Monday, May 17, 2010

Where to Begin

Do you ever have this problem? Sometimes a character pops into my head and just starts talking to me. Sometimes, it's not anything groundbreaking....nothing plotworthy. But the character insists that something awesome/terrible/awesome happened in her/his life that needs to be written.

Where do you begin?

The most common thread of advice is to start with action. Begin at the turning point, the place where your character stands to make a decision or action of some sort that changes their lives. Or is going to change their lives.

I think this is a good piece of advice if it's followed carefully. Here's my problem. In life, those decisions come along quite often. Lots of times they come one right after another. The trick is to pull the right string. The string that causes the rest of the story to move forward. Not the string that leads you to a dead end.

I'm really good at picking the dead end strings. The reason why, I figured out, is because I love, love back story. I like the motivations behind choices, I like the inner workings of the complicated human mind.

It's important to realize the action you may start with still has to show us enough character and plot to keep us going. It's not about what nail color to wear to the club. It's about which guy is going to meet us there. Am I making sense? In our rough drafts, I think it's important to explore all the different choices, beginnings, actions that make our story unique. Then in subsequent drafts, you realize and find where certain scenes are not necessary.

What about you? Where do you begin?
*apologies for the lack of invigoration to this post. It's 2 am and I'm not asleep as I should be!*


  1. I admit I love backstory. I love knowing where a character has come from and why they are where they are. I guess it just has to be done very carefully.

    I wonder why writers love starting with backstory? Agents say start with where the story actually starts, but if that were true, the story would start at the character's birth! Isn't that where our story really starts?

  2. First of all--New Follower! *waves*

    Second-awesome post! Choosing a starting point is one of the hardest things to do--and I'm with you, I tend to start too far back. For me, I follow the writing advice my teacher gave, which is to just start the story wherever I want, and then go back and edit to the right starting point during revision. Once I've told the story all the way through it's a lot easier to see where it begins.

    Looking forward to getting to know you through your posts. I love connecting with other writers! Happy Monday. :)

  3. With my current wip I had a hard time knowing where to start. The other novel that I've outlined, I have a starting point that just popped into my head and even wrote the first few pages, so I wouldn't go down the wrong path later. ;) Things can always change during editing though.

  4. I write MG, and when writing for that age group, it's always best to introduce the characters and let the reader grow to know them. Then slap 'em with the action. Great post though Kristi. I have missed you too. Very much. Hey, I can't find the Critter corner group. Wha happened??

    Talk soon, I am glad to be back with you. Hey, howz the writing coming? =)


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