I shall start this post with a quote attributed to that most literary of bears, Winnie the Pooh.
“The beginning is a very good place to start.”
I cannot agree more.
Knowing where the beginning is, is not always as clear cut as many may think.
You see, your story, any story, must start somewhere, but that start is often not at the beginning.
Take yourself. Take a tale you told about yourself the last day you did something… silly/forgetful/made a mistake… whatever it may be.
Now, consider how you began to tell your tale the first time you related it.
I bet it was not at the beginning, at least not the real, the true beginning of the string of events which led you to such an occurrence.
First, you would, by our very nature of communicating, have plugged it with a strong opening statement, or a soft lead-in, dependant on whom you were telling the tale, be it your Boss, you Mother, BFF or Lover.
You may have said something along the line of, “You know, Sally and I often go to the bar on Staithes Avenue? Well, we went this lunchtime and, you’ll never guess what happened….”
“I’ve driven down that road for the over ten years and I have never before…”
MAYBE it was, “Oh, my goodness, you just have to listen to this…”
None of those are really the beginning of anything but are leads to an section which is part way through your story, one which, during its telling, you will flit back and forth in time, building your tale of joy or woe into as a believable an anecdote as you can manage/feel right in doing, according to the circumstance.
Therefore, the same story told in the office to your boss will differ slightly to the version you tell your colleagues, or your family in the comfort of your own home.
It will definitely not be as richly dressed as your recount of the occasion in the bar later that evening, or as detailed with the emotions you felt during its unfolding when you share it with your lover while lying in bed.
The same is true of our fictional novels and stories; because the way we perceive them as we write is only a version of the whole. What we feel today will alter by tomorrow. By the time we re-write ‘that’ section of the first chapter, our entire viewpoint has fluctuated.
Therefore, what we once perceived as the beginning was, in fact, only a starting point for us to begin writing. The true beginning has still to reveal itself to us.
The matter is, we should never believe our own opinion during one sitting, but allow ourselves the opportunity to alter and change the picture we carry within our mind. Each time we reconsider our work we must see it in differing light, simply because we are not writing to entertain ourselves, but others.
Consequently, by revisiting our works and by teaching ourselves not to become immovably fixated on any factor of it, such as the juncture where we originally started to tell our tale, we can then see our story from the viewpoint of others, those who will read our story.
Once again, Winnie the Pooh says it well, “When you are a Bear of Very Little brain, and you Think Things, you find sometimes that a Thing which seemed very Thingish inside you is quite different when it gets out into the open and has other people looking at it.”
We want other people looking at our work, it is, after all, the whole point of writing; yet we want them to understand, to feel and to ‘live’ our story, empathise with our characters and lose themselves from the real world into our fantastical fictional world, we want and need them to believe.
To do so, we must see our books through their eyes, not our own. If that means starting the story from another place, be it a location, another moment in time, a different character’s perspective, then we must change the start of our story to this new beginning.
It may still not be the real beginning, you may alter it again before publication, write a prologue, an introduction, a prequel, or another book which leads on, even in an abstract fashion, to this one.
The point is, there is no true ‘right’ place to start your story, even the true beginning of your own life was far, far before any human existed, so where would you begin to start that story?
Now, while I much admire the genius of Winnie the Pooh and agree, “the beginning is a very good place to start,” I often wonder where the start actually is.
Looking for more literary insights, articles and short stories? Then look no further. The Electric Press magazine is available to read right HERE, for free.