The start of a story is the hook. It’s the decision point for the reader – “Shall I bother to keep on reading? Or not?”

A good place to start is that inciting incident, if it’s a dramatic moment that changes everything.

Or you could start  right where the action is heating up, and fill in the back story later.

It’s good to start the reader off with a strong sense that something here matters. They pick up on a tension, even though it might appear that all is calm. That tension, that interest, that can’t-take-my-eyes-off-the-page is the hook that won’t let your reader go.

When the protagonist steps off the plane the reader probably doesn’t need to know that she had to get up very early to catch her flight, forgot to pack her toothbrush, and sat beside a fat man who snored all the way.

Unless these happen to make a difference later in the story (she loses a tall dark and handsome man because of her bad breath?) All the reader wants to know is – what lies ahead? Is it worth my time to read it?

As a writer, you bring readers into the story as quickly and  fully as possible. You may long to describe the sunset over the valley but if you are writing for readers you may not be able to allow yourself that luxury. Or you can treat yourself to a long and luscious description, then remove it in your editing.

Try not to start a story with something ordinary. Or, if it is mostly ordinary, add one vivid, out-of-place detail to intrigue the reader. Why is the woman at the bus stop wearing that really strange hat? Or why is that well-dressed gentleman wearing odd socks.

Your story starts with a promise of good things to come – whatever the good things are in your genre. And you are going to fulfill that promise.

It might start with a question, and you and the reader together search for the answer – well that is how you make it appear. There always needs to be a question – the reader should be wondering ‘What happens next?’ because that’s what keeps the reader reading. Start the suspense early.

Try to avoid showing all the little plot points that led up to the important action. If they’re important fill in bits of back story as you go along, perhaps in dialog. Not big fat lumps of back story, just tidbits here and there.

Your purpose in those first few paragraphs is to hook the reader. That’s all.  You can inspire them or delight them later (if you’ve kept them reading). But the start is the hook.

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