Good writers are able to captivate you from the first sentences to the last pages of their news. You may wonder how they came to write those first few lines or just where they found the inspiration to write. The following techniques will allow you to write the first lines and the first version of your own short story. You will learn how to start writing, choose your first lines and finish writing.
Part 1 of 4: start writing
Step 1. Start by writing the summary of your story
A first method is to just sit down and start writing a simple summary of your story, writing the details of your story. This could be a slightly crazy or funny story that you might tell your friends and not know how to put it in writing. Start by collecting the most important data or details of your story - these will help you bring your story to life later.
- Simply write your story by jotting down notes on a piece of paper. It may take you an hour or several. For example, pretend to talk to a friend, to tell them your story over a good cup of coffee.
- Avoid researching the small details of the story you want to tell. Don't waste your time thinking about these kinds of little details in your story just yet. You will come back to these during the proofreading.
Step 2. Use guidelines
If you can't find an idea for your story, you can try using guidelines to frame your writing. These can help you find inspiration and narrow your range of possibilities. They can also force you to write about a topic that you might not have thought of yourself.
- Most of these guidelines have a time limit (eg write about this topic for the next 5 minutes). You can increase this time limit if you think it can help you write the content of your story. You can also derive from this topic if your inspiration takes you in a different direction. The directive should act as a detonator and should in no way limit your creativity.
- A directive can be just as easily a sentence (like "I remember") or a picture, for example "I am trapped in my nursery. You can also use a phrase from your favorite poem or book or even a line from your favorite song.
- You can find examples of guidelines on dedicated websites. You can also use a novel first sentence generator at this address.
Step 3. Identify your protagonists
Once you have a crude summary of your story, you should take a moment to reread it and see which protagonists can emerge. A protagonist is a character whose fate will permeate your novel. This does not mean that your protagonist has to be a hero or an evil character. He must be a character that your reader can relate to or sympathize with, with his qualities and his faults.
Your protagonist won't necessarily be the narrator of your story, but they must be a character whose decisions move the story forward. He must control the events of your story and his destiny will give meaning to your novel
Step 4. Create your plot summary
This will allow you to start writing your story: all you have to do is try to summarize your plot so you know exactly what will happen in your novel. Writers often avoid this step, not wanting to be limited in their creative process. But if you find it difficult to start writing your story, this will allow you to identify your protagonists, the setting for your story, and the events that are going to happen.
- The first thing you will determine from this summary is the purpose of your story. This is a goal your protagonist would like to achieve and / or a problem they need to solve. It must therefore be the "engine" of your story: your character's desire for himself, another protagonist, an institution, etc.
- Your plot summary should also include the consequences of failure for your protagonist. This is called the "plot stakes": the protagonist will indeed suffer in one way or another if he fails to achieve his goal. The higher the stakes, the more the reader will be drawn into your story and will care about your character's fate.
Part 2 of 4: Choosing the genre for the beginning of a novel
Step 1. Start with a scene
Many writers of short stories begin their stories with a scene, usually an important and mysterious moment. Beginning with a scene captivates the reader from the first pages of your story.
- Pick a scene that is essential for your main character or the narrator of your story, which shows him in action, doing something that will have profound consequences for the rest of your plot. For example, rather than starting your novel with "Walter thought this day would be the same as the last," you can instead write "Walter woke up from a nightmare and realized that this day would be very different from the others. "
- While you can use the past tense when writing your story, using the present tense will give your novel a sense of urgency and will engage your reader. For example, starting with "today I am going to rob a bank" will be much more effective than for example "yesterday, I robbed a bank", because the present tense gives the reader the impression of being in the heart of action. He has direct access to the actions and experiences of your characters.
Step 2. Set the scene for your plot
This way of starting a novel is essential, so you need to set a certain mood for your story. If your plot is underdeveloped, but you've thought about a particular setting, you may be able to suck the reader into your story. Use the perspective of one of your characters to describe the setting, and focus on one unique detail that may captivate the reader.
- For example, in the short story "Oceanic" by Greg Egan, the first lines focus on the presentation of the scenery: a boat at sea. "The swell gently lifted the boat. My breathing became slower, accompanying the crackle of the hull, until I could no longer tell the difference between the very slow movement of the cabin and the feeling of filling and emptying my lungs. Egan uses very precise and sensory detail to make his reader feel like he is on the boat and begins his story at a specific point in time for his character.
- You can also present the setting for your story later if you don't want to start with that. If the theme or plot of your story is more important than the setting in which it is set, you can start with these elements. Make your decision so that your reader can get into your story from the very first lines.
Step 3. Introduce your narrator or main character
You can also start your novel with a narration of your character or his presentation. This may be a good option if your story revolves primarily around a character rather than a plot. Usually, novels in the first person singular will begin with a speaking from the narrator. You can show your reader their worldview and present their opinions so the reader can know what to expect for the rest of your novel.
- Although Salinger's' The Catcher's Heart 'is a novel and not a short story, the opening lines of this work allow you to immediately introduce the narrator:' If this really interests you, the first thing you'll probably want to know is my birthplace, what my childhood was like, what my parents' profession was, what they did before they had me and whatever David Copperfield might be saying, but to be honest it's not really my style. "
- You can feel from the first lines the bitterness of the character, the very dark vision he has of the world and his disdain for traditional narratives. The narrator has here a singular perspective which allows to give the reader a glimpse of the continuation of his story.
Step 4. Begin your novel with spirited dialogue
Starting your novel with engaging dialogue can be effective, but your reader should be able to understand what it is. As a general rule, a dialogue should always serve a purpose other than presenting a discussion between your characters. Good dialogues help reveal the character traits of your characters and advance your story and plot.
- Many stories will start with a dialogue and then explain more precisely to the reader who is speaking and where the scene is. This first dialogue will usually feature the main character or one of the heroes in your story.
- In Amy's short story "In the cemetery where Al Jolson was buried," the story begins with a very gripping dialogue: "Tell me something I can't forget," she told him. "It must be important, otherwise shut up." The reader is thus captivated by this funny and a little strange dialogue and the fact that it is about a woman.
Step 5. Introduce a conflict or minor mystery
A good first sentence should ask the reader questions by highlighting a conflict or a minor mystery. It could be a conflict as simple as something your main character remembers and how they reacted, or a more complex mystery like an unsolved crime or murder. Avoid presenting a mystery that is too important or too confusing for the reader from the first few pages. The opening lines should present a more general mystery in order to lead the reader to discover a more complex conflict facing your character.
For example, Jackson's short story 'Elizabeth' asks several questions: "Just before the alarm started ringing, she was lying in a sunny garden, surrounded by freshly mown grass, stretching as far as the eye could see. The reader then wonders if the main character dreams of this garden, of what dream she wakes up and the meaning that this last one can have for the character. This is a minor conflict, but it's a great way to draw the reader to the heart of the story
Part 3 of 4: Reread the beginning of your text
Step 1. Reread the beginning of your novel after you have finished writing it
While you may think you've written the perfect introduction, take the time to reread it after you're done to confirm your impression. Sometimes a story can evolve or take an unexpected turn as you write it and the brilliant idea you started with may no longer have the meaning you gave it. Reread your story's introduction, considering it as a whole, and decide whether it still fits your original idea or not.
This will allow you to make a few changes to adapt your introduction to the tone, mood and voice you have given the rest of your story, or you may need to rewrite it entirely. You can always save this intro for another story or future project, especially if your intro is well written, but just doesn't match the rest of your story anymore
Step 2. Review your language
Your introduction should not contain unnecessary phrases or terms, as this may limit the impact it will have on your reader. Review your introduction and make sure the language you used is as powerful and supported as it needs to be. Avoid clichés or overly common wordings and replace them with unique terms. Also remove unnecessary descriptions and replace them with paragraphs that introduce your characters and surroundings.
You may notice that you use a common verb or adjective in the opening lines of your story that may seem vague or unnecessary. Replace them with a stronger verb or adjective so that your opening lines have a bigger impact on your reader and set the bar higher in terms of language and descriptions for the rest of your work
Step 3. Have the beginning of your story reread to an objective reader
It can be difficult to edit your own lines, so you need to be prepared to show them to a reader you trust. You can have her read the beginning of your novel or just the first few lines or paragraphs and ask her if the opening makes her want to read the rest of the story. You should also ask him if he understood your character correctly from the first lines of your novel and any improvements he can suggest to improve your story.
Part 4 of 4: Knowing the purpose of starting a new one
Step 1. Keep in mind the role of the start of a short story
The first lines of a short story are essential because they will make the reader want to read the rest of your story. The first sentence or the first paragraph often introduces the idea or situation that will be explored in the story. They should give the reader clear indications of the tone, style and voice of your work. They can also educate the reader about the characters and the plot of the story.
- You can follow Kurt Vonnegut's rule for short stories, as it is a benchmark for writers. The latter states that your novel should begin as close as possible to the end of your story. In other words, it means that your reader should be immersed in the heart of the story from the first lines, prompting them to read the rest of your story.
- Often, publishing houses will read the first few lines of your story to find out if it's worth reading the rest. Many stories are selected for publication based on the first lines. This is why it is so important that you seek to impress the reader as much as possible from the first lines of your story.
Step 2. Read examples for inspiration
To get a better idea of how your news story should start, read several examples of news frontlines. Notice how the author grabs the reader's attention and uses each word in such a way as to increase the impact it has on his readership. Here are some good examples.
- “The first act of love I saw was when Split Lip bathed her disabled daughter. "Isabelle" by George Saunders.
- “When this story is known, I will certainly become the most famous hermaphrodite in the world. "The Obscure Object" by Jeffrey Eugenides.
- “Just before the alarm started ringing, she was lying in a sunny garden, surrounded by freshly mown grass, stretching as far as the eye could see. "Elizabeth" by Shirley Jackson.
Step 3. Analyze these examples
Once you've reread them, ask yourself the following questions.
- How does the author set the tone or mood for his short story? For example, the first line in Eugenides’s short story “The Obscure Object” introduces the narrator as a hermaphrodite and lets the reader know that the story will focus on his life. It therefore makes it possible to introduce his short story as a biography, in which the narrator presents his life as a famous hermaphrodite.
- How does the author introduce key characters or the setting? For example, the first line of "Isabelle" introduces a character named "Split Lip", as well as her disabled daughter. It also presents a key theme of the story: love between father and daughter. Jackson's first line in "Elizabeth" uses descriptions and sensory details, such as "sunny" and "freshly shaved," to portray a specific image in the reader's mind.
- What are your expectations as a reader after these opening lines? A good first line will allow the reader to understand what to expect from the rest of your story and provide just enough information to make them want to read on. The opening line in Saunders’s story, for example, lets the reader know that the story can be a bit bizarre or odd, with a character named "Split Lip" and a disabled girl. This is a bold opening that lets the reader know that the story will be told in a unique way.