WQ – Begin with Action
“Begin your writing, fiction or article, where the action begins. This action can be internal (e.g., an important insight or personal decision) or external (e.g., a murder or calamity). Begin too early, you lose your reader. Begin too late, you lose your story.”
― Walt Shiel
Once I decided on this quote this week, I found myself struggling to begin writing this post. I couldn’t find the appropriate action to start writing (and I had to laugh at the irony of it). Shiel’s quote left me speechless and my mind couldn’t expand upon the idea other than to say “I love it! It’s so true!”.
Shiel’s quote reminds me of a discussion from the playwrighting class I took my junior year of college. The class was discussing types of openings for plays and we found there were two distinct options. One opening is the “bang! we’re off” opening, or as Shiel calls it, the external action. This is the opening that begins right in the middle of a burst of physical action. Something just happened and the audience is seeing the moment right after that something (this is my preferred type of opening).
The other opening is the “wading into the water” type of opening, the internal action (or at least it should be that internal action). This is the opening that grabs the reader or audience with a thought instead of a surprise of action.
Both of these story beginnings are valid and can work well to engage the audience. But then there are the openings that start too early. The protagonist waking up in bed, showcasing the family and friends, lamenting on being boring and normal or having nothing to do, etc. (all those cliche openings that take a dozen pages to actually get to the story).
I find more stories begin early than late, but for me, a novel starting too late includes that prologue that is actually a point about halfway through the novel that the reader/character’s don’t know until they get halfway through the story. (One of my petpeeves of reading.) This can just get confusing and it doesn’t make me curious about how they got there. I’d rather just start the story at chapter 1 (which also usually begins too early).
Have you ever noticed this in the stories you read/or even write? Do you think starting early/late works? Why? Please leave a comment below to discuss!