View Full Version : How do you start your stories?

04-01-2014, 05:14 AM
What do you start with?

I've always had difficulties with getting those first few sentences on a paper to even begin a story. So what method do you people use to start?

What sort of ideas do you usually go with?
What do you consider good starter paragraphs?
What do you do to concentrate on writing that first sentence?

The beginning is always the most difficult for me. After that it's smooth sailing. So what do you do to start?

04-01-2014, 01:23 PM
I start at the beginning and i get like a paragraph in then write all over the place. After that i hook them up and edit out what doesn't flow or make sense

04-01-2014, 04:45 PM
Depends on the story. Sometimes I start with a description of a person, a place, an object. Sometimes I start with an event.
Here is how I started one book:
The calm silence of a lazy summers evening was suddenly shattered by the sound of what seemed a hundred blasts of thunder.
A fireball shot high into the night sky and awoke a thousand men at arms. General Toolan Blackpaws, a barrel chested fellow pointed up at the fireball and his loudest voice said "That men, is why you don't give a Dragon chili!"

04-02-2014, 09:06 AM
Since all the stories I write seem to be journey stories (including the one I'm currently working on), I find it easiest to start during the journey, during a calm spot in the adventure, and then slowly work my way towards explaining the purpose of why they're traveling.

That's just me though, and I have the same trouble with beginnings. Once I start I can sit at my writing desk for hours, but it takes forever to get to starting.

One piece of advice I can give that might be helpful, though, is that if you are the kind who takes notes and writes out the world before hand, don't get too carried away in the world-building outside of writing your story, or you might end up funneling all of your creative energies into your notes instead of the piece you want to actually create!

04-02-2014, 03:15 PM
Personally I find the first bit should be a grabber, so I usually just throw in something that's happening than a cliche` landscape setting. It could be a flashback as those tend to work well if done right, then panning out to the current events. Or something like "A body worth one hundred men. What was he supposed to expect when up against her? 'Even after all these years I've known her, this really shouldn't surprise me.'" and then go off to introduce the characters, and what's happening at that moment.

I better note that I've only written a few fanfictions, so maybe there's a better way of going about it. :x3:

04-02-2014, 03:32 PM
Personally I find the first bit should be a grabber, so I usually just throw in something that's happening than a cliche` landscape setting. It could be a flashback as those tend to work well if done right, then panning out to the current events. Or something like "A body worth one hundred men. What was he supposed to expect when up against her? 'Even after all these years I've known her, this really shouldn't surprise me.'" and then go off to introduce the characters, and what's happening at that moment.

I better note that I've only written a few fanfictions, so maybe there's a better way of going about it. :x3:

Hahaha I've done that in one of my fanfictions. Though it was current event then flashback. Everyone liked it that read it so I guess I did something good to counter the bad fanfiction x3

04-03-2014, 03:01 PM
What sort of ideas do you usually go with? A little bit of everything, really. Most of my stories have some sort of adventure to them.
What do you consider good starter paragraphs? Something that tells you almost everything but has that element of mystery that the story will solve later.
What do you do to concentrate on writing that first sentence? I don't. I just jot it down and rewrite it later to make it sound better.

04-03-2014, 03:40 PM
Full-on nonsense. If my story is insane, why not start with the most offsetting sentence possible ? It can be really hit or miss, but going for the unexpected and being original from the get-go can work.

When I started writing Leo Davis (my first true story), I had in mind of making the weirdest opening line in the history of litterature, thus : "Oy you ! Whaddya think of the declining quality of the oysters coming from the Bassin d'Arcachon ?" (it is a French story and my written English is still kinda shaky, so maybe I'll translate it later with some help ^^')

04-04-2014, 05:28 AM
First I need to define if my story has a beginning and an end.
There's no need to start something that has no end, or to just randomly create little by little the story.
Then I write it down with general descriptions, like "chapter 1 - X dreams of nachos, Y gives him nachos"
I write down all the characters, their appearances and roles - generally it helps me to see if the characters are useless or if they're poorly written. No one want useless generic henchmen characters in their comics, it may look like they don't know how to create characters.

I have a lot of tips, it depends on what you really want to do, if it's a comic, a movie...
I have a few books about writting scenarios, I had to create stories for class, and I do it for pleasure, also...

04-05-2014, 12:06 PM
Start when something interesting happens.

People are going to stop reading if they get bored. Start off strong with something interesting. Start off stronger with something interesting about your main conflict. The latter is stronger because then you're forced to go right into your main conflict, no time to get bogged down in the boring things that will make your readers decide to stop reading. I've got a book right next to me, and this is the opening line:

"There were no lions any more."

It's a great opening. It's short, it doesn't muck around with the setting (which comes afterward), and it presents an interesting idea: the lions are gone. The reader starts wondering why they're gone and what it means that they're gone, and so they keep reading. To use another example, this time from something I wrote:

"Footsteps dented the snow without any feet to make them."

Whether I pulled off the rest of the story or not, my idea here was to introduce immediately one of the core concepts of my story with an interesting hook that would make people want to read further on. It's weakish in that it doesn't really tie into the conflict in the story, but it does offer an interesting image that bears further explanation, so the reader will start to read looking for that explanation.

Remember also that editing exists for a reason. Once you've written a story, you can sometimes delete whole paragraphs from the beginning to pare it down to just the important elements.

04-05-2014, 01:51 PM
I write whatever the starting point is. A location, a character saying something, a piece of fruit, whatever. I'm not compelled to put something attention-grabbing as my opener just to make the reader find out why I started off like that. I'm not jumping through flaming hoops just to make the reader do the same. If they want to read the story, they'll read the story, and if they don't, then they won't.

"W'soran awoke slowly, reluctantly."

That's an incredibly generic and boring action, and it is the first thing Josh Reynolds has in the book Master of Death. As far as getting a reader's attention with something that makes then want to read more, it really doesn't do any sort of "good" job. If the author chooses to start with the protagonist waking up, just four simple words, then why should you bother reading anything else he's written in his "story"?

How about the fact that the rest of the story is, in fact, pretty damn good?

You don't need your first line to kick ass and take names. If the overall story is good, then that's what matter.

04-05-2014, 02:03 PM
It's a bad habit of mine though but a lot of times I start by saying the name of the main character first, or that I say what the weather was and where my character is located currently, and then I begin the interaction if there are any in my story.

04-13-2014, 02:41 PM
I didn't expect this to get to two pages.

Anyway, those are all interesting takes on how to start. One of my biggest problems is just getting that first sentence on paper. I do want my story to grab attention but I also don't want to give away too much in the beginning, about the main character or any other character. I want my story to be something people really get into when they read it (and maybe even ask when I'll update XD; that's only a dream though). It's a very long story so I know I'm going to have quite a time keeping interests of other people.

I'll try out some of those and see if I come up with anything.

Frank LeRenard
04-13-2014, 10:01 PM
Just don't start with the character waking up and then going through a morning routine. You will lose ~78% of readers instantly that way. Or at least you should.

No, really... just start with something interesting. All you need to do is get the reader to go, `Oh, hm, what's going on here?' In other words, make them curious enough to keep reading. Rule of thumb in that regard is to not start at the beginning, but there are many ways to accomplish it regardless. Interest is the key word.

04-23-2014, 11:11 PM
The story begins with an idea.
Usually it's something like, "I want to work with a ton of personification in a really cool foresty scene with this sort of mood!"

Then I write a sentence. That sentence becomes a paragraph.
At this point I decide whether or not the story is worth it.

If I feel it is worth continuing, I scrawl out a bit of a plan, write, solidify my ending in a really rough idea, then write.

^ that's for short stories, though. Relevant to me because I write a lot of flash-fiction and other shorts.
But yeah... how I write short stories :D

04-25-2014, 02:44 AM
I typically start with something partially related to the rest of the story, and narrate it in first person. Often times, this is the internal monologue of the narrator, or an observation that leads into a detailed explanation of the surroundings.

If it is narrated in the third person, I typically start with an exchange between two characters to build both of their characters, and to basically get much of the transgressive stuff out there so that people aren't weirded out by the story.

If it's simply narration, as a few of my short stories have been, it is typically narration of events in the third person where the narrator eventually reveals themselves to be an active part of the events being narrated, either through experience with the events or through being a witness to everything.

The purpose of the beginning of a story is to always entice the reader into something, and it's best to either catch them off guard, or set them into a state of mind for the rest of the story, though you'd preferably do both at the same time.

I read alot of average stories growing up, and when I hit adolescence and started reading every controversial or strange book I could get my hands on, I was mindblown by the subject matter. I read The Stranger by Albert Camus around the age of 12, and was blown away by how simple the start of the novella was. "MOTHER died today. Or, maybe, yesterday;
I canít be sure. The telegram from the Home says: YOUR MOTHER PASSED AWAY. FUNERAL TOMORROW. DEEP SYMPATHY. Which leaves the matter doubtful; it could have been yesterday. "

Which in of itself immediately sets the stage of the novel through letting one know what attitude Mersault has towards most of life, including his own take on the funeral of his mother, where it turns out he has nothing but complaints.

The opening pages of Catcher in the Rye do the same thing, which made them take completely different routes from most novels of the time.

04-25-2014, 01:40 PM
I really appreciate all these ideas. I did manage to start one of my stories from some of the advice I received here. I didn't get far but I got passed the starting paragraph which is the most difficult part of the entire thing. Thanks for all the feedback and suggestions! :D

Keep it coming, maybe it'll help me start other stories I've been meaning to write. I have all the plans for them, it's just those damn starting paragraphs.

Art Vulpine
04-25-2014, 07:11 PM
I hardly ever have an entire story in my mind when I sit down to write. Instead I start with an idea and go from there. Granted that your opening may be drastically different when all is said and done, but stories do evolve over time.

05-01-2014, 09:02 AM
I usually come up with the story idea first. The very general idea. I never write it down, I just think about the characters which would be involved in the story. I pick their ages and names. Afterwards I choose a conflict that lets them meet. From there I just write without brainstorming.

05-01-2014, 11:16 PM
Actually, spring-boarding here.

How does one start a comic?

05-03-2014, 11:24 AM
I find it's effective to start with the second act first

05-03-2014, 01:34 PM
Actually, spring-boarding here.

How does one start a comic?

You start it the way you do any story you write?

Of course, because of the way the script is written (like a film's script, for the artist to understand), there's that, but you draw visuals instead of solely relying upon text. Other than that, I can't imagine that there's a mandatory format to use, since everybody has their own style.

If you've ever read a comic book, online or off, you should be able to take plenty away from that.

05-04-2014, 01:51 AM
I often start my stories with an outline. The way that outline evolves depends on the initial idea behind the story.

If I am writing with character ideas driving the story I'll start by listing each of my characters, then I'll write anything from a sentence to a short paragraph describing that character. From there I'll begin outlining the story. If it's a world, I'll start describing elements of the world (factions, environments, major locations, etcetera) then go into the outline from there.

With the outline itself, I'll start with the beginning and end of the story. Writing a brief description of how the story begins, then how it ends. I'll then build the outline out from those two parts, breaking it down to major events taking place between the beginning and end. Then I'll break those events into chapter outlines, each with their own beginning, end and major events.

The important thing is to get the ideas in you head out of your head and in front of your eyes. In my experience that is where the storytelling process really takes off. Once the idea is out of your head you can start refining it in a meaningful way, start pushing things forward, making progress. As long as it's in your head, it's just an idea and you're not doing anything with it. As much as you think you are, it's just festering there. You can have an idea for a story in your head for years, that doesn't mean you're writing a story.

- - - Updated - - -

As for "writing a comic" I do all of the above then take that outline and turn it either into a script or I'll do it "the Marvel way" and thumbnail out my pages based on the outline I wrote, the nfigure out the dialogue once the art is done. The former probably results in better writing, but I find the latter helps me move at a faster pace. A much faster pace.

And it's called "the Marvel way" because it's how Marvel comics did it for years.

08-21-2014, 06:18 AM
I start stories by writing them down on the very first thing that's on hand, because I tend to get ideas when I'm sitting in some sort of vehicle, or when I'm eating lunch outside, or (and this happened only once) in bed with my SO. Either way, I carry a notepad, some pens, a marker, and a pencil with me at all times, so I can at least start something that may become something else later on. Most of it ends up in my GDocs 'Writing' folder, a wasteland of ideas that went there to die.

As for the first lines, I always begin with a quote, a piece of dialogue, a poem, something that isn't mine or isn't spoken by the narrator. I think of it as an icebreaker of sorts. It helps me establish a flow of thought/action that would otherwise be difficult to kick-start.

More likely than not, all of what I've just said makes no sense.

11-24-2014, 06:48 PM
I like to start 'in medias res.' That way I can hook the reader with some action or drama before taking a step back to exposit what's happening.

I do that probably too much. I try not to dwell on the first sentences and paragraphs because if I do I end up like you, just kind of stagnating over it. I just kind of psych myself up and write what comes to mind to get myself started.