1. Entiter

    Entiter New Member

    Oct 21, 2015
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    The dreamscape

    How to begin a chapter/paragraph?

    Discussion in 'Word Mechanics' started by Entiter, Oct 29, 2015.

    I have the general issue of beginning, well, anything. No matter how much I want to do something and how many great ideas I have, it's the opening that I cannot seem to get down. Exactly where in the scene do I begin? How far ahead should I start so that I don't just skip right into the action, but what is too far and unnecessary? Which words do I even use? Do I start off with a thought, a description, a piece of dialogue...? My ideas for the scenes I'm writing are a lot like dreams, where you cannot possibly remember the beginning. I need to write enough "around" the main scene to give it context and all, but I shouldn't overdo it because then it all becomes annoying to read. I know this might be a vague description and that it's very difficult to answer without knowing what exactly is meant to happen in each individual scene, but does anyone have a good rule of thumb or some kind of tips for how I can write the beginning of new paragraphs and chapters? It's practically just the first few sentences that are difficult.
  2. Imaginarily

    Imaginarily Disparu en Mer Contributor

    Sep 16, 2015
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    Have you tried outlining your plot points? Like a literal outline:

    Chapter 1
    1. This thing happens
      1. here we meet this person
    2. Then this
      1. better mention this detail
      2. and this one
    3. Then this other thing
      1. this character says a thing about it

    Might help you stay grounded, I dunno. Personally I like writing the important stuff first and building around it as well, but if I have a skeleton of which events I know need to happen for a particular scene, I find it easier to connect / introduce them.
  3. peachalulu

    peachalulu Member Reviewer Contributor

    May 20, 2012
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    occasionally Oz , mainly Canada
    First don't overthink it. Sit back and imagine the scene in your head. Think of the words you can use to bring that scene to life. You want to tap into the emotion of the scene more than a blow by blow description of what you're envisioning.
    Remember your - who what why when and how. If you can answer some of these questions you're on your way.
    Think of one overall emotion tone you want to guide the scene and that will help you to slant the words to fit that tone. For instance if your character is angry and having a fight with her boyfriend you might want to pick punchy, spicy verbs.
  4. ChickenFreak

    ChickenFreak Contributor Contributor

    Mar 9, 2010
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    My advice would be to deliberately start too early, write the thing, and then cut off its head.
    Tesoro and Catrin Lewis like this.
  5. Catrin Lewis

    Catrin Lewis Contributor Contributor Community Volunteer Contest Winner 2023

    Jan 28, 2014
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    Then let it run around with its head cut off! Bwahahahahahah!!

    No, seriously, @Entiter, don't worry about writing drivel for the first draft. Assuming you've got a mental image that embodies your basic idea, get that image down in whatever way you can, then go back and lick it into shape later.

    You spoke about all the great ideas you have. Our writing ideas are great only if they feed into the Big Idea behind the story, and if they are the right idea for that point in the tale. So tell them to go back to their seats and sit down and be quiet. You'll call on them when it's their turn.

    All the devices you spoke of can be good in the right circumstances. And yeah, knowing what's supposed to happen in a given scene is crucial. Once you have that, the only advice I'd venture to give you is to try to change up how each of your chapters begin. And whatever device you start with, try to make your reader respond with, "Tell me more," and not with a big fat "Huh?"
  6. xanadu

    xanadu Contributor Contributor

    Oct 21, 2008
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    Cave of Ice
    The way you start is ultimately going to be up to your style, which is only useful advice if you've determined what your style is. It takes a long time and a lot of work to weed your style out of the uncertainty and experimentation that will make up most of your early writing. I tend to start just as things are about to happen. Some people like to start earlier. But it's one thing to start early because you know what you're doing, and quite another to start early because you don't know better.

    I'd say start wherever it makes the most sense to you and just plow on ahead. Once you're finished, go back and see if that beginning makes sense and fix it up then. It's easy to get hung up on things like this, especially early on, and it's also easy to let these kinds of distractions keep you from getting any kind of forward momentum.

    And if you're still having trouble, let a few other people read it. Get a sense for how other readers react--if they're confused, maybe you need to step back and add some details. If they're bored, maybe you need to jump ahead and get to the action. If they're satisfied, maybe you've been worrying about nothing :)
    Catrin Lewis likes this.
  7. tonguetied

    tonguetied Contributor Contributor

    May 23, 2014
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    Central Florida: land of fire and sand
    I would think you could write what you are currently envisioning then go back and ask yourself: how did the character get to this point? Answer that in anyway you think is good for the story. You might need to go back again and repeat the reflective step for the "new" scene over and over again. It sounds like you have a climatic scene in your mind and you want to build up to it which led me to the above advice.

    If you literally mean how to start a paragraph do like Snoopy: "It was a dark and stormy night ...". :) Just kidding of course, but literally you need to set the stage for the scene you have in mind, IMO.
  8. Tesoro

    Tesoro Contributor Contributor

    Jan 3, 2011
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    A place with no future
    It seems you're overthinking things a little. Don't worry too much about these things in the first draft, just write, as intuitive and spontaneous as it comes to you or as you see it in your head, and save the questions of whether it works or not until you're done and can look back at it as a whole. There's a saying:
    "Start as close to the end as possible."
    I think it's good advice. You can always add scenes later so the best thing would be starting with the first absolutely
    crucial scene in the story.
    tonguetied likes this.
  9. Siena

    Siena Senior Member

    Jun 3, 2012
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    Don't worry about this stuff in the beginning. Just write the scene down.

    It's not really about that one scene either, it's about the whole arc(s) of which that scene is just one. Start by getting the big picture of the whole arc and each scene's place within it.
    Tesoro likes this.

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