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Starting a story.

Deosil Fox

WoW Fanatic ^^
Alright first off I sincerely apologize if this thread has been posted before but I am just so not amped to search through 40 pages of threads.

Ok, so here is the thing I am "trying" to get my story off the ground yet I am stuck at there very beginning no less. I understand how important the beginning of a story is, after all few people will read an "unknown" writer's work if the start of the story is just plain bad, regardless of how good the rest of the story is.

But every time I try to make a beginning it always ends up sounding like some mangled poem. So here is where I ask for your help.

What is the best way to start a story? What do "you" like to see a story starting with?

Thank you, just asking please don't flame me T_T.
 

Gavrill

ladies~
Here's my latest story intro.
Blair's face twitched as she felt something touch her cheek. She groaned and swatted at air. She heard soft voices in the background. She rolled onto her side and nestled into her sheets, attempting to fall asleep again.
Wow, I am aware of how terrible it is now.

Anyways, though I'm obviously not doing so, try to start a story with something interesting. Mine is a good example of what not to do. It would have been better to start with a little action, like having someone jump on top of her. Humor, violence, intriguing imagery/sensations/dialog. All work well.
 

quoting_mungo

Well-Known Member
Honestly, the best way to start a story is probably to (essentially) write three chapters and then go back and write the beginning. The beginning you use to get yourself started doesn't have to be the beginning you post up when you finish your story. My openings actually tend to be fairly low-key, but that may be because I mainly write slice-of-life, and it just... fits the genre to ease into the story.

From my last posted story:
Zachary Black leaned on the bar, smiling as he slid a glass across the smooth surface. That smile, if anything, broadened as the vole woman it was intended for picked it up and brought it to her lips, the canid’s white-furred tail wagging. She didn’t even spare him a glance.
That's pretty typical, tone-wise, for the way I open. My ongoing Pokémon fanfic is similarly undramatic:
The room was dark. Not pitch black, but a dusky sort of half-assed darkness, light leaking in around the closed — and locked — door. A cot stood in one corner, a form curled up on it, covered by a blanket, though the light from the door did reflect on what might have been a tail covered in orange scales sticking out from under the cover and spilling over the edge of the simple bed.

Which is also why I say sometimes it's a good idea to write a good chunk of the story before the opening. In the first few paragraphs, you're setting the mood. The mood I want to set happens to be more sedate, so my stories start fairly sedately.

(Incidentally, Molly, the main problem with your opening is that you have several consecutive sentences all starting with the same word, with a very similar sentence structure. Changing up your sentence structure is always a good way to make a text more interesting.)
 

sunandshadow

Impractical Fantasy Animal
Honestly, the best way to start a story is probably to (essentially) write three chapters and then go back and write the beginning. The beginning you use to get yourself started doesn't have to be the beginning you post up when you finish your story. My openings actually tend to be fairly low-key, but that may be because I mainly write slice-of-life, and it just... fits the genre to ease into the story.
I agree, the best thing to do is not get hung up on making the beginning great because beginnings are the single most commonly rewritten part of a story, chances are high that you will find yourself replacing your beginning later even if you worked really hard on the first version. So, use your beginning to get yourself into your world, your character, then later you can cut up that wall of exposition and work it into the story, replacing it with the hook and in medias res stuff you want there as your sales pitch to readers. Think of it this way, the first few paragraphs is like an advertisement, would you try to make a killer advertisement when you don't even know what the product (the rest of the story) is going to be yet?
 

Deosil Fox

WoW Fanatic ^^
Think of it this way, the first few paragraphs is like an advertisement, would you try to make a killer advertisement when you don't even know what the product (the rest of the story) is going to be yet?

But the thing is I do know what the rest of the story is going to be like, I've spent quite some time researching and making timelines for events, characters and places. I am not just jumping head first into a story that I am going to make up as I go along, granted I may change one or two things as the story progresses.
 

sunandshadow

Impractical Fantasy Animal
But the thing is I do know what the rest of the story is going to be like, I've spent quite some time researching and making timelines for events, characters and places. I am not just jumping head first into a story that I am going to make up as I go along, granted I may change one or two things as the story progresses.
It's good to know how you want your plot to go, but at the same time doing a lot of development before starting to write can make it more difficult to start because it makes you more anxious to 'get things right'. Have you heard about the idea of "giving yourself permission to write crap"? I'm not saying all first drafts are crap, but, if you have in your head the idea that you have to get it right the first time, you are handicapping yourself. Perfectionism is one of the biggest causes of writer's block. Any writing that flows out of you and makes progress toward having a complete first draft is WAY better than no writing or painfully slow writing. If you want your writing to be good enough to publish, you should expect to rework it after you complete the first draft. It may even evolve into something better than you are currently imagining when you revise it. And if you are expecting to rework it, there's no reason to stress out about getting it perfect the first time.
 

quoting_mungo

Well-Known Member
But the thing is I do know what the rest of the story is going to be like, I've spent quite some time researching and making timelines for events, characters and places. I am not just jumping head first into a story that I am going to make up as I go along, granted I may change one or two things as the story progresses.
No, no. You think you know what the rest of the story is going to be like.

When the designers at Saab (or Volvo, or Ford, or whatever) sit down to make a new model, I'm sure they know they're making a car. They probably even have an idea what features they want to stick in that car. But they don't know what car they'll actually have, and need to market, until they've got the prototype (first draft) nailed down.
 

M. LeRenard

Is not French
Writing a hook is more just a matter of surprising the reader right from the get go. The story I wrote for Scotty's contest last quarter got a lot of positive comments on the hook: "Jules assumed that what the people of Bridge would want to know was why the rocks were bleeding." The story itself was actually fairly predictable, but nearly everyone told me that first sentence got them interested.
So if your story has any weirdness in it, start with that somehow.
But if that still doesn't work, I'd suggest taking peoples' advice and just moving on for now, and thinking of a beginning later. The beginning is the hardest part of any story, second only to the end, so believe me when I say you're not alone in getting stuck writing one. But if it's keeping you from the rest of the story, just bullshit it and go forward. You won't be breaking any rules, and you'll be more likely once you've written something to have great material to start with. You'll get a flow going for the main story, and so it'll only be a matter of kicking off that flow with something catchy and interesting.
 

ScottyDM

Bites when Provoked
I've heard it said that newbie writers need to throw out their beginnings (from their edited stories). If it's a short, throw out the opening scene. If it's a novel, throw out chapter one. And if it's a series, throw out the first book.

For a writer with some experience this process might take place about half-way through the first draft. You get that far and you realize you don't need your current opening scene/chapter/book, and that there is a much better opening than what you first thought of. For an well experienced writer this process might take place while he or she is in the planning stage.

Like several others before me, I suggest you start writing and see what happens. If you have to start writing in the middle then go ahead and do that. Worry about a proper beginning later.


The real question is, when does your story start? It's not always obvious. I see movies that should have had their first five minutes deleted. It's just some character wandering around going about their day. Now in a movie you can roll opening credits over such a scene, but once you get past the title the real movie should start. This isn't always the case.

Movies aren't the same as books. The movie goer has already paid, and so will sit through five minutes of nothing, often while whispering to friends, and wait for the story to start. Book buyers, or just people surfing a website, will sometimes give a story a couple of paragraphs then decide if they keep reading, or move on to the next story.


Once you know where to start, getting the opening just right can be a lot of work. The first line must hint at something and entice the reader to finish the first paragraph (or first few lines). Then the first paragraph must further entice them to finish the first page. And the first page must pull them into the first chapter.

For the anthrofiction contest each quarter, I post the first 85 to 100 words of each story along with a link to that story. Then I invite Net randoms (anyone who happens by) to read and score any stories that catch their fancy. The contest isn't about popularity. A story with a fantastic start might get a lot of reads, but if it falls apart in the middle or the end sucks, then it will get low scores. But how many ballots a story gets could be a crude measure of how enticing the opening lines are. Here's the contest post for this quarter with opening lines for each story. Do any of these openings entice you to click the link? Do any leave you feeling that you've already read enough?


Ask yourself: What is my story about? Where does the real story start?

S~
 
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