Did you know that a story can start at any point? I’m sure most people did, but they aren’t always easy to pull off. I’ve never had the urge to start a story from the middle or the end, but I’ve seen it done. Sometimes it’s amazing. Other times, it’s incredibly clunky because the pacing was off. That’s how it goes. Let’s take a look at the 3 ways of doing this.
I’m starting with the traditional one where you start at the beginning. This can take various forms, but they all work the same way. Events go in chronological order with no backtracking unless you’re showing synchronous events. That’s not really time jumping, but showing two scenes that are happening at the same time. The beginning of the story is still the beginning. So, how can this be done?
- One way is to jump right into the action. The first page is where everything is starting and any background will be explained/discovered down the road. This creates a fast-paced experience, which may have to be maintained for the entire work. It’s a risk starting off so strong because weakening for too long will turn readers off even if the downswing makes sense. Still, this is a popular method that can easily be adjusted for what you need.
- Historical prologues are another way to start at the beginning without jumping right into the action. This ‘first chapter’ shows the world and events leading up to the real story. It reduces the need to explain a lot down the road beyond the characters learning about the past. With these scenes, you don’t need to do a full info dump, especially if this is an event that is well-known. It doesn’t always start off as powerful as the first method because it’s more for setting the stage than driving into the action.
- A mellow beginning can be done as either a prologue or first chapter. This may sound like it’s bad advice since we’re told to start off with a strong hook. Yet, this can be done to create mystery, but, more importantly, show what is leading into the events. You can even establish what normal life is before the story shakes it to the core. So, don’t always overlook this type of beginning.
There are probably a lot more ways to start at the beginning. I’d say it’s the most flexible of the three methods. That’s why there isn’t much else to say about it. I’ll open the floor to others in the comments. Enjoy.