How to start a story? I understand why you are wondering about this. Being an author, I know that beginning is the hardest part of writing. Whether you want to write a short story or a novel, starting it is the biggest hurdle. Many writers concentrate so hard on making the beginning perfect that they get stuck at it and cannot move forward. This may disappoint many new authors and they may even stop writing.
But it need not be so hard. In this post, I’ll share with you some valuable tips about how to start a story. All these tips are from the fiction writing guide book titled ‘How to Write Short Stories like a Pro.’ (This book doesn’t just show you how to write stories, it is a comprehensive writing guide for fiction writers. The creative writing tips in it are powerful and can come in handy even while writing novels.)
How to start a story
Excerpt from the book How to Write Short Stories like a Pro
The beginning of a story or novel is the hardest part of writing for many authors. If the first sentence does not grab the readers’ attention, many may not read further. That thought is enough to make you feel numb and unable to put down even a word. Or, several ideas may rush out and overwhelm you. Which idea to choose? Which sentence will work best?
The first thing you need to remember is that your short story’s beginning needs to strike the keynote indicating the mood of the story. That is, the beginning should show the reader whether the story would be serious, satiric, romantic, comic, and so on. And the opening paragraph should be such that it compels the readers to keep reading.
The second thing you need to remember is that you can change your story’s beginning any time you want. So, don’t fret if you can’t achieve the desired perfection on the first try. Don’t turn the beginning into an obstacle that prevents you from moving ahead. Write whatever comes to your mind and keep writing. You can change the beginning later when a better idea strikes you, even if it is after completing the whole story.
There are many ways you can begin your story. Here are some that work well and will show you how to start a story:
Start with a sentence that shocks the reader. If you manage to shock the readers, you engage their emotions. Once the readers are emotionally involved, they will read on. That is why Shock Technique is a fantastic way to intrigue the reader and compel them to read.
For example: Kate smiled as she killed her neighbour.
A conversation can at once introduce the character, give a glimpse of the scene, and engage the reader.
For example: “Have you said your goodbyes?” Kate asked. She smiled as she pointed her pistol at Jack.
He licked his lips as his eyes darted around. But the garage door was closed. “Executioners usually ask for a last wish,” he said, trying to win some time. But it was useless.
You can also use a narrative paragraph to describe the scene and the character’s actions and reactions. However, such a paragraph needs to be short. A large block of descriptive text may scare the reader away. But a short and effective paragraph describing a scene of crisis can be as gripping as a shocking sentence.
For example: Kate smiled as she led Jack towards the garage. Only one of them would come out alive, she knew. It didn’t matter who. Her life was over anyway. And the remaining existence had only one interest — revenge.
Whatever method you use to begin your story, it should at once set the mood of the story and compel the reader to keep reading.
How to start a story: What to avoid
Some writers like starting their story with a beautiful description of nature. Such purple prose may make you feel proud as a writer, but often fails to hold the reader’s attention. Many readers skip such descriptive passages. If you add a long description of the sky, valley, and the river at the beginning of the story, they may skip your story too. So, try to begin with something that makes the reader curious to know more.
This doesn’t mean you must never use nature or scene description to begin your story. If it serves a purpose in the story, then do it. But keep it short.
Every short story has a purpose, a message, or a feeling it wants to convey to the reader. If you want your story to deliver some philosophical, social, political, theological message — weave it into the story. If you begin your story with a long block of preaching, most readers will either skip it, speed-read past it, or quit the story. If you must start your story with such a message, keep it as short as possible.
Difficult to understand sentence or paragraph:
If the reader has difficulty in understanding your first sentence or first paragraph, they may not continue reading. So, don’t make your story’s beginning complicated. Avoid unnecessary big words. Avoid stuffing too much information in the first paragraph. Avoid long-winded sentences. Keep your story’s beginning simple and swift.
Keep your first few paragraphs short. As you are writing short-form fiction, you have no words to waste. So, introduce your main characters and conflicts as soon as possible. Engage your reader’s emotions quickly. Start with a bang. And do it all through interesting dialogues and short, crisp paragraphs.
How to begin a story: Final Words
I hope you liked these tips from the fiction-writing guide How to Write Short Stories like a Pro. Do check out this creative writing guide to get more such fabulous tips about what your need to do before you begin writing a story, as well as what to do once your story or novel is complete. It gives you tried and tested ideating to editing tips. This book has proven writing tips for how to start a story, find ideas, plot your story, set its structure, create powerful characters, polish your style, edit, etc.
Learn how to begin a story, and take your story from concept to completion. Get the best creative writing tips at an affordable price. This story writing guide book is also available on Kindle Unlimited.
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