The ProblemOften we can have a reallygood idea for a story butfind starting the hardestpart – we know it’s got tobe good but can struggle towork out how to do this….
Aims• To identify what a good opening has to do• To explore ideas about starting points in narrative• To evaluate alternative starting points, their strengths and weaknesses
A Good Opening?• Will hook the reader and make them want to read on – through the style, interesting characters, creation of enigmas….• Will give the reader the basic information they need to follow the story: – When the story is taking place – Where it is set – Who the main characters are – What is going on
Choosing a Good Starting PointThe first thing to note is that,whilst a story will have achronological shape (abeginning, middle and end),it doesn’t need to tell itsevents in that order.One of your first decisionswill be where to start yourstory.
TodorovTzvetan Todorov is aBulgarian theorist who spenta lot of time analysing folktales to identify the commonstructure of stories.He decided that all storiescontained the same stepsoutlined on the next slide…
PHASE DESCRIPTION The world of the story before anything happens to kick startEQUILIBRIUM the action – normality before the story starts Something happens to disturb the status quo – may lead toDISRUPTION a series of further disrupting events The characters realise something has happened to upsetRECOGNITION normality The characters work to resolve the disruption and sortREPAIR things out, often leading up to a climactic scene The disruption is now resolved and normality is restored –RE- albeit the world may be a better or worse place than it wasEQUILIBRIUM to start with!
Activity 1:You will be given a sheet with astory outline, split into these fivesections and need to match up thesection with the correct phase ofthe story…Brownie points for anyone whocan tell me the film of which this isthe actual plot!
Activity 2:Now you have the plot in chronological order, we canexperiment.Identify three different points at whichyou could start the story. For eachpoint, try and assess the strengths andweaknesses of starting the story at thispoint….Which do you think would be the mosteffective point at which to begin thisstory in terms of capturing theaudience’s attention?
Activity 3:Now let’s look at theopenings of somepublished stories.See if you can identify atwhich point the storystarts and why you thinkthe writer chose to dothis and how they makeit interesting….
So, what have we learnt aboutstarting stories?•You dont need to start at thebeginning•Each possible starting point foryour tale can interest the audiencein a different way•Consider different points at whichto start your tale and find the onethat creates the most interest inyour tale
Of course, having decided at which point of the narrativeto kick-start your work, isn’t the end of the story (!).There are other choices to be made too:•Which narrative point-of-view to use – 1st or 3rd•Which tense to tell the story in – present or past•Which format to tell the story in – conventional narrative,letters, diary, dialogue, stream of consciousness•How to use language effectively to gain attentionThese are all worth studying to help you write anengrossing yarn.
And the best way tolearn how?To study the experts– read lots of goodliterature!