How To Start Your Story?


#1

So, the first chapter of your story is one of the most important ones. Your first chapter is where you hook your readers and pull them in for the long haul. Now, I’ve struggled with this issue for quite some time and I can’t seem to find any advice on it. How should you begin your first chapter? What should you avoid doing?

Any advice on this matter is welcome! I’m more than likely not the only one with this issue so I do hope others find any advice offered here helpful!


#2

Start as close to action as you possibly can!


#3

The only thing I can say with unquestionable certainty is avoid info dumping. A lot of people (myself included) are guilty of wanting to dump all the character descriptions, world building, and whatever else into that first chapter. They’re afraid the reader won’t understand enough to be able to move on to chapter 2 and so they end up just destroying any chance they have by over doing it.

Avoid the mundane like the character waking up and getting ready to school. If you REALLY want the waking up opening, make sure it’s interesting (like the MC wakes up to zombies eating them)


#4

I don’t have much experience, but I start my first chapters with a main event. You know, what gets the story going.


#5

Before the first chapter ends, I want to know two major things:

  1. who the MC is
  2. what the conflict is

If you can at least introduce the MC and their problem, you’ll be solid.


#6

@Lumi @Prisim @FetchingPenumbra Thanks for the advice! I really appreciate it!


#7

Story beginnings seem daunting because That first chapter needs to set up the story premise and setting, and hook readers at the same time. The responsibilities of that first chapter are so great, writers often paralyze themselves thinking about it. The story never gets started, or they enter a loop of endless revisions for Chapter One. Don’t get stuck there. Here are a few ways you can start your story…

1. The Inciting Incident - This is the most frequent advice you’ll get, and that’s because it tends to work. The inciting incident is that thing that catapults the main character from normal life into The Story. It’s that spaceship landing in Suzy’s back yard. It’s being served divorce papers. It’s that new kid showing up in class. Whatever it is, the event causes a chain reaction that changes the main character’s life and launches her into your story plot.

By starting at the inciting incident, you stand a better chance at hooking the reader, because hopefully they’re interested in what happens next. When the reader is curious how a character is going to react to something, you’ve got them.

2. A Typical Day - Fantasy and Science Fiction both require much more setup than Contemporary because the reader needs to become familiar with world you are presenting. The average day in a Fantasy or Sci Fi story is much more interesting than the average day of a teenager in high school, because we are already familiar with the latter. By starting with the character’s average day, you give readers a chance to acquaint themselves with the technology, terminology, setting, and time period. But don’t take too long. If you start with a typical day, be sure to get to the inciting incident by Chapter Four (sooner is probably better).

  1. A Blend Of Both - Diving right into the action, while exciting, could also mean a disconnect from the main character. We, as readers, don’t know this person yet, and find it hard to care what happens to a stranger. Sometimes we need a scene just before the inciting incident to give us an idea about her personality or situation in life. This makes it easier to care.

HOW NOT TO WRITE THE BEGINNING

There are a few no-nos that most writers blunder into when starting out their writing journey. If you find yourself committing one of these mistakes, don’t feel bad. I’ve done each and every one of these!

1. The Dream Sequence - Chapter One begins with the main character dreaming about something, which will foreshadow later events. While this is not terrible in and of itself, it’s so overdone that it’s become cliche. Most readers will roll their eyes when they encounter it.

2. Waking Up - Another tired method of starting a story is the alarm clock. Starting with “A Typical Day” does not mean pelting us with mundane activities. Don’t tell us about how the main character brushes her teeth or eats her cereal. Tell us about things that differentiate her from other people. Maybe she likes eating cold pizza from two days ago for breakfast. That tells us something.

3. Looking in the Mirror - Often when a writer wants to convey what the character looks like, they’ll describe what she sees as she looks in the mirror. This is done a LOT. We don’t need to know precisely what she looks like all at once. Try sprinkling in the details gradually, like maybe she puts her brown hair up into a knot, or talks about how her sister “has blue eyes like me”. Or maybe she covers her freckles with makeup. But don’t do it all on the same page, because then it’s not gradual. It becomes obvious, and we don’t want the reader to get bored with descriptions.

Again, none of these things are terrible. It won’t ruin your story. However, if your goal is to make a good first impression, avoiding these overused methods is a good start.


#8

I have no argument against any of this! Blah I got the wrong reply button. Those was for @Zoe


#9

I put all the background and a goal for the character. I also make it relatively short. I introduce the mc and the villian (if there is one), or a problem. I also add a few bg chars.


#10

In media res “in the middle of the action” is my best advice. If you start right in the middle of an intense scene or some sort of action no matter how small, (although there are some cliche ones like waking up, which aren’t bad to use, just slightly overused) then you will instantly draw you reader’s in. You can even start with dialogue so long as it’s interesting dialogue. Starting with descriptions will usually cause the reader to get bored and they will drop out of the story quickly if not immediately. Also, present a goal for your character and leave the reader with questions. This will draw them out of your first chapter into the next chapter.


#11

The typical screenwriting adage is “In late, out early”, so start as close to the main conflict of the scene as possible. Strong opening line, killer ending (grand opening, grand closing!) and show the unique elements of your story early enough. If a reader stumbles upon an opening they consider cliche, then the promise the writer is making is that the rest of the story is identical. Yes, there may be familiar tropes, but you want to filigree them with your personal style, and engage the reader with clean, purposeful prose and a textured character.


#12

Starting a story is complicated to give advice on. Everyone has different preferences. For me, I pick a certain event in the book that either will benefit the story later on, or start the story in a way that will hook the audience and give them an idea of what the book will be about.

For example, in one of my stories I had a character fighting back to some rivals, and then getting captured by them. I then moved to the perspective of my main character.

In my opinion, and experiences, this creates a feeling of a cliff-hanger. Questions pop into your head, and make you want to read more.

My overall advice would to be to start with something that you are certain will make your audience curious of what will happen next. And ask yourself the same questions they would ask. Back to my example of my character getting captured, you want to create something that will make the audience curious and, yes, maybe a little confused. For this example, I figured the audience would want to know why the book is focusing on the character’s perspective first, and then goes to the main character.

Unusual tactics may just have good results.