A few years ago, I was lucky enough to attend a workshop session taught by the poetic and brilliant Martine Leavitt. During one of her lectures, she gave our class a bit of advice about beginnings. I don’t remember her exact wording, but she basically told us to start our story on the day when things change.
Real people have those moments regularly. They are the parts of life we may not always want to face, things we don’t always see coming, but they are also the moments that come to define us as people. How will we feel when our town is hit by a natural disaster? How will we react when our parents get divorced? What will we do when someone gets sick and dies, leaving us behind grieving? OR conversely, how will we feel when we reach a goal we’ve been aiming toward for years? How will we react when we find love? What will we do to transplant ourselves in a new place?
These are questions we need to explore with our characters and within our stories. Because change is, by very definition, a conflict of sorts. And every good story is defined by conflict and how the characters overcome the obstacles and beat the odds, just as people are defined by these same things.
So though we might begin with a small glimpse of how things are before, the real story, the part we all look for, happens in the moment when things change.
What life changes have defined you? Have you used those experiences in your writing?