The very beginning of your story is the moment of truth: will the reader keep on reading, or will they put your story aside and keep looking for greener pastures?
So many writers come to the table with fantastic ideas — a great plot, fascinating characters with depth and mystery, important things the writer wants to say through their prose — but fumble the ball by feeling the need to spend the first few chapters setting all of the pieces into place on the board.
Exposition is not how to start telling a tale.
Readers want to be engaged, they want to be entertained and gripped, right off the bat. Don’t waste time forcing them to get to know your characters or your world before the story ever begins. Start with a bang! Grab their attention and run with it, or you’ll lose them before they’ve even begun.
It’s such an old adage, it’s a cliche. But it’s true: Start in the middle.
Begin right in the middle of the action, or the heart-rending tragedy, or the beautiful romance. Whatever genre you’re writing, the rule still applies. Don’t wait, put your protagonist right in the midst of the most dramatic place they’ve ever been. There’s plenty of time later to fill in the details about how they got there.
The beginning of the story is called “the hook” for a reason. It yanks your reader, pulling them into your story with prose that’s so intense right off the bat, that if it’s done well, the reader can’t stop himself from diving into your story head first and turning those pages like mad.
Robin Parrish is the author of Bethany House Publishers’ suspense/thrillers, The Dominion Trilogy: Relentless (2006), Fearless (2007), and Merciless (2008). His newest novel, Offworld, is a stand-alone sf thriller released in July, 2009.
A successful, 14-year journalism career — where he covered all aspects of pop culture and entertainment — gave Robin a profound respect for deadlines and a strong work ethic as a writer. His credits include About.com, CMCentral.com, INFUZEmag.com (which he also created), and PopCultureGeek.com (co-creator). Each of these positions allowed Robin to analyze his favorite storytellers and stories, which range from Joss Whedon and J.J. Abrams to Tolkien and C.S. Lewis.
Robin and his family live in High Point, NC. He has an unhealthy obsession with Facebook, he is unable to resist a Krispy Kreme original glazed donut regardless of the time of day, and he does not own nearly as many LEGO Star Wars kits as he feels he should.
Dona Watson says
What a great description of a hook and I think Offworld had a great one–it pulled me right in and made me want to keep reading. Good job, Robin!