If you’ve ever seen a track meet, you’ve probably been witness to a false start at some point. It’s that moment when a runner is so keyed up and ready to go that they leave the blocks or cross the line before the starting pistol is fired. It can be embarrassing for the runner that caused the false start, but the nice thing is that they can try again.
And when it comes to starting your story, so do you.
Stories start within the timeline of events you have created, but sometimes the chosen point doesn’t work. Let’s explore some possible reasons why.
You had a great idea for an opening sequence when you outlined your story. But when you sat down to write it out, you realized that not many significant events that influence the story’s direction or deliver insights into the characters happen during this time.
You may have started your story too early, which means looking at your outline and deciding the best moment to kick things off. You can also look at your outline and ask, “What happens before this that’s important?” and write a new opening for your story.
It’s crucial to hook the reader from the start, and if you realize the starting chapter you planned doesn’t have the momentum needed to keep the pages turning, it might be time to move forward and find the moment that does.
I recently had this issue. I had an action-packed sequence for the opening chapter, and I was excited to write it and watch the events unfold. Once I wrote it out, I realized that there was a lot of key information missing that was needed for a reader to have context regarding what was going on.
I decided to add this information in the middle of the action, but that threw off the pacing of the chapter.
So, I took a step back and asked myself, “What events led up to this moment that should be conveyed to the reader?” I took the time to backtrack, and after a while, I had a new chapter to place in front of the action-packed one that established the setting, characters, and conflict in a way that grounded the reader and helped lead into the initial chapter I had written.
Sometimes we want to jump into the story, but we must remember that we’re holding the reader’s hand on this journey, and they don’t know all we know about what’s happening. This is fine if you are writing a mystery and some elements need to be withheld, but if you’re not, you risk confusing and frustrating the reader.
By moving the story back a few minutes, I could give the reader the necessary information, so the next chapter had a more significant impact and made more sense. If you feel that your story begins too late, take the time to explore what led up to the current set of circumstances and write a chapter that provides readers with the context needed to really get into your story.
Don’t Be Afraid to Play
Stories allow us to play and have fun, so we have many options about how and when our story starts. Experiment with this idea by jotting down several ideas as starting points for your story. Some may be too early, some too late, but a few might be the key to giving the opening of your story the energy and hook it needs.
Happy Writing, and I’ll see you next time!