There are few things more frightening than a blank page. One of the most difficult things to decide is where to start a story. The fear is that if you don’t know where to begin, you’re not going to be able to start a story. But starting your story isn’t something to fear. So let’s take the fear out of the equation.
Writing fiction is a complex process and can seem overwhelming, but the more writers understand these processes, the less daunting they will seem.
Part of the fear of the blank page is that writers assume they must have a fully-fledged, all singing and all dancing tale just ready to pour onto the page and they must start at the beginning. But that’s not true – it’s a myth. There are no rules here. Every writer is different, so every approach is different. In one way or another they all eventually end up at the same point – a completed story.
Normally we have a vague idea of the story we want to tell when we sit down ready to write. And that’s the most important thing – the idea, borne from inspiration, forms the building blocks to create. How we write and stitch everything together is down to each writer. Start when the starting point wants you to start. The rest can follow at the editing and rewrite stage.
Ideas come in all shapes and sizes and in all matter of ways. They’re still ideas. And that’s always how a story begins. These are starting points. A starting point is the point at which we start a story, and that isn’t necessarily at the beginning.
Those starting points might be centred on a single theme. It might be some characters have been in your head for a while and want their story told. The idea might have sprung into life watching an event. Some ideas have even popped into life as full on ‘scenes’ which the author has expanded upon.
Some writers don’t actually start at the beginning. Sometimes they begin in the middle. Others start at the end. It may sound strange, but they are still starting points from which to build the entire story. That’s why writers can start their story anywhere they feel they need to.
Some writers simply build on several scenes in their head. They may not know where the scenes fit, but there is no longer a blank page – and no longer any fear of such. Once they begin, they often find that other scenes become easier to write and soon they have the beginning of the story written without too much hassle.
Once a writer has undertaken a starting point, they’ll probably have a clearer idea of the kind of story they want to tell, and then formulate and expand on the idea to create a plot. By that point, those overwhelming fears have vanished.
Common starting points:
- Start with a theme.
- Start with a larger than life character.
- Start with the ending.
- Start in the middle.
- Start with a certain scene, or several random scenes.
Don’t let the fear of a blank page overwhelm you. Start your story whoever you want to start it – whether it’s the beginning, middle or the end, or whether you start with a scene or a larger than life character. Just write, and see where the ideas take you. You can then go back a form a plot and plan your story in more detail.
Every story starts at the beginning, but that beginning is wherever you want it to be.
Next week: Turning ideas into stories