Hello, Write Owls! Welcome to Day 23 of Storytelling 101. Today we’re talking about story beginnings.
Beginnings are very important to your story because they are your readers’ first impression of your story. If your beginning sucks, your readers may not make it to your middle or end.
One of the most challenging things about beginnings is determining where your story starts. Many writers either start too early or too late. You want to introduce your protagonist and what their normal life looks like before you throw the main conflict at them. If you give too much of the normal life, your readers will get bored before the inciting incident happens.
Your beginning should establish your protagonist. Readers won’t care when bad things happen to the protagonist if you don’t introduce them first. Show the reader why they should care about this character. Give them a positive quality, introduce their motivations and goals, and show their vulnerabilities or flaws. This will help your reader get invested in your protagonist; so when the conflict arrives, they care about its effects on the character (Donne).
There are some beginnings you should avoid. Don’t open your story with a bunch of info dumping where you tell readers everything there is to know about your protagonist’s backstory or every detail of your worldbuilding. That information can be worked in later when it’s relevant. Readers don’t need it right from the start. Most readers don’t like first chapters or prologues that follow someone other than the protagonist. You want to introduce your protagonist right away. Don’t introduce them with dream sequences, waking up, or going through their daily routine. These are boring, and your reader doesn’t care about them. These opening scenes are also overdone to the point they’re cliché.
After you’ve introduced everything, your beginning needs to have an inciting incident. This is where everything changes and your character makes a decision to do whatever it is they need to do for your story to happen (Donne).
If you’re wondering how and where to start your story, look at books you admire. Where do they start? How soon do they get into the action? How do they maintain tension before the inciting incident happens? You can use movies for research as well since they follow the same format.
These are the basics of beginnings. If you have any questions about this topic, please leave them in the comments; and I’ll try to answer them either as a reply or in my Q&A on Saturday.
Feel free to answer these in the comments if you want to chime in!
1) What’s your favorite story beginning? Why do you love it?
Donne, Alexa. “Novel Beginnings: How to Start Your Book.” YouTube, uploaded by Alexa Donne, 22 July 2019, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NZSTcBRp8gg