Home Letters & Opinions Where do I start my story?

Where do I start my story?

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Writers Corner

Rusty Strait | Senior Reporter

I am often asked, “Where is the best place to start my manuscript?” Good question. There are as many answers to this one as there are questions. What, for instance, is the nature of your story? Are you working on a biography, or is your story fiction? Is it romantic, or about someone with a major disadvantage who is struggling to reach goals in life?

One way to bring interest early in your journey is two characters discussing the situation they find themselves in. For instance, they might be discussing steps to take that will carry the protagonist’s goal forward. For example, if you are just starting out as a writer, you might want to consider setting a preliminary goal before delving into the heart of your story.

As I have said many times, research is your first step, no matter who and what your characters are or want to be. Joining a local writers’ club is almost a requirement if you are new to the business of writing.

Back to the main question, where do I start? One good thing about starting to write for the first time in a local writers’ group is that you will encounter other writers who have been there and done that. They know shortcuts to phrasing that you might not even imagine. Also, every week your work will be scrutinized by several group members. It is a system of reading, critique, rewrite, and so forth.

Are you trying to make a dramatic statement early on in your first chapter, or just casually approaching a scene that need not be too blunt to make a point without a lot of grandiosity? For instance, if your story has anything to do with police work, a homicide detective may casually pick up an isolated item at the crime scene, slipping it into his pocket to become a valid clue as the story starts to unfold. A very wise detective once told me, “Whenever I begin my investigation of a homicide, my immediate observations always turn out differently than they seem at first. It is somewhat like finding a body in a shallow grave. Until the coroner has conducted an autopsy, there will be no way of knowing anything about the victim of a murder.”

So where you start is of no value unless you know where you are going. An example of what I mean is like diving head first into a river. It’s better to have some swimming experience before taking on uncharted vistas. I value your input via email. Just saying: rustystrait@alice-petersen


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