Starting Stories at the Start

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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?

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.

About Charles Yallowitz

Charles E. Yallowitz was born, raised, and educated in New York. Then he spent a few years in Florida, realized his fear of alligators, and moved back to the Empire State. When he isn't working hard on his epic fantasy stories, Charles can be found cooking or going on whatever adventure his son has planned for the day. 'Legends of Windemere' is his first series, but it certainly won't be his last.
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28 Responses to Starting Stories at the Start

  1. Good discussion, Charles.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Thanks for sharing this very interesting information. Honestly i never had thought so deep about this, but it is true. The easiest way to start must not be the best. Best wishes, Michael


  3. L. Marie says:

    Great tips! James Michener goes way back to the beginning in many of his books (like Hawaii). I love a prologue. They are a great way to start at the beginning as you say.


  4. petespringerauthor says:

    I read a book recently that went back and forth between the perspective of two main characters. One character’s story starts from the beginning, while the other’s tale starts from the end. At the end of the book, both stories and characters cross paths in the middle.


  5. My brain creates things in helter skelter fashion, but I write from the beginning. That’s why I like storyboards. I can move my cards around until the flow develops.


  6. raynayday says:

    I am not really suggesting this as a place to start but a few of my favourite films have started at the end. “Memento” begins with the ending and so you must figure out how the character got to this place. Also “Irreversible” a French film that begins at the end and eventually you find out the beginning. Books. Brian Aldiss’ “Cryptozoic” also starts at the end and is easy to read. I also wonder if in a reverse way “Call of the wild”/ “White fang” by Jack London does not do the same. Anyway, I just wished to agree, that with a few notable exceptions it is best to start with a calm and sensible introduction to the tale.


    • This week’s theme was actually inspired by a movie starting at the end. I had watched the first ‘John Wick’ again and found it interesting. Figured I’d touch on beginning, middle, and end starting in order. It’s a nice foreshadowing method to start at the end.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. franhunne4u says:

    Are we talking short stories or novels here. With a novel comes the need to plot. The need to plan your characters. The need to know how you want to end. Within that scaffold you can then more easily write single scenes and fill it out, a milestone here, a milestone there.
    Short stories are more likely ot be written in one go (never mind that editing needs to be done afterwards). Limited personal, limited place, limited timeframe in which the plot takes place. I think those are often very likely to be begun at the beginning.

    Liked by 1 person

    • It can go for either one. Some short stories can run long enough to utilize a variation. I’ve read a few that use an opening section to reveal the ending, but they’ve all been first person. The limited POV and characters might have helped there.


    • raynayday says:

      Actually I can think of many short stories that start at the end. Famously David Brin’s “The giving plague” (an excellent short tale) starts with the ending. Also “The strange case of Spring heeled Jack” quite a few of Asimov’s and Arthur C Clarke’s as well. Lol- I have not tried it and would not really recommend it but some writers (more accomplished than I) like the idea.


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