28 July 2014

The Exact Right Beginning of Your Story -- How Do You Know for Sure?

We quickly cover the BIG Energetic Marker, nearly at the end, the Climax and I know already from the character profile and thematic statement that she's got a whopper of a story. (Is that even a word anymore? a whopper. Was it ever?) Her story is so timely, I want to nudge her to finish faster, go the distance, see her story with a plot all the way to the end. She's committed. And she's already done so much work.
When she finally settles on memoir rather than fiction (pros and cons on both sides) and gets to the start of the story, she grapples, which we all do -- where to begin. Having always

heard and

start with a bang, an inciting incident, something big and dramatic to dazzle the agent, the editor, the reader, she begins with the biggest scene of all, an outrageously dramatic event and… seriously flawed.

For the reader to care about a death on the first page, she has to feel an immediate emotional tie and that bond is generally formed with the character. That's not to say that there aren't plenty of stories that work quite well with death on page one. Murder mysteries in particular demand it.

However, in other stories, why give away a huge scene fraught with conflicting emotions at the very beginning before the reader is settled and beginning to truly care about the characters and intrigued with the story and wanting more? The only way forward after that is to resort to flashbacks to fill in the missing pieces. Again, perfect for a murder mystery--the reader learns the clues as the protagonist solving the mystery.

Memoirs use lots of flashbacks and memories. In her case, that she can go linear by thematically and tightly linked cause and effect, the dream she weaves the reader into becomes more real and immediate and powerfully moving.

Readers don't always remember details at the very beginning of a story because they're scrambling to decide if they like the characters, can follow the plot and are ready to commit to reading forward.

Give them the huge scene at the 1st Energetic Marker; the End of the Beginning when the reader feels a part of the story, the characters more familiar to her than family and impatient to know what happens next. A death here means something. That it evokes anger pulls a very committed reader smack into the writer's exotic world of the middle.
(For more tips about where to begin your beginning: The Plot Whisperer Workbook Step-by-Step Exercises to Help You Create Compelling Stories)
Need more help revising your story? 
  • Looking for tips to prop up your middle with excitement? 
  • Wish you understood how to show don't tell what your character is feeling? 
  • Are even you sometimes bored with your own story?
  • Long to form your concept into words? 
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For more: Read my Plot Whisperer and Blockbuster Plots books for writers.