Posted in action, beginning, better writing, great writing, how to write, The Writer's Toolbox, writing

3 Ways to Make an Engaging Start to a Story, Chapter, or Novel

How does a writer start a story, chapter, or novel to make it engaging and keep the reader interested? After all, a story can be good, but are there are some key elements to making a story, chapter, or novel stand out? There are actually, and this post will address three of them, and I’ll give some examples of really fantastic starting lines I’ve come across in my reading.

Have you read some of the classics (even just dating back a few years ago) where the authors take the time to build a relationship with the reader? The stories start at a leisurely pace and it may take awhile to see any real action. That was nice and great, but unfortunately to be a writer in this day and age you have to forego the hand holding and get right into it. You can do the hand holding stuff, but do it while you are hooking the reader.

1. Start in the Middle of Action

One of the best ways to engage and hook the reader is to start in the middle of some sort of action. If you are starting a story or novel, then it should be bigger and more attention grabbing action.

What sort of action? Ask yourself this question. If you were starting to read a new book or story what would grab your attention?

Maybe your character is in the middle of fighting off a mugger? Or maybe your character is in the middle of a car accident. You can even do a smaller action like maybe a student just dozed off in class and smacked his head against his desk. Or maybe your character is driving down a dark road and the gas light is blinking and there’s not a gas station in sight.

How big the action is isn’t nearly as important as the action itself. Start with that blinking empty fuel tank light, or your character dodging a fist, and go from there. Engagement in this way creates interest, and then the details can be filled out as you continue further into the story.

Here’s an intriguing action line that opens the book The English Assassin by Daniel Silva.

Marguerite Rolfe was digging in her garden because of the secrets she’d found hidden in her husband’s study.

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Posted in action, beginning

Starting Your Story: Beginning in the Middle

The blank page stares back at you, mocking your very effort of telling the story that’s been haunting you for days, but where should you begin? You know that there is a masterpiece of character and plot just waiting to erupt into written form, though at times it can be a challenge to figure out exactly where the beginning really should be. The best place to start is in the middle.
In the middle of where, you ask? – The middle of the action. Throw your reader in head first right in the middle of something going on. It can be as dramatic as a high-speed car chase or as mundane as washing the dishes, but the point is to have your character actively living out their lives. Then you can spend the rest of the story catching the reader up to the important information they need to know about.
The story can begin with narrative summary, description, dialogue; whatever, as long as the reader becomes hooked from the very first sentence, so he becomes sucked into your world instead of putting down the story and finding something more interesting to do.
That is why beginning sentences are so very important. If you can’t catch a reader’s attention at the beginning, then chances are they will never make it to the end. Here are just a few examples from some authors who have managed to do just that!
The gale tore at him and he felt its bite deep within and he knew that if they did not make landfall in three days they would all be dead. Shogun by James Clavell
Whether I shall turn out to the hero of my own life, or whether that station will be held by anybody else, these pages must show.  David Copperfield by Chares Dickens
I answered the phone, and Susan Rodriguez said, “They’ve taken our daughter.” Changes by Jim Butcher
I’d never given much thought to how I would die- though I’d had reason enough in the last few months- but even if I had, I would have not imagined it would be like this. Twilight by Stephanie Meyer
Sometimes writers, especially new ones, have a hard time beginning a story and struggle with how to present their story, because they do not know how the story will end. Don’t let this hang you up. If you begin with a good idea and have real characters then something wonderful is bound to happen. In fact, not knowing the end will make the journey of discovery that much more meaningful for you and will lead to places you may never have considered otherwise.
It’s the first words that you write that draws a reader in and hooks them, leaving them wanting for more. If you can’t do that with in the first few paragraphs, even the first sentence, you have already lost your audience, so you should practice the fine art of creating your own beginning sentences.
Try writing five of your own beginning sentences for five completely different stories. Put them in a journal or somewhere you can go back to later. Then add another beginning sentence everyday for the rest of your life. This will not only get you in the habit of writing everyday, but it will also give you some great practice writing beginning sentences, which will in turn, become a treasure trove of  new story ideas for the future.