Writing the Beginning

One of the things I’ve learned in writing is that the beginning has to grab your reader. Don’t start at the beginning of the beginning if that makes sense. Plop your reader right in the middle of all perdition breaking loose.

This doesn’t mean you need some flashy battle scene, especially if you’re writing a modern romance. Instead, show your reader what’s at stake and how this story is going to earn its keep. Tease them with a character preparing to do something that can’t be undone, something that will have far reaching implications for the story.

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A beginning – of sorts

Whatever you do, avoid the information dump. Nothing will lose a reader more quickly than a “telling” of what’s at stake. I love to read but there are a kagillion books out there and I’m on a tight schedule to pack in as much living as I can get. Don’t bore me. I can take a nap instead and that’s free.

Before you get all creative with that beginning, here are a few articles to look into:

How to Write Great Story Beginnings

Dynamic Beginnings: Getting Your Story Off to a Great Start

10 Ways to Start Your Story Better

The Worst Ways to Begin Your Novel: Advice from Literary Agents

All of these articles touch upon the essentials of writing a good beginning.  So how is it done? I’ll give you a personal account.

I wrote the beginning for my most current short story in two paragraphs. Here are the elements I included:

  1. I focused on my protagonist’s nemesis. This guy was going to turn her world upside down so I set up his character, his motivations, and his abilities.
  2. I created an ultimatum. Either he was going to turn her world upside down or something very, very bad was going to happen. I made it very clear that whatever choice he made, it would irrevocably change my protagonist and him.

You don’t need to include every element offered in these articles.  If you’ll notice I used only a few of the suggestions, but that’s what the story needed. The effect grabbed the attention of the editor of a short story anthology and drove the rest of the story. The beginning is the starter and if it does what it’s supposed to, the engine of the story revs and you’re off.

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