How Do You Start a Story?

How Do You Start a Story?

So . . . how do you start a story?

Here’s great advice from a skilled novelist, John Dufresne, a Florida writer, university teacher in Miami, and author of a book about writing stories, The Lie that Tells a Truth.

Here’s what he says in that book:

Don’t [start] the story too early, when the trouble is nowhere in sight. [So don’t do this:] “The alarm clock rang. Joe turned in his bed, reached for the clock, and punched it off. Six A.M. He rolled over and caught forty more winks. When the snooze alarm sounded six minutes later, he felt rested and not so resentful of his day.”

The story starts much later than this, we hope – when he gets to work and discovers he has been fired. So [a better place to start is]: “Joe knocked on Mr. Brind’amour’s door and wondered why the boss wanted to see him before he had a chance to finish the Collins report.”

. . . In other words, don’t start at the beginning, when everything is about to happen, when trouble only faintly casts its shadow. Begin in the middle of things.

Dufresne also points out:

The first line of a story breaks the silence. All of us will read any first line of anything. But will we read the second?

Until you get the hang of it, you might need to write fluffy details that get your own thoughts going . . . like a person in bed waking up, wondering what will happen today.

But you’ll learn to cross that out in revision. Look for the real beginning of the story. Search through your first paragraphs for a most interesting, curious line . . . the one that really, really makes you want to read the next line!

That’s a great place to start. Jump into a story . . .that’s on the move!

(In the next post, I’ll give more example of first lines that make you want to keep reading . . . to find out what comes next.)

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