Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Brainstorming Beginnings

Beginnings.  First word. First phrase. First sentence. First chapter.  Introduction of your first character. First description. First thought. First telling scene. First adverb. First dialogue. First back story. First conflict. First voice.

No Pressure.

Beginnings are bad business for me.  In medias res.  Words to live by.  Begin in the middle somewhere. But that doesn't really mean that we neglect all the first moments.  Whether we begin in motion, in thought, in character we are still at the beginning of something and the reader needs to be able to follow you.  To follow they need trust. To trust they need character. To trust your character they need a story. So where do you begin? 

Maybe I'm asking the wrong question. It's not where do you begin but how do you begin to tell your story. 

Character = voice.
Story = plot

Begin where your reader can capture a bit of character and plot.  What the heck is going on and what the heck are you (your character) going to do about it?

That would be the million dollar question.  Now only if I can find the right words...


  1. I think I always begin with a character, in their head in the moments before 'it' happens. Like Lucy when she receives the keys or Arlen before she discovers who and what she is, or Dara and Taimur while they're waiting to see if their father (the Prince) lives or dies. I know when I read it's about character first. I have to like the character, want to see what's going to happen to them, care where they're going. If I don't then the story won't mean anything and I'll quit reading. And I actually did this recently; the characters were so unlikeable I just didn't care to read any more about them.

    yikes! long answer! happy tuesday, great post.

  2. I think we need to start deep in POV - even if the character's thoughts never make it to the page. Word choice and reactions will show the character's attitude toward what is happening around him/her. For readers to trust, they need to know some part of what is going on inside the MC.

  3. Of course you are both right. I just feel better once I clear my throat. The words flow a bit easier once the beginning has past me. ARGH...

    Thanks for your comments.

  4. It's funny, but I usually have great beginnings and they only change slightly from when I write my first draft. However, my endings change a lot before my last revision.

  5. No matter where you start, always remember you can delete the first sentence, or paragraph, or chapter when you edit.

    It takes the pressure off.

    If you realize your story doesn't really start till the third chapter, no biggie. That's what the delete button is for. :-)

  6. Thanks for your comment LM.

    Thanks for the reality check onipar. It does take some of the pressure off.

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