Problem: You are ready to write a story that has been knocking at your brain for a while, but you don’t know where to start. Obviously, your character’s life started way before the events of the stories take place. Where in the timeline do you jump in?
Let’s back up for a second, because the answer is really simple.
Ideas come to most writers, not as an overall concept, but as something more concrete: a portion of a scene, a mental image, maybe even just a single sentence.
Let’s call this your “seed idea.” Like a seed, it holds all the potential of the story in a very small space.
For the writer C. S. Lewis, his “seed ideas” came him as mental pictures. His first Narnia story, The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe, began as a mental image of a faun with an umbrella, carrying a parcel through a snowy forest. From that one picture, he created an entire series.
Perelandra, the second book in his Space Trilogy, began with a mental image of floating islands drifting over a peaceful sea. He admitted on one occasion that he wrote the story simply to have a story in which to portray the beautiful imaginary world.
For me, most of my stories arrive as scenes from dreams. (Weird, I know, but true!) I dreamed once that two boys and a girl found a strange creature, half-drowned in a river. From that dream, my current novel-in-progress The Memory was born.
So here is what I recommend: Start your story with your seed idea.
Of course, starting with your seed idea means that you will probably start in the middle of the story. That’s okay; in fact, I recommend it in my post 5 Super Strategies for Starting Your Story Right. If you later choose to rewind and start the story from an earlier point, you certainly can do so.
Why start with your seed idea? Because, to you, the seed idea is the most powerful part of the story. It was what first delighted you, captured your imagination, and sparked the writer’s fire in you. It is the part that is clearest to you and therefore the easiest to write. Why not start with it?
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I write YA/adult fantasy & sci-fi that explores fantastic and interconnected worlds, with stories that burn through the darkest realities with hope and redemption.
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