13 Ways To Start A Story


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. ExamplesLife 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. ExamplesThe 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. ExamplesThe Prince of Tides by Pat Conroy, Night Film by Marisha Pessl
  4. Exposed – Your darkest secret or deepest fear has been exposed. ExamplesMidnight 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. ExamplesTo 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. ExamplesTime 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. ExamplesPride 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. ExamplesLittle 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. Examples: Gone 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. ExamplesWhite 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 or sign up for our online course.

If you enjoyed this post, read:

  1. The Importance of Inciting Moments
  2. The Two Types Of Inciting Moments
  3. How To Write A Beginning And An Ending That Readers Will Never Forget
  4. Basic Plot Structure – The Five Plotting Moments That Matter
  5. Start Here: 3 Things You Need To Do At The Beginning Of Your Novel
  6. The Sense Of An Ending – How To End Your Book

© Amanda Patterson

This article has 2 comments

  1. Lulu Salavegsen

    Thank you! This was super helpful and thought provoking. I wish you were closer than Jo-Berg. I would love to take on the classes. Take good care, and thanks again for all your posts.

  2. Maddy

    Just a FYI, A spelling mistake under the ” under attack” category, it’s “The Count of Monte Cristo” 🙂

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