Beginnings…Creativity in Writing
When it comes to creativity in writing, there’s no better place to start than the beginner. Setting up a story is a great way to get excited and get words down.
One of the biggest mistakes new writers make is called info dumping. That’s where you go into massive descriptive detail about how your character hates something because her Aunt Mary made a snide comment years ago, and during that Easter dinner in front of everybody, causing her to get all red-faced and embarrassed. Or how your character’s house sits down a winding trail, past three orange groves, off to the left of the oak tree, and by the way there’s a crop of freshly planted flowers by the lamp post… Are you yawning yet? Yep. I’d be, too.
Don’t bore your readers before they even get into your story. You want to grab them by the throat…get their attention…and let them know that you know what you’re doing. They’re in good hands, because you’re a good storyteller.
That doesn’t mean that you need to start mid car chase, a bomb about to go off, and there are three kids crying in the backseat. See, that’s also a beginner’s mistake. You hear about starting in the middle of the action and assume we can’t do anything but start a story with a big, ole shocking start.
What should you do? Well, before that bomb goes off, we need to care about the character you’ve introduced. Oh, wait. You forgot that part, huh? If we don’t have a reason to care about the character, we don’t have an emotional response to that explosion that’s about to happen. We only know about an explosion, not about the person who might be destroyed in the process
Okay, First Things First. Who is Your Character and Why do we Care?
Your first chapter eases us in. That doesn’t mean that they just woke up or are enjoying their morning cup of coffee while reading their email. It means that we at least need to know who the story is about. We need to connect emotionally to them, to understand what’s happening and why. If you simply go on a crazy and wild car chase, and we are thrust into the action without knowing why, you’re doing your reader and yourself a disservice.
You need to create empathy. You can put your character in jeopardy, but we need to know who they are, and why this is a problem in their world.
Michael Hague says that in the beginning of a story, you need two of these to make the proper connection to the character.
– A Victim
– Feel sorry for her
– Put in Jeopardy
– Likable or well-liked
– Maybe funny or good at what they do
This helps your reader identify with a relatable character. When you write a story, you’re offering an experience. Your reader wants to be entertained. They also want to be drawn into the book their reading. Getting lost in a great story is a wonderful escape.
Asking the Right Questions for Creative Writing
Let’s look at your beginning. What’s an easy way to tackle your story without layering in too much information that will put your reader to sleep? Let’s see what pieces of the puzzle you’ll want to put together. Below is a series of questions that will help you slowly build a solid beginning.
Who is your character and why do we care?
A fun tip is to put your character in an uncomfortable situation. It’s a great way to showcase their reactions.
If you have a very uptight character who is constantly working, forcing them to relax at a resort, where their business phone has no signal might make them twitchy. It’s a chance to introduce a character out of their natural setting.
Maybe your character is a disorganized, hot mess who is trying to impress a potential employer. They’re fumbling and fidgeting, due to their lack of confidence. They might desperately need that job because their house is about to go into foreclosure.
What does your character want? It should be a clear measurable goal. If we don’t know what they want, there’s no story.
A character’s goal is to get from point A to point B. That’s it. Now, it’s up to you to decide what those points are, but that’s the basis of your story.
- A man who wants to be king
- A woman who wants her independence after a bad marriage
- A man who wants his crush to finally see him as a viable option
- A woman who wants to destroy the people who killed her family
In a heist, the character wants to get the jewel.
Or, in a heist, your character wants to catch the jewel thief.
It all comes down to which character’s eyes you’re telling the story through. We’ll discuss point of view later.
Why haven’t they reached their goal yet?
If they’ve already reached their goal, the story is over. The entire journey (sometimes called the Hero’s Journey) is all about the process of reaching their goal. They want something. There are obstacles in the way. They must tackle those obstacles to finally reach their goal. That’s a story in a nutshell.
Now, there are extra elements we’ll want to add in, so your story isn’t paper-thin. See what I did there? Ha, a little writing humor. Yes, my kids would groan. It’s okay if you did too.
Can you see why this is important and how it’s coming together? Creativity in writing allows you a structured path, and still allows you to add your own spin.
What does your character want?
Why do they want it?
Why haven’t they reached their goal yet?
With the extra tip from Michael Hague, you know you’ll want to layer in a couple of details to make us care. As he says, if his goal is to simply drive to work, nobody cares. If on the other hand, like in the movie Speed, if the bus stops it might blow up and hurt innocent people, now we care.
What Else do we Want in a Story Beginning?
We know we need a starting point. We need a character that we can relate to, and we need a goal.
You’re carving out a path, letting your reader see that you know what you’re doing. You’ve got this. Trust yourself. Follow the path, build the blocks, and you’ll write a winning story.
You’ll want to figure out who or what your antagonist is, too. Their goal should be in direct opposition to the hero’s goal. Like the heist example above, if one person is stealing the jewels, the other person is trying to capture the thief.
If you are writing about a fireman, to create explosive conflict, make the antagonist an arsonist.
City life vs. country life? War vs Peace. Remember I said who or what your antagonist is. That means that it could be man against nature. Somebody fighting for their life after a Tsunami destroys their village. The struggle for survival is real.
Maybe somebody’s fighting for a cause. It could be an underdog lawyer fighting the system, trying to find justice where there is none. Think opposites. It keeps things quick and easy.
I like quick and easy. Don’t worry, you have enough heavy lifting writing the actual story. Getting the pieces down early takes the pressure off. It all comes down to creativity in writing.
But what about the inciting incidents? I heard I need one early in the story. Yep. You’ll want to check that out here. Inciting Incidents (Tips)