Where to Start

Part of writing a good story or novel is capturing the reader at the beginning.  There are a variety of different approaches but they must all accomplish a couple of thing.

First, Orient the reader into the world of your story. I have critiqued work that appeared to be in an underground installation only to find out a few pages later they are at a beach. This will pull a reader out of a story faster than something really fast. Their word choice and descriptions gave the wrong impression.

So you want the reader to know where they are in time and space, without giving them a history lesson. If your story takes place in Napoleonic France, mention the uniforms, horses, country side. This information will bring the reader into the world through their senses.

Second the main character needs to be introduce early on. Readers have come to expect this and it can be confusing if the character they thought was the hero is killed off on page 10.

These two items can be used in a variety of ways.  Some stories start at the very beginning, some in the middle and some near the end.

It can be a challenge to keep the tension up if the story starts at the very beginning, with a couple of people sitting around drinking tea and discussing a situation. Action and/or tension can reveal characters to the reader without them having to be told.

Starting in the middle has its challenges as well, where you need to fill the reader in on what happened without the aforementioned couple of people sitting around drinking tea and talking.

Starting near the end is nearly impossible without flashbacks or the couple of people sitting around drinking tea and talking. Although there is nothing wrong with tea and talk. Just try and keep it out of your writing.

There is a wonderful study in staring your story later. Ernest Hemingways, The Short Happy Life of Francis Macomber. Check it out. You’ll be glad that you did.

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