Tuesday, 20 May 2008

Begin at the Beginning

This sounds straightforward enough, but isn’t always the case. If fact, sometimes it can be quite hard to identify where exactly a story should start.

The simple answer we’re told is that a story starts “in the character’s normal world at the point of change.”

But is it always easy to identify that point of change?

Now I’ve just completely re-written the opening chapters of my children’s book. Coming back to it after a break it was clear that, although it started at a point of change, the story itself didn’t really get going until halfway through Chapter 2. In fact, this second point of change was much bigger, incorporated the first point of change, which was really quite minor, and also means that the story now opens with action.

So were those earlier pages a waste of time? Of course not – I needed to write them to get to know my characters, get a feeling of the period and setting, and truly absorb myself, as a writer, in the world I had created – in fact, in my MCs “normal world”.

I see this so often when I’m reading through my own, as well as other people’s work – large chunks of exposition being particularly common in Science Fiction. Yes, this sometimes does need to be written, if only to help the author get his/her head into the world, but the hard thing to learn is that it doesn’t need to be kept.

Find where the story really starts, highlight everything that comes before, hit delete and go from there…

1 comment:

  1. Hi Kate,

    The identification of those significant moments in a character's life has been relatively easy for me. The difficulty for me has been choosing the moment that presents the best hook. In the first draft of TRINITY, I had my protag meeting the other two MCs. Not terribly exciting. In second draft, I had my protag kidnap a baby from a hospital isolation ward, place explosives and blow up a wall, throw a canister of gas that caused people to vomit, and escape with the baby after almost being killed by Special Forces soldiers specifically trained to hunt her down. I thought it was over the top, calling it my "Action Jackson" hook. But the critters loved it, so it has stayed.

    I started my own blog here:

    Email me when you get the chance. I'm at this address:

    All the best,



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