How (Not) To Begin a Story

by | Apr 29, 2013 | Lists, Reading, Writing | 3 comments

Happy Monday, internetz! I think I’m coming down with something and my brain isn’t functioning properly, so it’s gonna be a short one today. Inspired by bad prologues, pilot episodes, and opening sequences the world over, I give you…

How To Begin a Story in 7 Easy Steps*

1. Flashbacks! Why limit yourself to only one flashback? Start off nice and easy with the first flashback, and then once you’re inside that flashback why not flashback another few years? Then, try a century or two! The more flashbacks, the better.

2. Stereotypes! Listen up folks, this one is important. This is the beginning of your novel. How will anyone be able to relate to your characters if they aren’t obvious stereotypes? Pick conventional archetypes that everyone will be able to recognize. You’ll need a bitchy cheerleader (remember, lipgloss makes you evil), a sensitive guitar-player (no one’s noticed he’s handsome because he’s quiet and writes poetry), an arrogant rich boy (only the right girl can redeem his damaged soul), and a manic pixie dream girl (she makes her own clothes). Voila! A perfect cast of conveniently pigeon-hole-able characters.

3. Disjointed Mythologies! There are so many world mythologies, and it can be tempting to just pick one. Don’t do it! Use them all. Norse, Greek, Japanese, Judeo-Christian–jam them all together! But don’t bother synthesizing them into one coherent hybrid mythology. Are you kidding? That would be way too much effort.

4. Sex! And lots of it. You want everyone to know that your story is edgy and sexy, so make sure you show all your characters getting it on in the beginning. Great stories have tons of gratuitous sex and nudity, even if it’s completely incidental to the actual plot.

5. Multiple Story-lines! As many as you can fit. Scratch that, even if they don’t fit squeeze them in anyway. Seriously, ambiguously related plots and subplots are the bread and butter of a good story. Don’t worry about confusing your reader; the more confused she is, the more she’ll want to keep reading!

6. Angsty Protagonists! There’s nothing readers love more than being introduced to a main character who is utterly wrapped up in his or her own problems. Make sure the first chapter includes a diary entry about how no one understands your character, or a horrific nightmare inspired by either childhood trauma or budding psychic powers.  Don’t forget, emo is short for emotion, but make sure your character only has one: angst.

7. Conspicuous Villain. Just like with your cast stereotypical characters, you want your reader to be able to recognize the villain right away. Give him a moustache. Have her monologue about her diabological plan in the first chapter. Avoid grey areas at all costs, and don’t give the villain any real motivations or desires beyond, well, being evil. Good, old-fashioned bad. It’s simpler that way

Adhere to these steps and you’ll be well on your way to writing a great story! Happy writing!

*Yes, this advice is %100 tongue in cheek. Do not do any of these things (although that hasn’t stopped plenty of writers, directors, and producers in the past!)


  1. Ben

    Generally agree that these hackneyed methods are no good way to begin a story, but I’m displeased that you loose your venom on mustaches in the villain section. Not every man who wears one is evil.

    • Lyra Selene

      True. Perhaps I should have said: Give the villain a moustache and then let him twirl it. Villainously.

      Thanks for the comment! 🙂

  2. Emmie Mears

    Is that truth I smell?