Originally Posted by James D MacdonaldSo, where does your story begin?
One way to find your beginning is this: first, write your book. Now go through it to find its start.
Here's how to recognize the start: it's the point where you can no longer summarize everything that went before in a single sentence:
Nothing that Ceclia had seen at the Academy could have prepared her for the first sight of Crymble Manor.
"The appropriations bill is dead on arrival," Senator O'Connor said.
The day after the world ended, Bill got into his pickup truck and drove into town.
Another way to say this is: it's the point where the characters can't decide, To heck with this and order out for pizza. The one-way door has blown shut and they can't get back into the theatre.
Later on, as you gain experience, you can get better at avoiding false starts ("Hesitation marks," we call 'em).
Here's how I figure out where to start my story: I figure out the climax -- something that's really big, cinematic, satisfying, full of action and movement. I take the characters who are there, and back 'em off to some point before that climax, then try to get them to it.
Sometimes -- a lot of the time -- those characters never get to the climax I started with. (There's one climax I've been using for years as a starting point. One day I will get there.)
So here's another way to figure out where to start your story: Put interesting characters in an interesting place, then let them do interesting things. (What's interesting? That's the art, isn't it. Your readers will tell you what's interesting by the sound of rapidly turning pages.)
If the first two chapters of your book are backstory and exposition, and the movement of the plot starts in chapter three, the opening of your book is chapter three. Delete the first two chapters.
Plots start when movement starts. This movement can be physical, or it can be psychological, but it is movement. The human eye instinctivly follows a moving object. It will follow the fastest moving object if several are present. So ... make your plot move, and eyes will follow it.
A chess game doesn't start until the first piece or pawn moves.
Thank you for sharing this. A very good way to judge a beginning of a story.