Toad Tales: two ways to start a story

A few days ago, I received an important phone call. Ok, so it was my eleven year old brother calling, but that is still important.

A little background on my brother: his favorite animals are toads. He has a huge pit dug in the backyard which serves as a cave-like terrarium for dozens of the warty amphibians, complete with a system of ledges for his pets to hop along.

He’s also been reading the Redwall series, which features only animals as the characters.

So, when my little brother called me, I was not surprised when he started telling me about his idea for a story. Toads are always the bad guys in the Redwall books, he informed me. And toads just don’t get much attention in literature in general. So he wants to write about amphibian kingdoms, and make his main characters toads.

I was honored to be the person he called for writing advice. His biggest question was this: How do you start a story?

For a first scene, usually you start with (one of) the main character(s). The main crisis of the story has not yet happened, so life is fairly normal for the MC. However, there should be a conflict of some sort to create interest; maybe an ongoing life conflict; or maybe a foretaste of the main crisis. Either way, you start at the beginning, which is a very good place to start. (Yes, I just referenced The Sound of Music.)

Occasionally, however, you might begin with the villain. Star Wars begins with Darth Vader capturing Princess Leia’s ship. This brings to light a hint of the crisis before the main character, Luke Skywalker, is introduced. This adds suspense, because you keep wondering when the MC is going to cross paths with the villain.

So there you go! Two ways to begin a story. I’m not sure which one my little brother will pick…

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