Author Topic: beginnings  (Read 3220 times)


  • Hipparch
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    • Mr. Wake
on: June 30, 2008, 04:28:22 AM
I find myself coming up with the same criticism over and over again when listening to the beginnings of EP and PP stories.  It's the line from "A River Runs Through It."  Write it again, but half as long.  Eventually the stories usually get interesting, and I forget how tedious the beginning was.  For specific examples see EP's "God Juice" and PP's "The Cutting Room."  In both cases I felt that the writer was more interested in their own cleverness than telling an interesting story. 

I think an opening should establish when and where we are, make me care about someone, then put this someone in trouble of some sort, and it should do these things as economically as possible.


  • Peltast
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    • Nobilis Erotica Podcast
Reply #1 on: June 30, 2008, 04:39:25 AM
The truism I've heard is "In late, out early."  Write the whole thing, then figure out what the LATEST point in the story you could possibly start it, and cut everything previous.  Then figure out the EARLIEST point you could end it, and cut everything after that.

Then go back and make sure that you've got whatever details you absolutely NEED to have from the cut portions, and seed them back in where you can.


  • Palmer
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Reply #2 on: July 10, 2008, 07:53:05 PM
I'm keen on the idea of establishing the conflict for a story within the first half-page of a short story. You should know within about three hundred words what the overarching point of the story is. I think a lot of stories do a great job of setting up character and location, but you need to start in a seriously unstable way. At least, for me, the power of the story is in the resolution of that initial problem. Until it appears, you don't have a story.

So, if it's a story about a man trying to win a massive bet, the first thing you should see is him getting deeper into debt and reaching a final 'this is it' moment.

There's a nice idea I think I heard on I Should Be Writing, and it's the idea of The Red Line Of Death.

The Red Line of Death is that line when you just think 'ah, sod it' and give up reading. Establishing the story early helps curiousity, and that staves off the Red Line of Death.