Writer's Direction forum: Beginnings

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Mar 22, 2011 10:49 PM CST
Name: Lexi
I have amazing ideas for books that are all going to waste because I can't find a way to start writing. I can create basically the whole story in my brain, the characters are alive to me, but I just can't seem to write a beginning.

Does any one have any suggestions?
Mar 22, 2011 11:41 PM CST
Name: Sharon
Hi Lulabell,

That's an important question and might have more than one answer. Lots of answers, in fact. Most of the time I have a very basic outline, the beginning, the middle, and the end.

As my thoughts and ideas take shape, then I add them to the outline in the place where they best fit. Sometimes I think of an ending first, so I put it in the end part of the outline before I even think of the way I need to begin it. No matter what you think of, it surely will best fit in one of those categories.

Once you have your ideas in place, then you can even lengthen your outline, add more categories if you need to, then of course in the beginning you'll want to set the tone and in the end you'll need to tie together all the loose ends.

This very basic, but it's a start and it might help a little.

So, the beginning:
Set the tone, the time, the location, the mood, and introduce at least a main character or two. Then lead up to the middle, the body of the story.

The middle or the body:
What's happening, the purpose of your work, the problem, the conflict...that kind of thing. This is the biggest part of your work and probably will contain much more information than the beginning or the end.

The end will be the climax, and will tie up any loose ends that you started earlier.

Other writers might have other methods, but this is a basic one that works most of the time. Hopefully Toni or Larry or one of the other writers will add other helpful hints.

And if you have more questions, jump right in and ask them. That's what we're here for.
Don't ever be afraid to ask. We'll always try to help.

Mar 23, 2011 4:59 AM CST
Name: Toni Leland
Connecticut Shoreline
Hi Lulabell,

You are experiencing what every writer faces at some time or another: the dreaded opening lines!

A writer's job is to craft a beginning that will make the reader say, "Oooh, what's this all about?" or "Oh boy, I'm gonna like this story!" (I'm guessing you write fiction.)

With your story "written" in your mind, think back to before the story begins and decide what your main character wants. Then figure out what obstacles he or she will meet to reach the goal.

Craft your beginning by having your main character comfortable in his/her world, then toss in the promise of an obstacle, or actuate a real event. This sets the stage for the rest of the book and, hopefully, your reader is "hooked".

Example: Opening three paragraphs of a novel

Karyn Ross clutched her passport and stepped onto the shimmering pavement outside the gleaming steel and glass buildings of Cairo International Airport. Throngs of people crowded the sidewalk, the din of incomprehensible language swirling around her at a noise level that defied description. The heat slammed into her, dragging every drop of moisture from her skin, sucking the last breath of cool air from her lungs. Her body ached with fatigue and jet-lag had already set in. Her brain was still in Florida where it was the middle of the night. [PROTAGONIST IS OUT OF HER COMFORT ZONE]

“Sleep,” she muttered. “I can worry about the damned horse tomorrow.” [THE PROMISE OF A CONFLICT]
The language had an almost musical cadence and, for a moment, Karyn felt optimistic that this trip could be enjoyable. Someone bumped into her and she staggered, throwing out her arms to regain her balance. Her handbag slid off her shoulder, then she shrieked as it disappeared into the crowd in the hands of a small boy. [FIRST OBSTACLE]

Hope this helps!
Equestrian fiction, YA contemporary, Paranormal Romance, and more
Mar 23, 2011 2:50 PM CST
Name: Lexi
Thank you both so much! I truly appreciate the help.
Mar 23, 2011 2:57 PM CST
Name: Lee Anne Stark
Ontario, Canada
Perpetually happy!
That's great advice!

My problem is the opposite. I can come up with (I think) awesome beginnings, and then I fizzle out...
Mar 23, 2011 4:12 PM CST
Name: Sharon
You know, Lexi, with all the stories you have dancing around in your head, you might possibly have two or three going at one time. A notebook to keep them in...maybe with dividers...would help. I think the organization part is important.

And I think you are wrong, 3G. I've seen some really nice stories from beginning to end from you.
Mar 26, 2011 9:34 PM CST
Name: Susie
Phoenix AZ
Those three segments to storytelling you mention, Sharon.
The same applies in movie making.
When you become aware of that "recipe" or format you can so easily see the "set up" in a script.
I collaborated on three movie scripts and we definitely followed that format. No matter the subject, the format seems universal. It's probably applicable to any given human pathos experience. Even true of animals (Old Yeller, for example, etc.)
"There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle." --Albert Einstein
~ All Things Plants, SOUTHWEST GARDENING ~Cubits.org ENERGY & POWER
Mar 26, 2011 10:09 PM CST
Name: Sharon
You are right, Aguane....

Sort of a life pattern, too.
Mar 31, 2011 7:40 AM CST
Name: Horseshoe Griffin
Efland, NC
And in the end...a happy beginning!
Just great advice given here. This thread alone should help folks "get 'er done", or at get started.

I wasn't aware of the complete breakdown/sequence or requirements of the beginning of a story but re-reading some of my (many) beginnings I see I followed those paths, obviously w/out knowing it. Maybe there is hope, eh? *grin

Super busy season here again but I hope to pop in from time to time, getting an education on writing.

Thanks Sharon and Toni.
Aug 19, 2011 5:38 AM CST
Terri Blackstock has great advice for writers on her website: http://www.terriblackstock.com/faqs/for-writers/ She also has some good resource links at the bottom of that page.

The biggest one for me is the first one on her list (quoting here): Don’t get it right, get it written. I used to spend weeks writing and rewriting the first three chapters, until I heard this bit of advice. Now I write the first draft without judgment, and rewrite extensively on the subsequent drafts. Just having the book on paper–even if it’s terrible–makes the rest of the job seem easier.

LeeAnn -- Dorothy Gilman once wrote an entire book (Thale's Folly) where one of the main characters only writes beginnings, never middles or endings.

In my experience, one of the best things writers can do is to be in community with other writers, whether it's an internet community or a face-to-face community. Being around others who share your passion for your craft is exhilarating and inspiring, as well as ... dangit, there should be another one-word option for this, and my mind just went blank ... as well as pushing you to keep writing and to keep revising. Maybe the word I'm looking for is 'challenging' ?

Back in the mid-late 90s, when the internet was still a new thing to the average user, there were a couple discussion groups on AOL that were exactly what I described in the above paragraph. It was a good mix of beginners, intermediates, and award-winning published writers. Many of the wanna-be writers from those groups are now published & well-loved authors. I've been gone from AOL for over 10 years now, and I still remember the friendship/love/respect/camaraderie of those discussion groups. It's very similar to what y'all have here on Cubits and over on ATP -- part of why I feel at home in both these places.
Aug 21, 2011 11:03 AM CST
Name: Sharon
Glad you found us, Fiwit!

We're taking a bit of a summer break right now, but check out the forums, we have a group story going on and as gardening season wanes we'll all be right back here. In the meantime look at the group story, I think you'll like it.

So happy you are here!

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