What’s the best place to start my story?
I have been asked this question a lot lately and while there is no one answer or ‘right way’ to do it, there are some things to keep in mind.
The main character
Particularly if it’s a story for kids or teenagers, the reader will need to meet your main character straight away. The sooner they connect with your character, the sooner you will hook them into the story.
Start AT the story
This might seem like a strange thing to say, but especially when you first begin writing, it’s quite common for writers to start their story before it actually happens.
For example, if your story starts with the character’s brother arriving home from the war, don’t show the character walking down the hallway to open the front door and find their brother standing there, start your story from the moment he/she opens the door and finds their long lost brother standing there.
Don’t start with back story or information dumps where you give the reader lots of detail about your characters. Try and show characterisation by action and dialogue and how a character interacts with the setting.
Think about how you are starting your story. Are you starting it with something that the reader needs to know or something that the author needs to know? (Authors need to know a lot of background information about their characters because that’s what makes them who they are – but readers don’t necessarily need to know all this.) If your story starts with something that you have discovered as the author, but the reader doesn’t necessarily need to know, then you need to think about a stronger beginning.
Your story must start with a piece of action that’s essential for the reader to understand, be hooked into or be interested in your story.
By action, I don’t necessarily mean a murder or a shooting or a car chase – I mean something has to actually happen in your story, not just be talked about – for example, the long lost brother arriving home. Don’t talk about him arriving home – show it happening – show your character’s actions and reactions.
This brings me to the next point. Every story needs an inciting incident – this is the event that starts the story off – it’s the reason why things change for your character now, on this day at this time.
An inciting incident could be something like the long lost brother arriving home from the war, a letter in the mail, an accident – a piece of action that starts the story in motion.
An inciting incident is the thing that starts the chain of events that are your story – the chain of events that are going to change your main character’s life forever.
I hope this helps you getting started with your story.
If you have any other tips about how or when to start your story – or experiences to share, please feel free to post them in the comments section of this article.