Show, don't tell, graphic by Daniele Frau.

What is the most challenging part of a story to write?

What is the most challenging part of a story to write?

The beginning in the beginning

When you first start writing, the easiest part is the beginning, or at least it’s what you think. Words flow so quickly that you feel you have a gift, and maybe you actually have. The issue is, when you let someone (not your mom and dad) read it, most of the time, they do THAT face.

Which face?

You know what face I’m speaking about, the lost look. Why is that? You start wondering if the story has a sense at all, and then you start questioning everything, even the editor trying to help you. The only solution is to take a step back and re-read everything, following the advice of the experts.

Beginners

So, I answered the first question, I think. The most challenging part of a story to write is the beginning when you are a beginner. The first line is so difficult to write that it takes 25% of my time, even nowadays. That line presents your book to the reader, and nothing will change that. The reader will understand your style and what the story is about just by reading that first line.

Now, I went to a book presentation a few days ago. Friendly atmosphere, cool people. Then, I bought a book copy and sat waiting for the discussion to start. I arrived there without preconceptions, open to discovering a lovely book and a new author.

Then, I opened the first page

The book was well-edited; no problem with that. I focused on the first line. Horrible, simply horrible. I closed my eyes, breathed and I tried again. Nope, still horrific. A nightmare for anyone who had ever written something, that first line told me, “run from this place”. Still, I tried my best not to run. I thought, “maybe I’m wrong; let’s give her another chance”. 

And I did

The most useless hour I ever spent, believe me. The writer and the other two presenters started speaking about how skilled the author is. Also, they couldn’t avoid talking about how magic was the love story (apparently, if there’s no love story, there’s no book, they said) and other incredibly dull things.

What did I discover?

I discovered that you need to read many good books, but even more bad first lines, too. First, a bad first line wants to tell you something clever but doesn’t show you anything. Something like “George was walking in a garden full of roses, the smell of the paradise and the colour of passion”. After a while, you will understand how important the first line is. Phew.

If you’re still asking yourself what is the most challenging part of a story to write, here’s the answer, then. This doesn’t mean it’s always the most difficult part. In the example of the bad start, the author forgot to mention something important, questions. Questions are something you cannot forget when you’re writing anything. Questions bring answers, and answers get other questions. 

Show, don’t tell

Show, don't tell, graphic by Daniele Frau.
Show, don’t tell.

In an excellent short video by Film Courage, Glenn Gers gives the six questions that you never have to forget when writing fiction.

  1. What this story is about?
  2. What is that they want?
  3. Why they cannot get it?
  4. What do they do about that?
  5. Why it doesn’t work?
  6. How does it end?

These macro questions lead to many others in something similar to fractals or the famous snowflake method

What is this story about? A man in his forties that never left his room. 

Why did he never leave his room? Where does he live? Does he live alone? How is it possible that he never left his room? How big is his room?

And so on, you got my point.

Let’s continue to speak about it in the following article!

In the meantime, have a look at my stories on Flyingstories.org.

Read, write, explore!

Daniele Frau

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