Writing Discussion: How Do You Decide Where to Start the Story?

It is said to start the story at the point of action, even, dare I say, in the middle of the action.    

As long as the start of the the story isn’t too far into the action to confuse the reader.

There are many ways to go about it. But, how does the writer discover the right way to start the story?

Central to any strong beginning is knowing your protagonist and your character’s ordinary world before they are thrust into an event that will change everything as they know it.  And the consequences!  Conflict!  Action!

The reader must see it all and want to read more.

As a writer, I struggle with where to start my story.  For example, in my first draft of PB, I started the story right before my main character’s life was to change.  However, since the story is told from a lyrical voice, I discovered it may not be close enough to the action and the story might have started off too slow.

My second draft brought the protagonist smack dab into the action — her life changed, she hates it and wants to escape.  But the story was too far in and some of the sense of her emotional trauma was lost with this change.  Part of it was the POV change, from first to third. But most of it was from where I chose to start the story.  I found I missed my protagonist’s struggle with what she lost, and wanted to show more of her journey. More importantly, she wanted it told.

I wrote my third and fourth versions from different points of the story, in first and third person, to see what resonated with me.

I think I’ve finally reached the right start to the story and it makes me very happy.  

How do you decide where to start your story? Do you know exactly where your story will start and it turns out to be spot on? Or do you have to work it, like me?

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Vivian Lee Mahoney

Consider yourself warned: I write books about rebels. I'm also a postergirlz for readergirlz, a literary advisory group for teens. Who knew going back to the teenage years would be so rewarding?

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