Monday, March 4, 2013

Inklings: The Beginning, a Great Place to Start

Last week, we talked about writing an outline for your story. An outline is a great way to chart out its path by documenting the beginning, middle and end. I thought it might be a good idea to go into each of these sections a little more thoroughly. This week, we'll be talking about writing the beginning of your story.

So, how do you start a story? To tell you the truth, the beginning of a book is the hardest part for me to write. I've written two books and I've totally rewritten the first chapter both times. Check that--actually I rewrote the first chapter of my first book twice. On the second book I only had to redo it once. Even though I outlined my books, both times I thought of a better way to start it later.

 But why did I bother changing anything? The book was going along okay. I had made a start and was on my way. Why did I decide to go back and change how it started? I did that because a good beginning sets the tone for the entire story. In the beginning, you want to do three things:

  • Introduction of character and setting--The beginning introduces the reader to the main character(s) and the setting of the story. This is the part of your story where the reader can get to know whoever the story is about and where it takes place. Perhaps your main character is a boy who lives in New Jersey, or a toad who lives on the third planet orbiting Alpha Centari. Whatever characters and worlds you dream up, the beginning is where your reader meets them.

  • Hook 'em--The beginning is also the time to get them interested. You need to start your tale with something exciting--a hook. Starting right in the middle of the action is one good way to get your story off to a rousing start. Another is to begin with an off the wall first sentence. For example, The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien starts, "In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit." This is very simple, but it gets you wondering. A hobbit? What's a hobbit? In fact, it was that very question that prompted Tolkien to write The Hobbit in the first place. Once someone is interested in the story, they'll want to read more.

  • Get things moving--Once you've introduced the characters and the setting, and hooked them with some action or a good question, it's time to show them what this story of yours is all about.  You should introduce your main character to the problem they'll have to solve, the issue they'll have to tackle or the dragon they'll have to slay. It's time to send them out into the world to do what they have to do. As the story progresses, this problem will grow, but for now the best place to introduce it is in...the introduction!

Okay, now that you know what an introduction is all about, how will you attack yours? What can you do to hook your reader, get them to know your actors and the world in which they live and the problems they are faced with? It sounds like a tall order, but I know you can do it. After all, you have your outline. You know where you want to end up. It's time to head out on your writing journey. The fun has just begun!

What books have you read that have great beginnings? Share them in the Comments section below.

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