How to Start Your Stories

Starting line

Story Start

A great opening immediately hooks the reader or audience and stacks the odds of writing a successful story in your favour. In a previous post I talked about the importance of a strong first image. In this post I want to suggest four types of starts employed by skilled writers.

Action Start

This type of opening immediately catapults us into the hurly burly of the tale, refusing to yield a static moment or slackening in intensity or pace. Movies such as Speed and Die Hard are renowned for this kind of action early in the first act.

Shock Start

This opening typically highlights the formidable powers of the antagonist and by implication, the danger this presents to the protagonist. The explicit sex scene in Basic Instinct, for example, demonstrates the antagonist’s ability to use sex to manipulate the men around her, culminating in a shocking murder.

Contrasting Character Start

These openings immediately highlight the differences or incongruities between two lead characters and help to sustain interest throughout. In Lethal Weapon Riggs is a suicidal special forces cop whose crazy tactics conflict with the traditional approach of aging cop, Murdoch, who just wants to retire in one piece and with the minimum of fuss. Their contrasting styles drive the entire movie.

Twist Start

These openings mislead the audience or reader into believing one thing only to discover that quite the opposite is true. In The Matrix the lead character, Neo, is introduced as a hacker and merchant indulging in illegal activities as a way of life. We soon discover that this life is an illusion, and Neo is potentially the saviour of mankind.

Summary

Action, shock, contrasting character, and twists openings are just four types of starts used by writers to hook readers or audiences into their stories.

Invitation

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2 thoughts on “How to Start Your Stories

  1. Oletta

    Interesting post. I often start a story with a prologue that shows something that happened in the past. Then start the main part of the story with something that seems unrelated at first.

    AKA @OlettaTheWicked on Twitter

    Reply
    1. Stavros Halvatzis Post author

      Thanks for the comment. Nothing wrong with that, as long as it’s intriguing enough!

      Reply

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