Hey all! I’ve had several people ask me in the last month where they should be starting their various creative projects. I understand why they ask – it’s sometimes very difficult to decide where a story needs to start. The simple answer is the beginning.
Of course, writing isn’t exactly simple, so I’ll give the long answer too.
The big, fancy technical term is the inciting action. That which spurs the story. The beginning of the story isn’t necessarily when the character is born, or the start of a day, or anything like that. Think of how some of the more popular novels start.
Let’s go with The Hunger Games. The novel starts with Katniss hunting on the day of the reaping. What spurs Katniss’ story into beginning is the fateful reaping when she volunteers as tribute in place of her younger sister. Every single thing that happens to her happens because of that one, single moment. That is her inciting action.
Another example. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone. There’s a bit before the inciting action of this story. We see the prologue, a bit of Harry’s life with the Dursleys, and Dudley’s birthday. But what really spurs the story into action is when the owls start trying to deliver Harry’s Hogwarts letter. The owls push Uncle Vernon to temporarily fleeing from civilization, which leads to Hagrid introducing Harry to the magical world.
So you need to find that action. Sometimes it can be hard to do that at first, right? How do you know the action that spurs a story right at the beginning?
Sometimes I just know what the action is. For Opus Aria, it’s Aria finding the wanted poster. For Opus Prelude, it’s Darien receiving the letter. For Convergence Point, it’s Celia finding the coordinates for Karmalink.
Sometimes I don’t know the inciting action, though.
Sometimes you just have to start writing the story and see where it goes from there. There’s always something that makes the story start, you just have to look for it. It doesn’t necessarily need to be something big and dramatic – it could be as simple as your character coming home from college or running into someone on the street.
I’d recommend not getting caught up on the inciting action at the start though. This is going to sound supremely unhelpful, but just start writing. If you’re like me, you’ve outlined the novel and have a vague idea of where you’re going. So just start writing. If you don’t outline? Just start writing.
You can find that action in the revision process.