First of all, I’m so sorry it’s taken so long to write this second post taken from Lin Anderson’s Story Workshop. Things have been crazy round here and hopefully I’ll have some amazing news to share with you soon that will serve as an excuse!
So, how to create an effective beginning? Before you start, you should know the answers to these questions:
Who is your protagonist?
What do they want?
Why do they want it?
What’s stopping them?
What’s the result?
Now you can write your beginning! How?
Well, it needs to do three things:
1) Get the story going and show what type of story it’s going to be.
2) Introduce and categorise the protagonist.
3) Engage the reader’s interest.
It can do other things too, such as establish a setting or a mood. But it should always do the first three.
The simplest way, though not the only, is to start with a scene that does all three. Think up a situation your protagonist could be in, which will lead to the final crisis. Remember to step into the scene late and leave it early.
My last post discussed that story is a character in action. Keep this in mind when planning your beginning. Something needs to happen which will change your protagonist’s world. Something which will move them to action. This is called the inciting incident. So, in Pride and Prejudice it is Mr Bingley’s arrival at Netherfield with his friends. In some stories though, the inciting has already happened prior to our entry into it. In Emma we come into the story after Miss Taylor becomes Mrs Weston, which is what makes Emma look for a new friend in Harriet Smith. In my novel the inciting incident for my heroine is the death of her father. Even if you didn’t consciously think about it (I didn’t at the time) there will most likely be one in your story too. Try and identify it! If you can’t, you may need to put one in.
The inciting incident is a turning point in the story and leads to act 2- the middle. More about that in my next post.