Starting a story

Hey, guys/gals I'm a very new writer and I would just like to know what is the best way to start of a web serial? Any help would be MUCHO MUCHO appreciated.

If your question is 'How do I write a story?' then that's something you can easily answer for yourself by doing some online research. :)

If it's not, then you need to questions that are more specific, such as... 'How do I set up a blog specifically for serial writing?' or 'How frequently should I post updates?'

No I specifically mean the way a story should start, like what should happen in the beginning of a story.

It's your story, no one can (or should) tell you what happens in it.

But generally, you should start with an interesting character in an interesting setting with an interesting problem. That's what a certain writing coach I met on Reddit told me. Make sure you have an early hook in the first couple of paragraphs and don't start with an infodump or pages upon pages of world history. Readers tend to skip that stuff.

To quote Neil Gaiman, "Put one word after another."

What happens at the beginning of the story is up to you, and you will likely change it a hundred times before you're even remotely happy with it. You'll need to know the overall shape of the story first, though, so just start writing and see where you end up.

You could also study how other authors open their stories.

But what is an interesting character,setting and problem?

The answer to that is mostly "what seems interesting to you." Once you've got a character, setting and problem that seem interesting to you, the next thing you do is figure out where you start the story itself.

Generally a good guideline is "where everything begins to change."

For example, your character is about to face a zombie plague. You might start that when he's at work and sees the first reports of zombies on the internet, or maybe he notices that some guy in the office looks bad, and then later in the day, the guy tries to eat somebody.

You probably shouldn't start that story 1) a couple months before the plague starts or 2) years later when society is changed beyond recognition unless you've got a good reason.

If your character becomes a superhero, you might start just before they discover they have powers, or if they're an experienced hero, the moment they hear about a crime or a new nemesis or rival...

The key point is not to get bogged down in establishing what "normal" is. You can establish that by introducing what's not normal.

In the past, it wasn't uncommon for novels to start with the birth of the main character. People don't do it anymore because that's too far before the beginning of anything interesting taking place.

I advise writing drafts. If you find things are moving too slow, then try moving up to a later point. If you're having trouble explaining things, then take a step back & start a little earlier.

Write and experiment, find your way to the beginning that works.

Haha, these are interesting questions!

Lemme tackle the second batch.

To find an interesting character, look at the people around you. What makes you like them? What makes you DISlike them? What makes you curious? And so on. Do the same w/ protagonists in your genre. When you know what you like and what intrigues you, you'll be better able to determine what you want from a character. Make sure to throw some unlikable characteristics in there, too.

An interesting setting can be anywhere. Think about where your character might come from. You can and probably will draw inspiration from the world around you. Fantasy author Michael Moorcock would look around his office and use that as inspiration for fantastic objects (making the real unreal is one of fantasy's greatest tools, but that's another post for another day).

Problems are tricky. Once again, I'd say you should look to your own life. What's really bothering you about it? How can you dramatize that conflict?

Hope that helps!

(Note: Don't judge me for typos. I'm doing this on my phone.)

Hey thx wildbow(the great) ,Billy Higgins Peery and Jim Zoetewey great advice, but guys , how do you start a mystery story, where what is different isn't immediately apparent?

Dude, there's no magical formula. No one here can say, "Okay, you HAVE to make sure your chapter opens on a stormy night. Not DARK and stormy, just stormy. Then..."

This takes practice and research. Nobody nails it their first time, and even the best had to write oodles of drafts before they found something they liked. But that's the key: it was something they personally wanted to read. So talk to yourself, figure out what you would personally want to see in a story opening, and then write a draft along those lines. If you don't like that draft, write another one, until you work out what you like best.

If you're talking about 'How do I open a serial when the main action unfolds slowly', then you've got more options. The easiest way is to just write it however you want and let the readers filter themselves out; the people who like slow-burners will stay. The obvious problem there is how long that could take and how frustrated readers will be if it doesn't look like you'll EVER get to some sort of main plot, or if it looks like you don't have one in mind that you've been alluding to. The harder option is to create subplots to tide those less patient readers over, dropping hints towards that main story and main action until you're ready to get to it. Consistent updates is going to be your biggest and only ally in this, either way.

But to be very blunt, seriously stop asking 'how do you start a certain kind of story,' because the answer is a resounding, "Whatever the reader thinks is best." It is fundamentally impossible to account for the entire planet's tastes - and if it was possible, Hollywood would never have a single box-office flop with its billion dollar budgets supporting commercial and time-tested franchises (and yet, Ghost Busters). It's the most useless question to ask about writing. What WILL help is writing a draft and then asking for feedback on YOUR specific take on how a story should open. Clear?

Yay, double post!

Mystery stories seem hard to do compared to other ones - I feel like there's a huge requirement in knowing most f the plot before you ever start writing. Otherwise reveals won't be done right.

Generally, a mystery starts when by a question being asked - or slightly before. The question can be 'who killed Doug?' or 'Where did this giant pyramid in Central Park come from?' or 'Why did all the world's plants turn purple overnight?'.

At least far enough ahead of the question that we have a bit of a feel for the characters.

Most of my stories start in different places or points in the person's life. There's no perfect answer because a lot of it depends on what's important to you - or which portions of the people's backstory you want to reveal up front.

In general, the beginning of a story needs to draw readers in, make them emotionally invested and want to find out what happens next. Some writers do this with a vivid prologue that hints at developments to come. Some jump right into the action, starting right in the middle of an exciting scene. I would argue that plenty of successful writers fail to write good openings at all, and rely on the readers who persevere through rather boring introductions to get to the more interesting build-up in later chapters.

In order to hold readers' interest, something needs to "carry" the story. Most of the time, this is character or plot, though extremely well-written setting can temporarily do this as well.

If I understood your earlier post correctly, you would like to start a mystery at a point where the plot isn't immediately exciting. In that case, the story would need to be carried by a character or several characters. Make them interesting and multi-dimensional. Even a scene that does nothing for plot advancement can lay down a lot of foundation in terms of introducing characters: appearance, personality, skills, weaknesses, thought processes, and the peculiar quirks that make them unique individuals.

The biggest recommendation I ever got about where to start a story is "Somewhere interesting." So I pass this on to you! ^_^

Seriously though, don't start with a giant info dump, paragraph after paragraph of world building or descriptions. Don't necessarily try and jump all the way to the other end of the spectrum either (some people can pull off an "In Media Res" start, and some can't. Some stories support in, some won't!) Try to have something attention grabbing in the first paragraph to get the reader started.

I know I have abandoned reading more serials than for anything else as a result of poorly edited writing filled with so many errors that I can't even start to get into it before being jarred by a glaring error or type. But a close second for abandonment is anything where the opening page is a slog through information and details instead of SOMETHING happening.

Do you have a plot? One of my strategies is to write the last chapter first- at least, in a rough format. Plus a few bulletins along the way. Every story I write starts with one scene, one event, that absolutely *must* happen in the story. Be it a particularly witty (in my opinion) line... or a major event... or an entire full chapter.

Once you know the ending and some rough skeleton of the middle... then you can create the beginning.

Thx guys/gals. Hey, I wonder if I can post the first part of the serial I'm writing here, so that you guys/gals can Critique it and tell me how I'm starting wrong, like is it boring? or repetitive or needs a hook. Am I allowed to do that?

Yeah, as far as I know there's nothing in the rules that says you can't. I recommend linking us to a Google Doc or your website rather than pasting the draft directly here.

Designing mysteries reminds me of puzzle designing...the whole "start with knowing the answer in your head, now work your way backwards from there to figure out the twists and turns aspect." Take diligent notes as you write and remember to keep the details clear in your mind so you can avoid making glaring issues. Keeping the facts straight is especially important.

k , here's the drafts:

Please critique as much as you can. It would help IMMENSELY. Thx in advance guys/gals.

Some thoughts (these are all just my opinion, so feel free to ignore if you disagree):

First of all, grammar and punctuation. I can't really get immersed in a story unless these have no problems.

- You write a LOT of sentence fragments. Sentence fragments are a writing technique that can be used to create intensity and immediacy, but I would save them for things like action scenes. One every once in a while is effective, but the number that you put in just makes things harder to read.

- Weird spacing. Some of your commas have spaces before and after them, and some of your periods appear to have three spaces after them.

- Watch out for your compound words. "Leftover" is an adjective, while "left over" is the intransitive verb.

- Put a line break when a new person is speaking in your dialogue.

- Other minor typos, like using "women" for "woman". You may want to find a proofreader if you can.

On to the story...

- The intro feels "unfocused" to me. There's a guy who appears to be some kind of IT person for some kind of company doing something for the government. He seems to have crappy bosses and drinks a lot of coffee. What makes him different from every other IT guy working for the government?

- The ambience is a little bit depressing. The guy goes from the crappy job, to almost getting run over and damaging his book, to a run-down apartment and a receptionist he doesn't particularly like. I would personally need the main character to have a sense of humour about the situation in order to keep reading.