena Active Member

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    Assuming the character is going to change, why not start by showing who the character is at the beginning.
     
  10. A.L.Mitchell
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    A.L.Mitchell Active Member

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    I think it's up to you, the writer to come up the way to write the first scene and see where you go from there. It's good that you have a basic story and that you got something to tell. It's important and I think also, we're all writer ourselves so we can get some help along the way. I feel that you could start with the meeting, showing and bringing the tension in early. I would start in the middle of the scene and then build from there.
     
  11. deadrats
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    deadrats Active Member

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    Start with story and character. I agree with the advice to start with the meeting. Your idea could easily have a great beginning. I think if you do that, developing the characters should come quite quickly and naturally for you. When it comes to setting, use a light touch to sprinkle it in. It sounds like the story itself is going to be the superstar of book. Don't drown it out with big paragraphs of setting. Unless that's your thing. But if you give us little bits of setting to help readers feel grounded in the story, it should workout. Try to avoid writing about setting in a way that pulls readers out of the story. Long paragraphs that are pure setting can do that sometimes.
     

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