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Starting your story

Emma_Clare at 12:00AM, June 7, 2019

You’ve got your amazing idea down for a story but how do you begin? You want to make your first chapter amazing! This is where you need to lay down some concrete foundations to get your audience main character and why they care about what is happening to them. So here are a few tips you can use to get the ball rolling down the right hill!

Start at the beginning
Although this is a bit of a “Noi doi” statement, this is often the hardest part of putting together a story (besides the ending). You want to make the best case as to why the audience should care about your story. A neat way to do it is to start with the protagonist in action. It doesn’t have to be an intense action sequence, rather the main character should be heading somewhere to do something. We are dropping in on them just as the action is about to begin so think of where they might be going and how is it getting them to the problem they will encounter later in the chapter.

Spend the first chapter/episode with the main protagonist.
This is the character you want the audience to back, so take the time to focus on them? Got a big cast? Pick someone who is going to be affected the most by the problem they are all going to be affected by. This will give your audience someone to follow and empathise with.

Give the audience a snapshot of the protags normal life.
In the first point I mentioned that the main character needs to be heading somewhere and that still stands. Maybe the main character is rushing cause they are going to miss the bus to school and they had to skip breakfast. Or they could be walking towards a meeting ready to square it off with the boss. Show a snippet of their daily life to help the audience relate to their lives before swiftly moving the plot forward. It is important not to linger on this too much.

Start with the problem. What is going wrong in the character’s life? Why should they care?
Once we’ve seen a snippet of the character’s daily life move towards the major problem that will kickstart the events to come. This will keep readers wanting to know, “what is happening next?”. Maybe the character misses the bus only to see it swerve, fall off an embankment only to be saved by a powerful yet scary psychic who then notices them and now they are being chased by them. Presenting the problem is different from the inciting incident (the event that causes the MC to take action) but by putting forth the initial problem you are hooking your readers in with a reason to care.

Calm down and enjoy the craft
At the end of the day, you have to enjoy your story and your craft. Webcomics rely on a lot of passion to do them so remember that at the end of the day, you can have fun with it. When you have fun then the audience will.

Do you have trouble starting your webcomics? What did you do? Let us know in the comment section below! And join us on Sunday evening for our Quackchat at 5:30PM(EST)!

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usedbooks at 11:55AM, June 7, 2019

My brother and I were just talking about stories where the first "character" to be introduced (or one of the first) is the setting. Sometimes with a radio announcer or TV or in a future/fantasy setting by watching those mundane daily life things (like Corbin Dallas's apartment). It's an interesting perspective. I consider setting one of the most important "characters" in most stories. It's important to know the protagonist, but your beginning also has to immerse the reader in the world. (Like with the character, by being part of it not talking about it.)

usedbooks at 11:50AM, June 7, 2019

"Getting up, out of bed, brushing teeth, making coffee..." Isn't that the beginning of Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy? I kinda like that. I also like a cold open, in media res -- provided it doesn't go on too long. And my favorite character introductions don't have the character show up right away; it has people talking about the character or showing the effects the character has. In any case, I definitely agree that your first scene/chapter needs to connect you to the main character(s) somehow. Don't show an unrelated group of characters or give the backstory of the kingdom or whatever.

bravo1102 at 11:47AM, June 7, 2019

As Larry Block said in "Telling Lies for Fun and Profit" write out your story and then switch the first and second chapters. Many writers think starting at the beginning is the beginning of time. Begin in the middle of something and let the reader care about your characters even before they know their names.

Banes at 9:50AM, June 7, 2019

It's funny - the headlines "start at the beginning" and show a "snapshot of the protag's normal life", the way you explain it, makes sense. Just those headlines could lead a writer to show TOO MUCH at the beginning. Getting up, out of bed, brushing teeth, making coffee...that's the stuff that should NOT be there at all. As you go on to say, pretty much something has to be going wrong right from the beginning. Late for the bus, a scary meeting with the boss, a missing key...there's conflict right away, even if it's small conflict.

Banes at 9:45AM, June 7, 2019

Fantastic - rock solid advice I'd say! Figuring out the stuff beforehand, like what the character wants out of life, what their character flaw is, and roughly where it's all going to go and what it's going to be about takes a lot of time. After that, figuring out the beginning scene is a BIT easier. At least it's one decision instead of a couple dozen. Still challenging though! I would figure out the beginning by following the advice in this post exactly!

Ozoneocean at 9:17AM, June 7, 2019

Good post! I was thinking about this after watching the beginnings of a few animes. One of the errors a lot of them make is just dumping us into an action scene and expecting us to get grabbed and follow along because of that, but if we don't know who's what it can be very hard to care about what's happening. I think it's important to try and get the audience interested in the character asap... unless the on screen action or scenery is simply amazing and unforgeable... which it often isn't die to people's reliance on cliché and trope, so character has to save the day.

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