Today I’m focusing on where to start a story. I think about this often, especially now that I’m working on flash fiction every month. Due to the length of these stories being anywhere between 300-550 words, I have to approach them in a way that instantly grabs and holds the attention of the reader.If I started one of these flash fiction stories in a place just before the action, giving you only the lead up and then cutting it off… Well that is precisely a cruel tease by definition. That’s not my goal though. My goal is to offer you a gripping glimpse into a space of conflict. Obviously, the limitations in word count force me to get to the nitty gritty of the story of the main protagonist.
Hence, my approach is to give you, the reader, a short, concise scene of intrigue and information. I do have the advantage of working within the confines of a series (see Shoals to the Hallowed) where I am progressing a main narrative but by providing small vignettes instead of robust chapters of detail, theme, dialogue, action, and plot. All of these are given to you of course but not to the degree you might prefer (that’s coming. Trust me).
Starting a story in the middle of conflict is (in my opinion and that of many others) the best way to grab ahold of the readers by the eyes. For myself as a reader, I’m not interested in being thrown into a story where it’s a slow build up to the first bit of action. I often come across advice encouraging writers (especially new ones) to begin at the middle of the first bit of conflict.
Immediate conflict reveals a great deal through the eyes of the main and supporting characters. How they react and respond to whatever the current trial is, opens the reader to who they will be spending a great deal of pages with. Go back to some of your recently read books. Where do they start? Does that work or would you rather have seen it start before or after?
As a writer, I want to present every story with the promise that if you keep reading, you’ll continually be turning the page because there’s more forward progress coming. I think there was a time in literature where a slow burn approach worked and paid off but the trend has definitely shifted. How many stories start with some form of misdeed, violence or realization that instantly affects the life and belief system of the main character? I’d argue quite a bit. It’s in these places that we want to begin a story and go until resolution if offered.
Call to Action: We’ve reached April! That means the newsletter is coming at the end of the month. As a reminder, this is the first and could evolve over time but you’ll be getting lots of good stuff that I don’t necessarily share or expand upon here on the blog. At the very least, you will be getting an exclusive Ravanguard short story I wrote especially for the newsletter. Sign up if you haven’t yet! You can do so when prompted on the website or jump over to the “Contact” form under the “About Adam” tab above ^^^ Just make sure to include your email address and in the comment section that you’d like to be added to the mailing list. Thanks again for stopping by and reading!