13 Ways To Start A Story

Make me care! 

If you want an audience's attention, you have to get them interested. You have to get them to care about what has happened to somebody and wonder what will happen next. If you don't, they will move on. 

The beginning of your story must be vivid and important enough to create empathy in readers. They want riveting stories (with intriguing characters) that have negative beginnings, complicated (not boring) middles, and generally positive endings.

Here are 13 ways to start your stories:

  1. A bolt from the blue – An otherworldly, seemingly ‘magical’ event, challenge or revelation makes carrying on with your life as it is seem impossible. Examples: Life after Life by Kate Atkinson, Harry Potter by JK Rowling, The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe by CS Lewis, A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens, The Magician by Raymond E. Feist
  2. Be careful what you wish for… You are given the opportunity to do what you’ve always wanted to do. Examples: The Firm by John Grisham, Charlie and The Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl
  3. Everything is not as it seems – A fact about your past or who you really are changes your life. Examples: The Prince of Tides by Pat Conroy, Night Film by Marisha Pessl
  4. Exposed – Your darkest secret or deepest fear has been exposed. Examples: Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil by John Berendt, The French Lieutenant’s Woman by John Fowles
  5. Help me! Someone who is worthy of assistance needs your help. Examples: To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee, Erin Brokovich, The Fault in our Stars by John Green
  6. How much do you want it? – You have to face a challenge to get what you want. You may have to battle your own demons or win a battle of wits with an opponent. Examples: Candide by Voltaire, The Silence of the Lambs by Thomas Harris, The Old Man and The Sea by Ernest Hemingway
  7. By invitation only - You try to join an exclusive group, institution, service, club that embodies your dreams and aspirations. What will you have to do? ExamplesThe Devil Wears Prada by Lauren Weisberger, The Circle by Dave Eggers
  8. Opportunity knocks – An opportunity in the middle of a life-changing event offers you a way out. Examples: Time and Time Again by Ben Elton. Hugh, a grieving widower is giving the opportunity to go back in time to change history. The Good Luck of Right Now by Matthew Quick
  9. Rescued – You are saved but what you face afterwards may be as difficult as the situation you found yourself in. Examples: Room by Emma Donoghue, The Language of Flowers by Vanessa Diffenbaugh
  10. Soul mates - You meet someone who could change your life, but there may be many problems standing in the way, including existing relationships, distance, class barriers. Examples: Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen, Mister God, This Is Anna by Fynn, Fried Green Tomatoes at The Whistle-Stop Café by Fannie Flagg, Brokeback Mountain by Annie Proulx
  11. Standing up for what’s right – Something happens to someone you love, or to you, in your workplace, educational institution, medical institution that makes life unbearable. You have to take action. Examples: Little Lies by Liane Moriarty, Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe, Animal Farm by George Orwell
  12. Under attack – Something or someone threatens you or your loved ones. ExamplesGone Girl by Gillian Flynn, The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins, Cry the Beloved Country by Alan Paton, The Count of Monte Cristo
  13. Stripping your identity – Removing, or threatening to remove, whatever your sense of worth, safety or well-being is based on. This could be a job, a relationship, a friendship, a sporting ability, a musical talent. Examples: White Oleander by Janet Fitch, A Man in Full by Tom Wolfe, Anybody Out There? By Marian Keyes, The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt

If you want to learn how to write a book, join our Writers Write course in Johannesburg. Email news@writerswrite.co.za for more information.

     by Amanda Patterson. Follow her on  Pinterest,  Facebook,  Google+,  Tumblr  and Twitter. 

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