Write on, Wednesday: Begin at the Beginning…maybe not

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By Leslie Lindsay

It was a dark and stormy night…

I don’t know about you, but beginnings are often the most important…or is it the last line?  I’m not so sure, in all honesty.  But I do know that when one opens a book to the first page, we often decide right then and there whether to keep reading.

So, those of us who wish to write need to write compelling first lines, right?  Write.  But how do you do that?! 

Start in the middle.  Wait!  I thought you just said to begin at the beginning?!  This writing stuff is for the birds.

Those of you with a theatre background will appreciate the idea of “in media res,” literally meaning, “in the middle of action.”  And I love this style.  I start almost everything I write in the middle.  So what if it totally and completely goes against what your 7th grade teacher taught you in that lovely five paragraph essay.  Break some rules!

By starting in the middle of action, it gives your readers a reason to question what the heck is going on.  It propels your reader to jump into the story, almost making them become a character you have so carefully crafted on the page.  It makes them keep reading.  That is, if it is done well.

Pick a scene you are interested in writing and think of how you can sort of “start in the middle.”  Instead of having your character grab his coat, slip his feet into his favorite loafers and walk to the coffee shop down the block, why not have him at the bar already chatting with the barista and looking down only to realize he forgot his favorite loafers and is indeed sipping an espresso in his barefeet (or slippers?)  Humm….see how this technique sort of pulls you in?

Why did that guy forget his shoes?  Does he have memory loss?  Is he schizophrenic?  Just busy?  And what is he doing at the coffee shop, anyway?  Does he have a crush on the barista?  Does he go every Tuesday morning?  Does he meet friends there?  What if the barista is actually a barist-o?  Are they just buddies?  Your creative juices can concoct a story of whatever your heart desires…as long as it stays true to the character you are developing.

Ah yes…character development is yet a whole other topic.  For now, I’ve a got a novel to revise.  Write on!

About leslie1218

Author of SPEAKING OF APRAXIA (Woodbine House, 2012) frantically working on a novel that should be ready for submission this fall. Mom of two spritely redheads & one chubby basset hound whose stories & images appear in my writing from time-to-time.

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