Thursday, March 8, 2012

The Story Begins

Every time I begin a new story, I spend a lot of time thinking about the first three pages. There are so many things I want to put in there and there are a number of things I have put there that I need to remove. Often what I find is so much backstory that the story never gets started, at least one that will interest the readers. So I go back and restart the story. I often tear up those initial starts many times. Of course on the computer all I have to do is hit the delete button and those words are gone. So too much backstory is not the way to start a story. If needed, one can do a prologue. What sort of things need to go into those first few pages. I've often heard it said to start in the middle of the action. Starting a moment before or a moment after the triggering event has occurred is also a good thing. This means the story has begun with action of some kind. Many of my stories start a moment before the action begins. In Flight the heroine who has an affinity for Air is roused by a sound. She scents the air and realizes all is not right. Then the action begins/ Another thing I've heard is the story should begin with the character who has the most to win or the character who has the most to lose. Sometimes these characters are the same but many times they aren't. Starting with the villain is a way to begin with the character who has the most to lose. Beginning with the hero or heroine shows the character who has the most to win. Other things to show in those first few pages and viewpoint. Is the story being told in first or third person. Very few start in second person. The reader needs to know where the story is taking place. This must be done with very light touches. Spending paragraphs and pages showing the setting and the milleau will send the reader screaming. There must also be hints about what the character wants and the character might not be sure what they want. There is something missing from their life and the reader needs a hint of what this is and why the character wants a person, place or object. Just hints. There's an entire story to tell the reader why the character wants or needs to obtain his or her goal and why they want what they want. Other hints to put into the opening pages is who might be opposing them. So when you're writing, remember how important those first few pages are. Some people read the opening pages of a book before they buy them. Make sure yours pull the reader in and make them want to read more.


  1. Thanks for the information. I think you have a really good point of view.

  2. Ah! Those first pages. They need to tell enough to make the reader want more, but not too much all at once. You make some very good points, J L.

  3. Good point! The opening is so important that from time to time, editors, publishers, and writers will take part in a poll for the greatest opening ever. To date, I think Moby Dick still holds the title ("Call me Ismael.") and Dickens usually comes in second with "It was the best of times, it was the worst of times."