Narrative Writing


Start at the Beginning

The "beginning" of your story corresponds with the first three sections of your story spine outline.


Once upon a time,

What is the setting of the story?


Every day,

What is the hero's daily routine?


But one day,

What disrupts the hero's routine, propelling the hero into action? We call this the precipitating event.

Note: to precipitate something means to trigger or spark or cause something to happen.

Some writers choose to skip over the first two sections, instead starting at the moment the hero's routine is disrupted. This technique is called in media res, a Latin phrase which means "in the middle of things". The idea is to hook your reader by starting with some action.

The drawback to starting in media res is that eventually you're going to have to back up and fill in the details. Who are these characters? Why are they fighting? What is the setting of the story?

Going back to fill in the details requires a deft handling of narrative tense, flashbacks, exposition, etc., and for these reasons, I do not recommend it—at least not for your first story. It's smarter, I think, to start at the beginning and tell your story in strict chronological order.

So start with the words, "Once upon a time . . . "

Of course, you're not really going to write those words, unless you're writing a fairy tale. But it doesn't hurt to say those words in your head, to get yourself started.

Instructions for the Quiz

Answer the questions.