Start from the beginning. No, that’s not what I meant to say.
Start from the middle. No, that’s not quite it, either.
Start at the end.
There. That’s more like it.
As children, if we were lucky enough to have a teacher who encouraged us to write down our stories, we usually heard the same advice. “Just tell the story. Start from the beginning.” And if we followed those directions, it certainly didn’t lead us down the wrong path. However, if we had chosen a different route, the journey might have been a bit more intriguing.
Sometimes, beginning at the end of the story and flashing back is a wise choice. Whether you’re working on a novel or a short story or a memoir, don’t fall for the idea that you must tell your story in chronological order.
Consider opening with some action. Some dialogue. Think about a beginning that causes a sense of disequilibrium.
You stumble over that last line. Dissss-e-kwil-what? It’s too early for anything beyond a monosyllable? You haven’t had your morning dose of coffee/tea/chocolate/Mimosas yet? My apologies.
Start off your story in a way that causes some instability or imbalance. Make the reader wonder, and thus wander further into your tale because they’re intrigued.
For example, I had this beginning for a childhood memoir of mine. I didn’t open with getting my swimsuit on and gathering together my towel and snack money. I didn’t begin with walking to the pool. Instead, this is how I started:
Still, decades later, I have no idea exactly how it happened. Did I stumble and slip, like a thread through a needle, through the opening in the guardrail? Did I veer off the edge, despite the sandpapery surface I walked along? I have no clue what caused the accident. All I know is one moment I was fine, high above all the neighborhood houses that surrounded me and the next moment, I was half on the concrete and half in the water.
It all began on a typical June afternoon.
So, consider beginning at the end of the story or the middle and using flashbacks to fill in the holes. Give the reader something a bit different when it comes to the organization of your story. They’ll appreciate it…
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