Sunday, February 28, 2021

“But George was a curious little monkey”—when stories officially begin

Whether you’re writing picture books, novels or scripts, the main structure of every story should have a beginning, a middle, and an end. It is not only essential to know the difference between the beginning, the middle, and the end but also difference between the beginning and the end.

Everyone knows when a story begins and ends, right? It’s basic stuff. It’s easy. It’s common sense. And everyone knows when a story ends, right? Sometimes it’s even marked or written with “The End”.

But there is more to the beginning of a story than the beginning. There are actually two beginnings. There is the beginning of the story, the first word the story begins with but then there is the official beginning, and distinguishing the two when writing is very important.

The beginning of the story is just what it says it is. It is the beginning of the story. It is the first word you read. “Once upon a time…”, “It was a dark and stormy night”, or “Once there was a…”, etc.

The best way to explain the official beginning of a story is to be able to identify just when the story gets interesting. This is the point of the story when the main character is “called to adventure”. The literary term or technical term is the “call to adventure”. I prefer to put it in a lighter, in a more household-term manner—“just when the story gets interesting” or “the scene of the crime of the story”.

I always joke that after God had created the Heavens, the earth, the animals then Adam and saw that it was beautiful and good, he got bored. So, he created a woman to make things interesting—and we all know what happened from there. All hell broke loose.

When writing, you must not end your story just when it gets interesting. Your story just begins just when it gets interesting. “…but George was a curious monkey”—that’s when Curious George stories officially begin, when his curiosity strikes! In romantic comedies, the officially beginning of the story is usually when boy meets girl or girl meets boy.

It does not matter how you want to tell your stories—through picture books, through novels, or through scripts—your stories not only must have a beginning, a middle, and an end, they must also have an official beginning, and knowing the difference between the beginning of a story and its official beginning is key.

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