I’ve come to the conclusion that I have no idea where to start my stories. In each book I’ve written, I usually have a minimum of ten completely different drafts of the first chapter before I’ve settled on one. Just when I think I have it figured out, I realize that I’m wrong. I’m still trying to figure out the fine balance of jumping readers into the story, while still having a beginning where they can connect with the character.
So where exactly is a good place to start a novel?
Maybe we can discuss.
Here’s some thoughts I’ve gathered:
- It’s important to start at the pivotal point of the plot. Or at the conflict or situation that sets your character down the path for the plot of the book.
- But at the same time, sometimes I’ve found out that the conflict to start with isn’t the main conflict of the book, but opens or leads to it in some way. For example, the Princess Diaries starts out with Mia finding out her mother is dating her teacher, not that she finds out she’s a princess. But that first conflict is necessary to show her going from ordinary teen to royalty.
- It’s important to show who your character is from page 1.
- Something has to happen for the reader to connect with the character in Chapter 1: either an embarrassing event, life-changing circumstance the reader can connect with, or even the way the main character thinks or handles the situation. But that connection has to happen quickly.
- While it’s important to show all of this quickly, it’s just as important that it doesn’t overwhelm the reader and there’s not too much going on. Focus on one conflict at a time, but make sure it fits into the overarching plot.
Maybe this is why beginnings are so hard. There’s so much that needs to be accomplished in that first chapter. And at the same time, it needs to feel natural and not too confusing or overloaded.
Do you agree? What helps you determine where to start a story?
--Emily, Miss Querylicious