I’m super lucky to not only be writing my own stories, but I’m mentoring a high school student right now who is an awesome human. This week, we talked a lot about how we get blocked when we’re starting a story, which got me thinking.
Spoiler: Me thinking is not necessarily a good thing.
Darcy Pattison has some great tips on her blog, but because I am easily bored I like to take things and switch them around. You should definitely check out her blog, but before you do, here are my evil takes on the ways to start a novel.
And instead I am giving you my hot takes from an excellent article from Jacob Appel for Writers Digest.
Grand Philosophical B.S.
This is a big philosophical statement that your novel eventually will affirm. Like Jane Hamilton’s The Book of Ruth: “What it begins with, I know finally, is the kernel of meanness in people’s hearts.”
Or, you know…
It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single woman in possession of a bag of Doritos must be in want of a napkin or at least a paper towel.Thank you, Tolstoy
Stating a Fact Like You are the Goddess of Facts
Klems explains this as, “The entire weight of the narrative can sometimes be conveyed in a single statement” and shows us the lovely example via Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451, “It was a pleasure to burn”
Or, you know. . .
Dogs like to poop.Carrie Jones
Making a Nice Little Fact Couple
Put two facts together for a one-two punch.
“In our town there were two bags of Doritos, and they were always hanging together near some dog poop.”Thank you, Carson McCullers and Me
A Fact That Gets All Self-Important
Yes, a fact can become significant later on and you the author show that in your opening line. Like if I was doing this for my next book IN THE WOODS, I’d write:
Chrystal spent every summer with her dad looking for monsters that weren’t supposed to exist.Me again because it’s my blog
Being All About Voice Like You’re Singers or Something
Jacob M. Appel writes, “Stories that begin with a highly unusual voice often withhold other craft elements for a few sentences—a reasonable choice, as the reader may need to adjust to a new form of language before being able to absorb much in the way of content.”
“Dude, if you touch those Doritos prepare to die.”Me because I am hungry right now.
Something sexy that creates a mood
This is sometimes a big world view. It can be a line that sounds like a poem. It resonates through its word choice and sound. Plath is a good example, so let me ruin it.
It was a cold, frozen winter, the winter they poisoned all the Doritos, and I didn’t know what I was doing still in America eating processed snack food.I apologize Sylvia
Being Super Obvious
Sometimes storytellers start their stories by saying that they are telling a story. I guess this happens if they feel like the person that’s reading a book forgets that it’s actually a book? Maybe? I’m not sure. Experts call this ‘framing a story.’ I call it ‘speaking down to the reader.’
Yo, reader, let me inform you that you are about to read a story entitled I AM WRITING A DAMN FINE STORY, written by me, a damn fine writer.I now sort of want to write this story. STOP ME!
WRITING AND OTHER NEWS
IN THE WOODS – READ AN EXCERPT, PREORDER NOW!
My next book, IN THE WOODS, appears in July with Steve Wedel. It’s scary and one of Publisher’s Weekly’s Buzz Books for Summer 2019. There’s an excerpt of it there and everything! But even cooler (for me) they’ve deemed it buzz worthy! Buzz worthy seems like an awesome thing to be deemed!
You can preorder this bad boy, which might make it have a sequel. The sequel would be amazing. Believe me, I know. It features caves and monsters and love. Because doesn’t every story?
HEAR MY BOOK BABY (AND MORE) ON PATREON
On February first, I’m going to launch my Patreon site where I’ll be reading chapters (in order) of a never-published teen fantasy novel, releasing deleted scenes and art from some of my more popular books. And so much more.
WHAT IS PATREON?
A lot of you might be new to Patreon and not get how it works. That’s totally cool. New things can be scary, but there’s a cool primer HERE that explains how it works. The short of it is this: You give Patreon your paypal or credit card # and they charge you whatever you level you choose at the end of each month. That money supports me sharing my writing and art and podcasts and weirdness with you.
HELP US AND DO AN AWESOME GOOD DEED
Thanks to all of you who keep listening to our weirdness on the DOGS ARE SMARTER THAN PEOPLE podcast as we talk about random thoughts, writing advice and life tips. We’re sorry we laugh so much… sort of. Please share it and subscribe if you can. Please rate and like us if you are feeling kind, because it matters somehow. There’s a new episode every Tuesday!
BE A PART OF THE PODCAST!
Hey! If you download the Anchor application, you can call into the podcast, record a question, or just say ‘hi,’ and we’ll answer. You can be heard on our podcast! Sa-sweet!
No question is too wild. But just like Shaun does, try not to swear, okay?
Here is the link to the mobile app and our bonus podcast below.
I do art stuff. You can find it and buy a print here.
You can order my middle grade fantasy novel Time Stoppers Escape From the Badlands here or anywhere.
People call it a cross between Harry Potter and Percy Jackson but it’s set in Maine. It’s full of adventure, quirkiness and heart.
The Spy Who Played Baseball is a picture book biography about Moe Berg. And… there’s a movie out now about Moe Berg, a major league baseball player who became a spy. How cool is that?
It’s awesome and quirky and fun.
FLYING AND ENHANCED
Men in Black meet Buffy the Vampire Slayer? You know it. You can buy them here or anywhere. It’s fun, accessible science fiction. Who knew there was such a thing?