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In the Beginning

The beginnings of stories are usually pretty easy for me. It’s all that other stuff that follows where I get bogged down.  Most of the time, I get the first few lines of a story in my head before anything else. Seldom do I get a plot idea first. And about ninety percent of the time, I think of a line of dialogue and go from there. Something like:

“Well, what do you think?”

You can see the other person in the story now has a bajillion possible responses, and I, as the author, get to pick one randomly. I get to create an entire story based on how that question is answered. I’ve toyed with the idea of writing a collection of five or six stories all using the same first line of dialogue. I’m sure this would work really well with flash fiction.

The other ten percent of the time, it is an image of someone doing something that comes into my head and the story begins with me describing it.

What’s interesting, (and I’ve heard from other writers that this happens to them, too) is that sometimes I’ll come across the start of a story in a notebook or on my computer, and it’s obviously my handwriting/style/laptop, but I have no memory of writing it. When a found piece is a year old or more, it makes sense that I don’t remember the few moments it took to get the first three lines of a paragraph written, but sometimes it’s only been a couple of months and still nothing is triggered in my mind, no matter how many times I read it. I find it so odd. And an unsettling hint at what Alzheimer’s disease must feel like.

The following was written by me November 23, not even four months ago . . . and I do not remember it at all. I thought I would hand it out to anyone who needs a story prompt.

 Tabitha smiled as she sat on a folding chair in the late Mrs. Anderson’s front yard. Fanning herself with the auction brochure, she looked around at her neighbors. Most of them were at the auction just to have something to do. She, however, was there for Lot 16.

Feel free to use it. If you do, I’d love to read what you come up with. I’m curious to see what it might be, because I don’t know.

How about you? Do you get story concepts first, or the start of a story first?


If beginnings aren’t your strong suit, check out First Line. Although the blog is no longer being updated, there are more than 200 first lines for you to chose from.

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