Let’s be honest, coming up with the beginning of a story can be daunting. It’s what hooks people in. It’s what makes the decision for publishers in whether they’ll publish your book or not. It’s the same for films, video games and TV shows. How it begins really decides if you have an audience or not. So, yeah, they’re pretty damn scary. However, if we just forget the pressure that builds from beginnings, they actually are a really awesome part of storytelling.
Whenever I come up with a new story idea, I sit around and plan for an eternity. However, what I crave the most is to just start it. I want to jump right in. I want to get to know my characters and let them come to life under my fingers as I type away. The dialogue, settings and relationships urge me to start the story. Yes, I get bulked down by the pressure of writing a good beginning, but for my first draft I just let myself write. The perfect beginning will come later.
There’s something euphoric about it. Suddenly, you’re opening up this new world. It’s coming to life and it all seems real. No matter how much planning you do, it feels so good to release it all onto a page.
But what makes a beginning? Most stories out there will begin in various different ways. Some start with an overly descriptive observation of the setting, making it obvious that setting will play a major role in the story. Others will begin with dialogue, putting characterisation or discourse as the leading figure. Then, there are those that begin with a sudden event, like a death or a call for war, making conflict or loss the main point. Are you seeing where I’m going with this?
Beginnings set the tone of the story. Once you’ve had your moment in the sun and have felt the glory of starting a story, you’ll probably need to go back and have a look at how you started. By writing past the beginning, we can forge in our minds how we want the story to progress, and this can help us build the perfect beginning. If your original beginning describes the setting in beautiful detail but the rest of the story only describes settings in a minor way, it might put off the audience. Maybe it won’t, if it is done deliberately, but that is a decision you need to make.
You probably already knew how important and powerful beginnings were for stories. It’s why I love them so much. The original beginning that runs from the brain and out the fingers is adrenaline pumping and exciting, and then going back and finessing it to be the perfect beginning is extraordinary. Once you have hit the nail on the head, it all makes sense.
Personally, I feel like when I have finally put together my perfect beginning after writing a story, it’s like the missing piece of a puzzle. Yes, the beginning was always there and it felt so good to write it, but once it’s been smoothed out, I feel proud of what I have accomplished.
Now, I’m not saying that you have to write the beginning of your story straight away. Even in life, your ‘beginning’ doesn’t have to happen when you’re born. Sometimes, your beginning can only be started once something else has happened. Maybe you need to storyboard the calm before the storm before you can focus on how the story will begin. Then, your story’s ‘beginning’ is a little bit different. However, no matter where in the story you begin to write it, or whenever you decide on how your story will begin, it will always bring joy to do the thing we love: to tell a story.
What do you think? Do you love starting a new story? Do you write the conclusion, middle or start first? What is your favourite way to begin a story? Let me know in the comments!
That’s it from me. Remember to ignite the story and I’ll see you again soon!
Charlotte is a reading and writing lover who has completed a creative writing intensive course at the University of Oxford and is a current university student studying a double degree in journalism and creative writing. If you are curious to learn more, check out the 'About' page.