For the past few weeks, I’ve been crazily outlining a plot for my brand new novel – a YA fantasy / mythology, and I’ve reached the part where I need to start putting pen to paper for the actual story. While terrifying, it is also very exhilarating to finally allow the voices in head tell their stories.
It’s well-known that the start of a story can make or break our masterpiece for both the readers who use this to gauge if they will purchase the book (at least that’s what I do) and for the agents / publishers who are considering whether to represent your work. Nothing like pressure to stress anyone out.
Before I write anything, I first take into account the following:
– Starting with just action threatens to alienate the readers from my character since they haven’t had a chance to get to know each other, but if done properly will work very well
– Starting with dialogue is good, but should be quickly followed with some action (not just physical)
– Starting with a character’s reaction to something works well, but again should be followed with some kind of action (not just physical)
And things I’ve learnt not start with:
– Setting, especially weather
– Giving too much description
– A summary of things
So with those things in the back of my mind, I jot down my initial idea of where I want the story to start, and then note the pros and cons of that start. I will do several alternative starting points and then see which one works best, based on pros and cons. (The example below is completely made up btw).
Starting Example One – Initial idea
A hiker gets caught in the middle of a snow storm, and together with her Sherpa they try to pull their tents up when the Sherpa is attacked by something.
Pros: Ample time to introduce the character to the reader and the setting, along with tension of the sudden storm and attack
Cons: This introduction may be too slow, hence not engage the reader quick enough
Starting Example Two
Hiker is starting her climb up the mountain when her colleague gets sick and must return – she decides to continue.
Pros: Avoids backstory of why hiker is alone in the mountain with a Sherpa.
Cons: Story starts way too early and action won’t happen for a little while
Starting Example Three
Hiker in the middle of a snowstorm watches something attack the Sherpa and starts recoiling, trying to escape
Pros: Kicks off right away with something happening
Cons: Need to ensure the action does not confuse the reader, giving ample time to introduce them to the reader
Starting Example Four
Hiker has been rescued from her fall by a stranger after something attacked the Sherpa
Pros: Allows the reader to connect and get to know the character
Cons: Way too much backstory needed
So based on the above, I would probably omit my original idea and go with example three. Why? Because I realized that I didn’t need to start that early in the story and can jump right into action, but still give readers to time to bond with the protag… 🙂 Now that I have a start, my character can enjoy her time in the mountain with a complete stranger!!!
This process has worked for me quite well… I surprise myself at how clearly this allows me to see things compared to nutting it out in my head.
How do know where to start your stories?
Source of cracked image: Free Digital Photos by Salvatore Vuono