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The beginning of a story stops me. (1 Viewer)

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Newman

Senior Member
I have a problem, which has been affecting me for some time.
It is my fault.
I have the story, I wrote a lineup, I have the characters, the landscape, I have everything. I also have Scrivner.
The problem?
The beginning.
The beginning of a story stops me. I don't know how to start.
It is my fault.
The beginnings stop me. I could write the whole book already.
Without a beginning though.
I don't know how to get out of this block.


Look at it from the point of view of one of the craft elements, like change. For example, the beginning is who the character is at the start vs who the character is at the end (at both ends, the where is a function of who).
 

VRanger

Staff member
Administrator
I was thinking about this earlier as well. So I did a search on youtube for something and watched a video asking if it was better to have a strong plot or a strong character starting. The guy in the video explained why he felt starting a story or book with a strong emphasis on the character was best. At least that's how he liked to start his stories. He mentioned, falling in love sooner than later with the character allowed them to attach the reader and then later describing the events or plot. I kinda felt the same way, maybe cause of my inexperience, but I was convinced. I had stopped to think, where do I begin my story? And I am going to start right at the beginning, of whatever is going on close enough to a big event, but focus on the character and their life, who they are, and slowly bring the plot in as the relationships develop.

I agree, at least from what I do. Everything I write starts with character. I reveal the character's first trial early, with varying depths into the character himself ... himself, because as a guy, I don't have the confidence to do female protagonists. ;-)

Now I can contradict myself. I have a Work Started about a magical mouse. I wrote a few pages to set the scene so the reader could imagine how the mouse became magical. However, it still didn't take me too long to get the mouse into the story.
 

Olly Buckle

Mentor
Patron
I was thinking about this earlier as well. So I did a search on youtube for something and watched a video asking if it was better to have a strong plot or a strong character starting. The guy in the video explained why he felt starting a story or book with a strong emphasis on the character was best. At least that's how he liked to start his stories. He mentioned, falling in love sooner than later with the character allowed them to attach the reader and then later describing the events or plot. I kinda felt the same way, maybe cause of my inexperience, but I was convinced. I had stopped to think, where do I begin my story? And I am going to start right at the beginning, of whatever is going on close enough to a big event, but focus on the character and their life, who they are, and slowly bring the plot in as the relationships develop.

That sounds like 'Save the cat'. It is advice for film script writers, in the opening scene the hero does something which will endear him to the audience, like saving a cat, and from then on the audience is with him. I don't see why it shouldn't work for stories too, even in everyday life first impressions count. I guess partly it depends what you want your hero to do later, if they are going to be nice all along maybe there is no need. If they are going to do some dodgy stuff later on maybe best if they save the cat first.
 

Foxee

Patron
Patron
Well, most readers, I have known ones who read the last page first. :)
I didn't know you knew my mom, Olly.

I haven't read all the comments so far so if I'm repeating anything that's why.

- Perfectionism can cause problems with starting. If that is it then the problem should resolve if you can convince yourself that the first draft doesn't have to be perfect. Fear is a lousy companion but lo it does like to hang out with us like an unwelcome relative.

- Finding the 'perfect spot' to start might not happen initially. That might be something you decide later.

- Can you daydream your way into it? Let the things you already know kind of tumble around your mind and try to sink into the senses of a beginning. The time of day, amount of light, indoors or out?, weather, noise, textures. Then flip your hourglass over or start up a timer and write. When it stops see if you have something to work with.

It's not a bad experiment if nothing else, right? What have you to lose?
 

Olly Buckle

Mentor
Patron
Those last words of Foxee's post, what do you have to lose. When I first started a YouTube channel I watched a couple of videos on there about making them, on of them showed his first video and said "Look how awful this was, it doesn't matter, you can always delete it, what is important is just to make something'. It is even more true with writing. You can write three pages and all you lose if they are rubbish is three bits of paper, not even that if it is on a screen, what you gain is a lot more knowledge than you you would ever believe before you started. It is true of a lot of things in life that "You never know unless you give it a try", but I can't think of any with fewer consequences than trying a bit of writing and seeing how it comes out.
 

Theglasshouse

WF Veterans
I dont know if this helps but you can always write inciting incidents to a couple of novels you've read and short stories. Your character will be original with a unique past. Then combine them in a way that satisfies you. But glad you are making progress and writing a beginning to the story.
 

SIGVARD

Member
I have the same problem, but I'm into fantasy stories. Since I didn't find any solution to this issue, I just decided to create my own universe and start from the very creation of things.
 

Twisted Head

Senior Member
"The blank page invites anybody. Come to me. Start writing. Say whatever you want. Doesn't matter. Start Writing." - Walter Mosley

When you just start writing, you can start anywhere. It doesn't have to be at the beginning. I'm sure Tolstoy's first drafts sounded like garbage. David Copperfield first draft was probably nothing like what we read today.

It will come, unless you don't write. So, just write.

~T.H.
 

Sam

General
Patron
I have a problem, which has been affecting me for some time.
It is my fault.
I have the story, I wrote a lineup, I have the characters, the landscape, I have everything. I also have Scrivner.
The problem?
The beginning.
The beginning of a story stops me. I don't know how to start.
It is my fault.
The beginnings stop me. I could write the whole book already.
Without a beginning though.
I don't know how to get out of this block.

What you're experiencing is not an all together uncommon problem for writers.

The most straightforward solution is to skip the beginning. Start the story in medias res and write from chapter three or four onwards, for instance, such that when you eventually get to the ending you will be able to reverse engineer from there to get your beginning.

Beginnings are often a lot easier when you have an ending to work backwards from.
 

powseitch

Member
Please tolerate this newby response if it's unhelpful, however I was surprised not to read a few writing school type responses such as "begin your story at the last possible moment" of "strained equilibrium" before the arrival of the "third force".

I often ponder what a beautiful love story Hamlet would be if it started (and finished) in an earlier timeframe.

As it is, the Hamlet tragedy starts, "we've seen the ghost of your dead father, stop moping and come have a look".

That said, my approach to writing comes from a music teacher who said my role as the artist is to "serve the song", or in this instance, the story.

To stretch the metaphor, as a writer I've come to see my instrument not so much as words but rather as characters which are played by putting these "imagined selves" into myriad difficulties to see how they manage / cope / respond.

One suggestion is that the best way to serve the story is to trust your characters and be guided by them; they know their storylines and will show you where these start and end.
 
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bazz cargo

Retired Supervisor
Blank Page psychosis.
Start with a characters name. Half way through writing the book a perfect line will turn up that you can edit into the beginning. This is known as retrograde fudging.
Good luck
BC

I have a problem, which has been affecting me for some time.
It is my fault.
I have the story, I wrote a lineup, I have the characters, the landscape, I have everything. I also have Scrivner.
The problem?
The beginning.
The beginning of a story stops me. I don't know how to start.
It is my fault.
The beginnings stop me. I could write the whole book already.
Without a beginning though.
I don't know how to get out of this block.
 

LadySilence

Senior Member
All your valuable advice, have been for me a great help.
I started writing again, without making me so many problems.


Thanks again.
 

Theglasshouse

WF Veterans
Ok I have a solution to this problem. Think of Swain's scene and sequel units. Think of any problem. Let's say a gun. The scene could have swain's units. The sequel has the consequences of that event. There is a change. They catch him with the weapon. Let's say he decides to rob a store. What are some reactions as swain says or consequences to that? Maybe in the sequel there is a reaction, dilemma, decision. Are you worried if he commits a robbery he might get killed when too young or someone else? There you have it. A conflict is a problem. Scene and sequel can help you structure story and think of plot.

The concept of a scene in written fiction has evolved over many years. Dwight V. Swain, in Techniques of the Selling Writer (1965) defined a scene as a unit of conflict, an account of an effort to attain a goal despite opposition. According to Swain, the functions of a scene are to provide interest and to move the story forward. The structure of a scene, as described by Swain, is (1) goal, (2) conflict, (3) disaster.[SUP][1][/SUP]
In The Art of Fiction (1983), John Gardner described a scene as having an unbroken flow of action without a lapse of time or leap from one setting to another.[SUP][3][/SUP] Over the years, other authors have attempted to improve on the definition of scene, and to explain its use and structure.[SUP][4][/SUP][SUP][5][/SUP][SUP][6][/SUP][SUP][7][/SUP][SUP][8][/SUP]

SequelEdit


In addition to defining a scene, Swain described a sequel as a unit of transition that links two scenes, adding that a sequel functions to translate disaster into goal, telescope reality, and control tempo. Swain also described the structure of a sequel as (1) reaction, (2) dilemma, and (3) decision.[SUP][9][/SUP] Other authors have attempted to improve on the definition of a sequel and to explain its use and structure.

Source: wikipedia.

Imo it's an easier way to picture a beginnng. A conflict after all is defined as a problem. To make sense of this include a problem then a reaction which is most important since that will lead to consequences.
 
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