Where a story begins is equally as important as where it ends. Often writers of fiction will write the end of the story first; doing so establishes a clear finish line to cross, and the journey to get there can now begin. It’s no small task for a writer to bring a story full circle, and there are no accidents when it comes to making this happen. A writer’s meticulous consideration of every word, phrase, and action is crucial to the story, and getting the beginning of a story right is a fundamental part of getting an audience (and the writer) through to the end.
There are many phases to the writing process, and once characters are identified and endings are understood, now begins what is arguably the hardest part: getting started. If you’re not sure where to start, look to this list of recommendations for a little inspiration. This list is not intended as an “ultimate” list – so much of writing is about the needs of an individual writer, and it takes quite a bit of practice to find a method that works best for you. We look at these as a way to start a dialogue on different writing methods.
7 Ways To Start A Story
- Introduce the main conflict. A little mystery or suspense can go a long way to grab hold of a reader. Maybe a routine is disrupted, or someone new moves to town, find ways to draw the audience in for more. This can be done in the first line, the first paragraph, and certainly by the end of the first chapter.
- Establish your theme. We all know “theme” to be the universal statement(s) that an author wants to make, emphasis on the word “statement” – a complete sentence that conveys an intended purpose. A story isn’t just about “love” – a story is about “The ability to find love without losing one’s self.”
- Introduce the main character or narrator. “Call me Ishmael.” – Herman Melville. “I am an invisible man.” -Ralph Ellison. “Mrs. Dalloway said she would buy the flowers herself.” – Virginia Woolf. “I had the story, bit by bit, from various people, and, as generally happens in such cases, each time it was a different story.” – Edith Wharton.
- Start “in media res” – in the middle of things. This is a classic method – think Odysseus in The Odyssey. Put the audience directly into the action while weaving in the details on how we got to this point.
- Establish a setting. Describe where the story takes place, through sweeping descriptions or very focused details. Creating a picture in the mind of a reader will help bring them into the story.
- Look at opening lines by other authors, both classic and contemporary. A writer has to get started somewhere, and looking at those who’ve gone before, their styles and approach, is a way to find inspiration.
- When you reach the end, go back to the beginning. If you’re not satisfied with the way you’ve connected the two, then rework.