Starting Off a Story

All stories have to begin somewhere. An idea. A scribble. A small phrase. But they do have to begin. How they begin depends on the writer and the story.

One of the most memorable beginnings of a story reaches back into our childhoods.

Once upon a time…

That phrase sent us off to the farthest lands and lead us on adventures to fight off dragons, rescue the damsel, and save the day. Hearing those four words lifted our hearts a little higher and grew our imagination. Sadly not many stories start out like that anymore.

Depending on the genre you are writing for, beginnings can start in a variety of ways but there are some that are pretty stereotypical.

Fantasy: A prophecy is told about a evil force striking the land and that only the chosen hero can save the day.

Sci-Fi: It’s the ominous future and something is wrong but we can’t quite tell what it is but the hero introduced here is currently oblivious.

Romance: I’m not going to fall in love. Nope. I’m just not going to.

Action/Adventure Fiction: *insert sounds of fighting here*

Horror: Yep everything just seems normal for now. That will be very different later. Oh and let me introduce this heroic main character and all of their friends in the order that they will die later.

Mystery: You see this person? This person is going to get murdered in about 5 pages.

Historical Anything: Is was the year XXXX and we are in *insert country here*.

Literary Fiction is the only one where it doesn’t give you much of a stereotypical beginning because setting and time periods have a major effect on how it starts, and so does the plot. Though with literary fiction the most common piece of advice for beginnings is to write in medias res, in the middle of the initiating moment for the plot. This advice will give you a kick off point for your story, but if you are anything like me you will want to really write the story from the beginning of the initiation of the plot. Sometimes doing that will make your plot seeming to start too early for you.

What’s your favorite beginning of a story? It can be the first lines or first paragraphs. Please share them below, I would love to hear them, as I am always looking for new books to add to the list.

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2 thoughts on “Starting Off a Story

  1. I love the beginnings of the Harry Potter books. Each beginning is familiar like putting on school uniform once more, yet the differences are obvious, like a shoes or a new shirt. Perfectly evoking the emotions and feel of starting school.
    I love books that have a prologue that is related to the main plot, especially if that connection is not immediately obvious.

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