beginning

ayylamp  asked:

How do you write a hook?

The opening line of your story is one of the most important - this is what makes the reader decide whether or not they’re going to carry on reading. Better make it a good one.

Start with something shocking

Begin your story by making the reader do a double take. Something that will make them audibly go “wait, what?” This gets your reader interested in your story as they know this is no ordinary novel. Here are some examples:

  • It was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen. —George Orwell, 1984 
  • It was the day my grandmother exploded. —Iain M. Banks, The Crow Road
  • I write this sitting in the kitchen sink. —Dodie Smith, I Capture the Castle
  • A screaming comes across the sky. —Thomas Pynchon, Gravity’s Rainbow

Start with something vague, but interesting

Obviously, you’re not going to give the story away within the first couple of lines. This is your opportunity to invite the reader into the world of madness you’ve created in your head. Your chance to whisper “like the sound of this? read more… mwhaha.” Examples:

  • This is the saddest story I have ever heard. —Ford Madox Ford, The Good Soldier 
  • Mother died today. —Albert Camus, The Stranger 
  • All this happened, more or less. —Kurt Vonnegut, Slaughterhouse-Five
  • There was a boy called Eustace Clarence Scrubb, and he almost deserved it. —C. S. Lewis, The Voyage of the Dawn Treader

Start with something character revealing

Your story is going to be narrated or told from the perspective of your main character. What better way to get our first impression from the very first line?

  • Lolita, light of my life, fire of my loins. —Vladimir Nabokov, Lolita 
  • I am a sick man … I am a spiteful man. —Fyodor Dostoyevsky, Notes from Underground 
  • For a long time, I went to bed early. —Marcel Proust, Swann’s Way
  • In my younger and more vulnerable years my father gave me some advice that I’ve been turning over in my mind ever since. —F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby

reindeerkibble  asked:

How do you suggest starting stories when you write them? Figuring out how to start is usually my biggest struggle.

Figuring out how to start is like staring into a deep abyss, listening to lots of hissing, dripping, rumbling, roaring, and a wicked cackle somewhere in the distance, and then shrugging and going ‘good enough’ before stepping in anyway.

I have extreme issues with focus and I understand fully not being able to begin. In fact, I have so much trouble focusing that I usually drown myself in coffee first and use earbuds so that I cannot be distracted and so that physically moving becomes a hassle as I’m leashed by my earbuds to my desk/laptop.

If you’re having trouble starting because of focus, try convincing yourself ‘just x-amount of words and then we’ll see’ or setting a timer or, like me, picking a spot where there’s nothing else to do and making it slightly difficult to get out of that spot. There are a lot of anti-procrastination timers, web-blockers, etc that you can find on google as well.

If you’re having trouble starting because you don’t know where in the story to start, you’re not alone in this either.

In other eras, it was perfectly normal to start with exposition, to set up your board as detailed and rambling as you liked. Now, in modern writing, you need to have what is called a “point of attack” or a “hook.”

Instead of setting up the environment that will eventually allow readers to care for your character, you have to immediately make them care for your character enough to care about the character’s environment. 

When starting your story, this means you should pick an event that does as much as possible. It “must” reveal your character in an intriguing way, reveal your setting in an intriguing but organic (no info dumps!) way, and it “must” foreshadow the inciting incident/main conflict. That’s a lot for a single scene to do! 

***(I have put must in quotations because anyone who truly feels like they wish not to do so should write exactly how they wish to. There are readers who will read exposition. There are readers who enjoy older stories because of the beautiful exposition! If these guidelines truly go against what you love, ignore them and do what makes you happy!)

So before starting, ask yourself a few questions:

-What is the main conflict of this story and what will eventually force your main character to engage in this conflict?

-How can you foreshadow that conflict and the inciting incident?

-What makes your character relevant to this conflict and makes their viewpoint unique, intriguing, and important to the telling of this particular story?

-What parts of this world must instantly be known in order for your reader to understand what kind of story they will be reading?

-What parts of the above questions do you wish to withhold or merely hint at in order to keep a sense of mystery or intrigue or suspense?

The answers for the first four questions will contain what you should include in your hook and first scene or chapter. The answers to the last question will contain what you should take out.

Keeping all of this in mind while also trying to focus, trying to get over writer’s block or fear, and trying to get to know the world and characters yourself might be over-whelming. Therefore,

It is okay to start with warm-up. It is okay to explore your world, setting, characters, and plot all by yourself with as much rambling as you need in your first draft. It is okay to do whatever type of writing it takes simply to get you started and get your brain pumping. 

Many writers, myself included, don’t pick a point of attack until we do a second draft. Some writers, myself included though I’m still experimenting, don’t plan at all until a second draft. Some writers need to learn things organically, explore the parts of a story that interest them, and then press all of that raw material into a coherent shape.

If it’s too difficult or daunting to start with the perfect beginning, or if you simply don’t know your story that well enough yet, then start wherever you please. You can start in the middle if you want. You can write the first scene that you ever thought of. It’s important to let yourself write however you need to in order to get that first draft out. 

Whatever order you choose to write in, you will reach the point where it’s time to write that perfect beginning from scratch, or to choose what scene to consider your true beginning, or to polish a beginning you’ve already sketched out. It’s perfectly fine if you don’t reach this point until you’re editing or writing a new draft.

Therefore, the questions above can be used at any point: when you’re starting to write, when you’ve been writing and finally want to tackle your beginning, or even when you’re editing. 

I hope this was helpful!

Happy writing and best of luck on your project!

akashaenam  asked:

Hello, I'm creating a story that is about magic users against people who use technology and I know what I want in the story but I don't know how to start it off. Can you help?

Starting the Story

Finding the spot to start your story is tricky, and from my experience, it can sometimes take a lot of trial and error. What it really comes down to though is pinpointing what exactly the primary conflict of your story is, and then crafting a scene that not only introduces that conflict in some way, but one that presents some kind of stake. In other words, when you write any kind of event or action in the first scene (which you should always do, regardless of how mild or intense it is), then you have to go one further and show why your characters care about it. What’s in it for them? 

You say that your story is about magic users against technology users. This is your premise, and it’s one that is used frequently in science fiction and fantasy. The reason I bring this up is not to deter you from going there (I would never, ever do that), but I want you to really, really think about what your story is really about. What is the real conflict?

Let me talk about InterWorld for a moment. InterWorld is a book by Neil Gaiman and Michael Reaves that features the classic magic vs. technology war. But when you go to any website to read a summary about this book, the first sentence talks about Joey, the main character. Because while a war between magic and technology sets the stage, the story is really about Joey, and his role in keeping this power struggle balanced, so that neither magic nor technology gains full control. So when starting this story, the authors don’t start by describing the war, or even showing a battle between both sides. It begins with Joey, and they show how Joey becomes involved. 

So in figuring out this first scene, try to determine what the story is actually about. You say that you know what you want in the story, so presumably you have your characters. What role do these characters play? What are the consequences of either side winning this war and why does it matter to these characters? How does this war conflict with what your characters want? 

Try to write one sentence that describes what the story is about, and make sure that this sentence introduces a character. Then, when starting your story, make sure this first scene includes that character. 

You should also consider what you’re wanting to say about magic and technology. In InterWorld, you could argue that it’s about finding balance between the two. But perhaps you’d rather choose a side. Maybe for you, it’s the magic users that are the antagonist, because they use magic to force people into servitude. Or perhaps the tech users are the villains, because they believe technology is based on intelligence and hard work, while magic requires neither. In either of these scenarios, your goal should be to challenge both ideas. In the latter you might show a tech user learning that magic is indeed hard work and achievement in magic is well earned, while the former might show how one complex piece of tech could overcome the seemingly invincible magic.

Are you writing a story about how the war ends? How it starts? How one person (or a few people) attempts to bring both sides together? 

Think about who the characters are, what they want, whose side they’re on, what story you’re really telling about this war, and then write a scene that manages to introduce (or at the very least hint at) all of these things. 

As I said at the beginning of this long post, the perfect first scene can sometimes be the result of lots and lots of trial and error, so don’t get discouraged if you’re failing to come up with a great beginning. You might need to dive in with one idea for your scene and just see how it works. The important thing is to get the story moving forward. You can always go back to that first scene when you’re halfway through the story and reconstruct it. So don’t feel like you have to have it right before you move into the plot.

I’ll also quote a couple paragraphs from a post I did on info dumping not too long ago:

“Something else to consider - and this is something I’ve run into many times - perhaps you’re starting too much in medias res. Starting in the middle of things is a great technique to get readers intrigued, but if you start too far into your story, you end up catching the reader up with lots of summary, rather than showing them these important events scenically. So if you feel like you have way too much to explain in the early scenes, consider starting the story sooner in your timeline. Find another key event that won’t leave readers lost from page one.

Finding the key spot to start a story is difficult, and I don’t necessarily have all the answers to that dilemma, but I would suggest the sweet spot is before things get complicated but after routine has been disrupted. Consider what would be the normal routine for your protagonist, and start your story immediately after that routine gets shaken. This should allow for enough excitement to keep readers hooked early on without needing a ton of exposition.”

I hope I was able to help! Bottom line is, think about your conflict and your characters and write a scene that addresses both of these things. 

-Rebekah

flickr

Untitled by Katherine Squier
Via Flickr:
matt spontaneously sprinted up the slope & lizz followed. they move in a month to start their new life together.