A lot goes into deciding how to begin our story. We have to introduce the characters, the story, and the setting. We have to make it interesting, not confusing, or not accidentally misleading. Etc., etc., etc.
If we think about it too much, we might seize up and not write anything. The sight of that blank page can paralyze writers, preventing them from making it past the first line or the first page. It’s easy to want a story opening to feel perfect before we move on.
Most writers have probably struggled with some element of a story’s beginning. With my current work-in-progress (WIP), I debated between several potential openings before I typed a word. In another story, I knew the opening scene, but not how to tie it into the rest of the story. In yet another story, I knew everything about the first page, but I kept emphasizing the wrong elements.
Er, yeah, I think it’s safe to say that story beginnings can be tricky. *smile* As I recently had to figure out solutions to all those problems, now seems like a good time to share some tips.
The Three Aspects of Story Beginnings
A great story beginning will work on three different levels. Think of them as the big picture, the medium picture, and the close-up picture.
- Big Picture: Where Our Story Should Start
Start on the right note. In my WIP where I debated between several possibilities for a beginning scene, I finally decided based on the big picture. Which scene led best into the story’s main conflict? Which scene best showed the character in the situation that would kick off the right emotional arc and theme?
- Medium Picture: When Our Story Should Start
The first notes should flow to the next. In my story where I had a strong idea about the opening scene but wasn’t sure how to tie that to the rest of the story, I had to fill in the blanks. How could I get from Point A (the opening image) to Point B (the Inciting Incident that kicked off the story)? Often this means trying to move Point A as close to Point B as possible, starting just before something happens to the protagonist that forces a change or decision.
- Close-Up Picture: How Our Story Should Start
Avoid off notes. In my story where I knew everything about that opening scene but kept emphasizing the wrong elements, I had to get the draft close and then fix in revisions. By the time I finished drafting the story, I knew the right tone and thematic messages to emphasize. Then feedback about character likability and reader interest helped tweak the details.
The best story opening will likely succeed on all three levels. We can move from the big picture down to the specifics as we work on our story. Believe it or not, that means we could find the best beginning for our story in just three steps.
Today, another prize winner from my Blogiversary contest, ChemistKen, chose to have me over to his blog for a guest post, where I’m sharing tips on using these three aspects to find the right beginning of our story. Visit my guest post at Ken’s blog and learn more about using the three steps to find our story’s beginning!
Registration is currently open for my workshop on how to do just enough story development to write faster, while not giving our pantsing muse hives. Interested? Sign up for “Lost Your Pants? The Impatient Writers Guide to Plotting a Story.” (Blog readers: Use Promo Code “savethepants” to save $15 on registration.)
Do you struggle with story beginnings? Have you looked at story beginnings on these three levels before? Do you think that perspective can help us find story openings that work better? Does one aspect come more naturally to you than others? Or have you struggled with all of them?Pin It