How to Start a Story – Characters First

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Starting a Story with a Character

Another effective method for starting a story is with a main character; this might be the protagonist, but it might just as easily be the antagonist. In either case, starting a story with a character can be a really great way to proceed, because if you create a great character, they will develop the story themselves. Let’s take a look at the process of developing a great character and then using them to inspire a terrific story. This is a step-by-step process that can be broken down into six distinct tasks.

One – Come Up With a Character Name

Before anything else, you should come up with the character name. If you know nothing about your character, then coming up with the name might give you some personality traits or some sort of back story. You can always change the name later if you want.

Two – Imagine That Character’s Ordinary Life

Coming up with a character’s ordinary life will allow you to contrast the events of the story with that life. Think about what they do every day, what they do for work, what their relationships are like and various other ordinary things about them. You have to show their ordinary life to a certain extent in order to contrast the events of the story successfully.

Three – Imagine an Extraordinary Event Changing That Ordinary Life

This ordinary life should be disrupted by some sort of extraordinary event. That’s where good stories are born. Take Harry Potter for example. Harry is a pretty miserable little boy with an ordinary life until a giant comes to tell him that he’s a wizard. Your event to be more mundane, but it should still have the same impact.

Four – Give Them an Extraordinary Obstacle to Overcome

This trigger event should create some sort of extraordinary obstacle to overcome. When this event changes that character’s life, you are not going to have much of a story unless they are trying to overcome something. Overcoming the problem is the basis of plot.

Five – Give Them Motivation to Change & Overcome the Obstacle

In order for a character to realistically want to overcome an obstacle, you have to give them the motivation to do so. In fact, everything should rest upon it. Your character must not be allowed to not take action. If they do not have the motivation to overcome extraordinary obstacles, trying to force them to overcome them will simply ring false.

Six – Throw Every Additional Obstacle into Their Path

If you want to tell a good story, then have them move mountains to overcome that obstacle. In addition, they should grow as a person during the course of overcoming this obstacle and you should throw every additional obstacle into their path during the story so that the odds are completely stacked against them and it looks like they are going to fail until the very last moment when they pull superhuman strength from somewhere and complete their task in the climax.

For more information on starting a story, check out Reedsy

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