Thursday, May 13, 2010

Where Does The Story Begin?

I've been going over some essays and articles in my files to see which ones might be possible entries in our annual state authors contest. It's kind of fun to go back and read work written months ago. I see it from a new perspective, and I don't always like what I see.

In one nonfiction story, I read through the first two paragraphs and found myself wondering where in the world it was going. And then in the third paragraph, the story began. Light bulb moment! Scratch the first two paragraphs completely and begin with number three.

Don't bore your readers with long introductions that probably only mean something to you, the writer. Time is of such importance in our hurry-up world of today that readers want to get into the meat of the story immediately. And let's face it--getting right into the action of the story hooks the reader. (And the editor!)

When I wrote those introductory paragraphs long ago, I probably felt they were needed as a way to move into the story, to set the scene, or to tell the reader the universal truth I hoped to reveal. Reading those paragraphs again all these months later, I knew immediately they were worthless.

I've seen so many critiques at writersandcritters that suggest the writer do away with the first two, three or even more paragraphs. "This is where you story begins." the critiquer will say when pointing out the specific spot. It's a common error that is easily fixed.

The next time you write a short story or a piece of creative nonfiction, step back and ask yourself "Where does the story begin?" Then make it the beginning. Don't bury it somewhere beyond the first page. Your readers and editors will applaud you. Now, if I can only remember to follow my own advice!

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