Where to start a story may seem a stupid question to ask. Of course you need to start at the beginning when telling or writing a story. It’s important because this is when you hook your audience. The problem is, the beginning may not always be clear, or there could be multiple places where a story can start.
Writing isn’t like drawing or painting, where you can start at the top, middle or bottom of the canvas. On a canvas, you can see where you are going, and the space to be creatively filled is clearly defined. It doesn’t work like that with writing. With a story, there’s the start, middle and end, and you can begin at any of these points and write out of order. Sure, writers usually start writing at the top left hand side of a page, moving across to the right (when writing in English) then down to the next line and so on. But this top of the page could be in the middle of a story, or a new scene, or the start of a chapter. There are so many more choices when constructing a story, many which are hidden. The writer is working with the unknown, and may have an idea where to go, but there could be multiple ways to get there.
At some point, the only decision that can be made is to choose a point in the story and write. The structure will become clear the more that is written. Like all good travellers, the writer might get lost, have to back track and take another path. I’ve thrown away 30-40,000 words before in a story and re-written those words, and now I’m planning on doing a complete re-write of these 70,000 words. What a waste?! Not really. I needed to write in order to find the start and I was learning about my writing style that was best suited for this particular story (I have a different one for each story). It had to be done. This is going with the flow, my inner creative flow, and writing to see what takes shape. If the story ends up not going in a direction I feel is suitable for the story or characters, then I change. I may even abandon the story for a while to retrieve later, or use some parts in a different story.
That’s writing, a lot of hard work, persistence, trying new approaches, changing direction and not giving up. There can be times to persevere, but if it begins to feel like a block then I might jump ahead to another scene, or write another story, or take time to journal, or have a break. I never know what creative paths I’ll end up going down if I let go (just a little) and relax, trust myself that I’ll find a creative solution.
The more I write, the more I become aware of my journey, what is working, what isn’t and then I can adjust accordingly. Some loose suggestion of where to start will involve emotion, action, and a hook to draw in the reader. Once I’m writing, then I’ll begin to connect to the setting, characters, and emotion, then I will have a better idea of the direction the story is going in. At this point, I can reflect if this is the best place for the start, or if there’s somewhere else. The story can be re-structured when editing, but first there needs to be words on the page.
Finding the best start to a new story becomes a matter of jumping in, get writing, stop thinking of the outcome, and don’t question yourself. And that in itself is a very good place to begin a story.