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Starting Stories: 5 Great Beginning Strategies

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Starting Stories: 5 Great Beginning Strategies

Photo of a runner crouching at the starting line of a track

The beginning of a story sets the tone for everything that will happen next. An opener is like an appetizer, offering a tasty morsel of what's to come.

When you start to write a story, you might not know where it is heading. That's okay. Play with possibilities! Try one or more of these strategies.

Strategy 1: Begin with action or dialogue.

I crouched in starting position, hands poised on the track and back coiled like a spring. "On your mark! Get set!" The starting gun boomed. I launched myself forward, trying to spring ahead of the pack.

Strategy 2: Ask a question.

Why does trouble always follow me around? Do I have a "kick me" sign on my back or something?

Strategy 3: Describe the setting.

I sat cradled in three branches at the top of an old oak behind my house. I could see over the rooftop, could see for miles. Overhead, planes lined up in the sky, heading toward O'Hare Airport to land one by one.

Strategy 4: Begin with background information.

Tommy's my little brother, and he's in the first grade. He's fearless. One day, he wore a cape to school. I told him everyone would laugh at him. The next day, five other boys came wearing capes.

Strategy 5: Have the main character introduce himself or herself.

I'm Tabitha. I just turned 13, and I'm here to tell you a secret.

Your Turn Practice each starting strategy. Think of a time recently when you accomplished something important. Try each strategy to start a narrative about that time. Then trade your story starters with a partner. Find out which starter makes your partner most interested in reading your story.

  1. Start with action or dialogue.
  2. Ask a question or set of questions.
  3. Describe the setting so readers can imagine it.
  4. Give background information that will interest readers.
  5. Introduce yourself to readers in a surprising way.

From page 148 in Writers Express

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