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How to (not) to start your story

Updated: Dec 14, 2020

So you have an amazing and unique story to tell and the world needs to hear it - great! Let it all out. Just make sure you steer away from cliched beginnings...


  1. Waking up - the main character suddenly wakes up from a bad dream/good dream drenched in seat and peers around them for the sound that stirred them. A great beginning...just not at the start of the book. Try this a little later into it.

  2. Jumping heads - expecting the reader to remain engaged with a protagonist is hard enough, but if you give the reader too many heads to relate to in the first chapter, it makes your story difficult to follow and the reader is less likely to invest their time in the book.

  3. Shopping list - you know the type; he was tall with long, brown hair and blue eyes with a leather jacket and jeans, His red lips and pointed nose...bla bla bla. It's boring! Use the description of the character within your writing: Dave placed the ticket in the pocket of his leather jacket and leant down to kiss Trish on the cheek, his long hair gently tickled her neck... Yes it's great for the reader to know what the character looks like - but their personality is what makes a reader invest, not their appearance (unless it is integral to the story, like Samson and Delila)

  4. Loads of setting description - yes it's great for your reader to see what the writer sees, but spending loads of time writing a detailed description of the setting won't engage the reader unless it is key to the reader understanding the context. Sci-fi and fantasy novels normally require a lot of world-building, but if your audience is in the YA age category, they'll be bored. Instead, try to include it as part of the story itself.

  5. Show - don't tell. This works with descriptions of the characters and also the world itself. By telling the reader about everything, you're not giving them a chance to lose themself in the imagination part of reading, you know, the bit that readers love, when reality slips away and they're so involved with the story, they forget about real life. An example of show v tell:

It was hot as Mel left the shop, her hands were sweaty. As she looked up the road, she saw Tim running toward her. He was panting as he reached her and gave her a hug....


The brightness from the sun blinded Mel as she left the relative darkness of the shop, its cool airconditioning giving way to the sweat that beaded on her forehead and neck. Using her hand as a fan, it did little to relieve her. Along the road, Tim panted hard as he jogged toward her, his pink cheeks ....


If you have your own tips on the best ways to start your story, I'd love to hear them!


Stay safe,


Jules


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