Wow. That sounds simple, doesn’t it. But where exactly is the beginning?
This is a
question I have to work through every time I start a new story. Over time I’ve
learned that there are a few things I need to know before I can answer this
question. Please remember, I’m a die-hard plotter. So if you’re a pantser, or
just not as anal as I am, your mileage may vary.
thing I need to know is my characters. I need to know who they are. Their goals
and their motivation for reaching said goals. I also need to know what the
major conflicts are. I say conflicts because personally, I like an angst-y
story so I want both internal and external conflict. And I’m talking skeletons
at this point for plot because everything is subject to refinement, but it
helps to have an idea where you’re headed so you can find your way.
process of critiquing and judging writing, I’ve noticed this is something new
writers struggle with. They feel the need to get everything ‘set up’ before the
story starts. That way the reader will understand completely when the action
starts in chapter five.
meeting someone for the first time, and right after you’ve been introduced the
person starts telling you their life story, from birth up until the moment you
meet. Kudos to you if you can last through the whole thing. It’s an exaggeration
to be sure, but you get the point. It’s boring! Isn’t it more fun to learn
about people a bit at a time? The thrill of discovery makes things more
that, but its way easier as a writer to just ‘set up’ everything. It takes work
and creativity to delicately weave in the back story, setting details, and
personality traits. But it also gives you, and most importantly the reader, a
better reading experience.
place to start your story, IMO, is when the hero/heroine gets the call to
action. In other words, at the point where their life changes forever. It can
be good, or bad, and the character may recognize it immediately or not, but as
a writer, you need to. You need to understand that after this particular
moment, be it a choice made, a disaster unfolding, or circumvented, from here
on out, they will be different. Change is the catalyst that drives the opening.
reader shouldn’t have to wait for it.
portray that change will be up to you. After all, it is your story.