For the last few weeks we have been exploring various aspects of improving beginnings to stories. The next few posts will be a little different. I am going to tell you about what happens at our Writers’ Gathering which is to be held on Friday 3rd here in Wigtown, Scotland’s Book Town. After that I will be introducing a guest novelist who will be talking to you about beginning a novel and then we will begin a new series of posts on Character.
But first I want you to reach the end of your beginning and to know when you have reached it.
You have an idea for a story and you begin writing. You introduce your hook. Something happens to unsettle your character. He meets with a problem that gets in the way of what he wants, needs or hopes for. So he makes a decision to deal with the obstacle. (I am sticking with ‘he’ here but of course I mean he or she).
It is at this point, when your lead character makes his decision, committing himself to act, to face and attempt to overcome the obstacle that stands in the way of what he wants, that your beginning ends and your story proper begins. Try to reach this point as soon you can, because if it is drawn out your great beginning will lose momentum and begin to flag.
Your story is about how someone deals with a problem or difficulty. It can be quite a small problem as long as it is important to that person at that time. For example, in a short story called The Wedding Flowers by Wayne Price a character wants to get rid of the guide who has attached himself to him and is taking him up the mountain. When the guide goes looking for water, he decides to hide among the flowers along the roadside and it is here that he commits himself to action and to the tragic consequences of that action.
The early commitment of your main character to action is very important to your story because if he does not do this, he will come across as too passive and your opportunity to raise conflict, curiosity and tension will be lost. Your readers’ interest thrives on uncertainly of outcome.
Moving beyond your beginning is hard but this part doesn’t need to be as clever as your hook; this part is about making sure your readers know who the main character is, the nature of the problem and that the main character is poised for action.
Open a story with a problem so your story already has something to solve. Create a couple of scenes to set this up. Introduce the character(s) and the problem and see how soon you can get your main character to make a decision to act, in order to try to alleviate the problem. Try it with a child gone missing, or try it, like Wayne Price, with something (or someone) that is becoming a bother to you and you want to rid yourself of this irritation or difficulty.
Next Post – What goes on at a Writers’ Gathering at Wigtown, Scotland’s book town.