The simple answer to this question? There is no answer! It would be really nice if we had a formula that worked for every single story. Whether it’s a short essay for school or you’re trying to write the world’s greatest novel, it’s very difficult to know where to start.
I find it’s best to just DO it. Just START! This is why teacher’s teach students to do a draft before their final product. Your draft is the chance to get your ideas flowing. You’ll figure out characters, where they are, when they are. You’ll know what the purpose of your story is and how you reach AND resolve the conflict. Once you have all of that, it’s as if you have come full circle and now you’re ready, once again, to look at the beginning.
If you have your basics done, go back and re-read the opening. Does it make sense to the story? Does it have value? And if it doesn’t make sense to the story as a whole, restart it! Think back to all the stories you’ve read. And if you haven’t read many stories at all, you might want to go back and do that first! It’s extremely hard to write something when you don’t have much experience with what others have written.
Anyway, think about stories you’ve read. How did they start. Following is a list of ways I’ve noticed some (definitely not all) stories start:
- A story from “many years ago” to set the plot in motion
- The moment when your main character’s life is forever changed
- The future that says where the character is now, then says, “Let me go back five years…”
As I said, those are only a few of the things I’ve seen to start books and stories. Most of the time, your opening is there to guide the reader into the world you’ve created for them. How are your readers supposed to engage if you wait half the story to tell us where we are and what’s going on? Just something to think about.
You may write the beginning of your story over and over again. For my “My Story” books I had an idea for the opening of each, but I ended up re-writing it more than five times to make it make sense with the whole story. I almost completely changed it because I wasn’t sure I wanted to include that portion!
My advice: don’t settle. This is your story. You deserve to tell it the way you want. And if you’re not happy with it where it is, set your story aside for a few days and come back to it with a clear mind. If it’s an assignment for school, well you might not have a few days to set it aside. But turn in what you’ve got and if you want the story to continue, come back to it after you’ve had time to relax and keep on writing! Your audience will thank you later.
Write and teach well, my friends!
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