Turning a blank page into a magnificent 30,000-word story is a feat not easily won. Staring at the blinking cursor just waiting for you to type, is beyond frustrating and demotivating. And, knowing where to start a story, or rather, how to start is something many writers struggle with. But, to understand how to begin a story, we first have to look at why the first page is so critical to a successful story.
Though most important information, exciting details, and any major plot points take place in later chapters, the first chapter, first page, and even first paragraph can be far more major.
The number one reason why the beginning of a story is so critical is that it’s the foundation upon which the reader will judge the book. Think back to past books you’ve read. You’ve probably used that first chapter to judge the rest of the book, whether you were aware of it or not.
A boring, uneventful, hard-to-get-through first chapter can leave the rest of the book feeling dull. A first chapter that is so unbearably slow can be the last before you put the book down and grab something else to read. So, even though the first chapter will most likely be somewhat uneventful, it should still be able to hook the reader in.
Not only does the first chapter draw the reader in, but it also sets the tone for the rest of the story. After reading a few pages, the reader should understand the tone, genre, and feel of the story they are about to read. A first chapter that is completely different from the rest of the book can lead to a confused reader.
So, now that we understand why the beginning is so important, let’s look at how to start a story that will captivate your readers.
How To Start a Story
A cutback beginning starts the story at the height of the tension, the middle of the climax. Then, it cuts back to a normal day before the inciting incident right before the most intense, no-return part occurs.
Example: We were rushing down the river, heads barely above water. Darren gasped out, his head went under, and the current took me away. I lifted my head as far as I could, but I felt myself go under.
“The trip of a lifetime is upon us, man.” Darren eagerly packed his bags…
This method is great for the reader because it’s filled with excitement and they get a glimpse of what they’ll be reading and the direction the story will head. A cutback adds an excellent opportunity to create twists and mislead the reader. When they get to the climax, what they thought was one thing, turns out to be about something else. Take the example above, reading it at the beginning, you expect the characters to be drowning in a river. But, once you read the story, you find out there is a sea monster that’s dragging them down and that’s what they’re fighting against.
#2: Day In The Life
Perhaps the opposite way of beginning a story with a cutback is starting with a normal day in the life of your protagonist. You show how your character acts in everyday life and begin to set up the exposition. That way, when the inciting incident occurs, it packs more of a punch. With this method, it’s important to get your readers attached to the character’s story early on. You want to create a reason for them to continue reading. Writing a typical, non-eventful day can be boring to read, so foreshadowing, character-building, and creating exposition are all ways to keep the reader entertained.
Foreshadowing isn’t necessarily a method but is something to include. Adding foreshadowing to the first chapter of your story is a wonderful way to tie the whole story together. It may not be appreciated at the beginning, but later in the story, your readers will enjoy the foreshadowing.
The mystery leads to curiosity, and that is a sure way to captivate your readers. By mystery, I simply mean leaving many details to the readers’ imagination so that they become more immersed in the book. You may leave a character rather obscure to where the reader is suspicious of their motives.
Make It Easier
Start on Page Two
To make writing your story easier, just skip the first page or chapter, whichever feels more comfortable. Starting on chapter two will relieve some of the pressure that comes with writing the beginning. You’ll most likely find writing to be easier, and once you feel ready, you can go back and finish the first chapter. And besides, having all or most of the book written will make writing chapter one even easier. You’ll know the writing style and tone of the rest of the book.
Look at Your Favorite Books
If you’re not sure how to start your story, grab a few of your favorite books and look at how they began.
How did the first chapter hook me in?
Do my favorite books all begin in a similar way?
Can this method of starting work for my story?
Sometimes inspiration is all you need to get started, so go through some of the books you own and look at how each was started. Once you get a feel for how other authors have begun their books, you may know what will work for your own.
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