Alec Nevala-Lee

Thoughts on art, creativity, and the writing life.

Archive for June 22nd, 2013

Jack Woodford on how to start a story

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The Hard-Boiled Virgin by Jack Woodford

The trouble with most first short stories is that they have their beginnings buried in their middles. Take up the thousand word short story you have written and read down until you come to the first dialogue or objective action.

Now, start reading all over again, beginning the story as though that first bit of action or dialogue were the start of the story. Read along for two or three hundred words while the action and dialogue continue, until you come to the point where you have again resorted to expository writing—that is, to telling the reader something, rather than to portraying the material in narrative or dramatic form. At this point, insert all of that material which went before the first action or dialogue. Write an additional sentence or two of transition, in between the dialogue and action section and the expository section. Retype the story, with the middle at the beginning, the beginning at the middle, and the ending where it was in the first place. Now you need no longer wail, “But I don’t know how to start a story!” Even if you never learn how you can always get a good start by, after you have written into the story, arbitrarily yanking out a good beginning somewhere and putting it at the start of the story.

Jack Woodford, Trial and Error

Written by nevalalee

June 22, 2013 at 9:50 am

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