Wednesday, March 07, 2012


Today's question comes from C.Q. from Mrs. Jurkowski's class.

Q; If my story was about Valentine's Day, how should I start it?
A: Although this is a little late for the holiday, but it can go for any holiday themed story. Simple answer: As an author, I can only guide you in the craft of writing. I can't tell you how to specifically start your story.

Longer answer: It is recommended to start your story one of three ways, which was answered on a previous question - start in the middle of the story, start with action. Most of my stories start with dialogue. I drop the reader right into the middle of things. You basically want to give your reader a starting point to develop his or her own images about what the story is about as quickly as possible. Hook your reader.

Think of your story as a movie. When you watch a movie, the screenwriter has picked you up out of your chair and dropped into the action. That's what you should do with your story.

An example of just dropping the reader into the story is in my story Finally Home. My first page is pretty much dialogue. This is how it starts:

"I hate your job. I hate this car." Kelly grumbled in the back seat of the family station wagon. "Why do we even have to go to some stinking town in South Carolina anyway?"

"Kelly, that is no way to talk to your father." Mrs. Watson looked back at Kelly with a pleading look to apologize.

Kelly knew that look all too well, the one where her mother expected ...

From this, you can tell they are moving and are in the car. I've just put the reader right into the middle of it.

For more, please find the WWYWWQ posting that addresses the three ways to start a story. Thanks for your question, C.Q., and ya'll keep them coming - Mrs. E :)


J & M said...

Thank you for this insight Elysabeth!! I got another for you. Is it a good idea to write a book in 1st person...a book for adults. Where the character is the one telling the story about themselves....and if it is a good or acceptable idea, how do you start it?

elysabeth said...


Interesting questions. Personally, first person is harder to write because you are so limited on the point of view. It is acceptable to write either first or third person, but try not to mix the two.

Again, starting a story is up to you. My newest novel that I'm working on starts totally opposite my other stories - I love starting with dialogue as it really drops the reader into the story. I thought I had posted about how to start a story but apparently I posted how to break a story into chapters.

I'll research a bit more and post an update to this particular question. Where you start the story is up to you (and a lot of times your characters decide where it starts) but usually don't start it with a lot of backstory - give the readers a tidbit of backstory but weave it into the beginning of the story and throughout the story so that they aren't aware they are really getting backstory.

When I started Imogene, I knew it was a 10-year span of backstory but but I couldn't start it when the child was 5, so I've started it at the end of the 10 years and will work those 10 years into the story - it's very apparent that the story started 10 years earlier but I almost start it at the end of that chapter in Imogene and Sarah Beth's lives.

Listen to your story and you will know where to start it. Thanks for stopping by and commenting and asking questions to get me thinking more about writing. Mrs. E :)