where does your story start?

As I have referenced in past posts, I'm having a bit of difficulty with the present action in my thus far untitled wip.

Here is the meat of the story: Laurel is tweny-five-ish (don't worry, she'll have a definite age before her creator queries anyone) and her exboyfriend dies. She believes it was suicide and that she was, in large part or in some part, to blame, even though they broke up a couple of years before the accident. (Are you intrigued? I hope you are intrigued.)

(To prologue or not to prologue? I love my prologue. My mc gets the news: the boy died.)

Either way, when the story begins at chapter one, where should it start?

I have started it a few ways. I started it a couple of months before David, the aforementioned exboyfriend, died. I started it with Laurel having trouble sleeping. She spirals downward into a certain mental anguish, a manic depression... a preocupation with her past, her present, her, her, herself. I wrote this for a couple of hundred words. Then, I decided it might be better to start from the beginning.

Enter: Chapter One, Version Two. David and Laurel met, talked their first talk, blah, etc. It was summer and she was leaving for college. Would they or wouldn't they (continue to date)? This is really the bulk of what I've written in November. I'm good with these scenes, I like the way things play out, and I will definitely be using all this.

But, last night, it hit me. The way Laurel turned out and the decisions she made that led her to break David's heart (and her own spirit, really) -- these things were a result of her childhood. Her story starts there.

So, enter previously written short story, which begins:

Laurel remembers clearly the day her mother left her father. She was no older than five; she hadn't yet started kindergarten. Her sister, Laine, was a screaming toddler.

Yes, as I lay awake last night (thanking veterans everywhere that I don't have to work today) I realized that it just might be okay to start allthewaybackthere... that I just might be able to pull it off, to make it a little more novel-y, and so:

     It all started when Laurel's mother walked out on her father, because don't all our stories really start there, back in those formidable years? The deck might already be stacked against us, but the cards are still being shuffled and haven't been dealt yet. Then, like ligtning, some event or non-event happens or does not happen, and we are thrust into the wheels of fate, which are turned and clank.
     Laurel was five years old; she hadn't yet started kindergarten. Her sister, Laine, was a screaming toddler.

What do you think, readers? Would you read a book about a woman who is trying to cope with the death of someone she loved, but did not love particularly well... if the story started with her childhood?

Damn. I need a crit group. And a stiff drink.


ElanaJ said…
Ha ha! Drinks and crit groups often go together. And I don't mind how any story starts, as long as it's done masterfully and with a purpose.

Good luck, I know you'll nail it!
For my current project, I went with an all-the-way-back, this is the point where the story starts for chapter one. Chapter two skipped ahead a few years (I'm not sure how many), and focuses on different characters and places. I'm still debating making chapter one a prologue.

In the one I did before, for a prologue, I did a legend that was told that gave a rough overview of the history of the story. Chapter one started out just as the shit started going down.

The big book, the one that's multi-volume, the prologue took place years before the main characters were born, and then the first chapter starts introducing people, places and such. It's a set up for things to come.
What you might want to do is deliver the bad news in chapter one, like you've already done, and then go back with chapter two and start the story from her youth on. Give us the conflict, and then build up toward the conflict eventually.

I don't know if my braying has helped at all. If not, ignore me. If so, cut me a piece of that best-seller pie.
Regina Quentin said…
My opinion only: I like the approach of the news being delivered and the writer finding clever ways to reveal backstory as the book progresses from that point.

Just a thought. Good luck with it all.
Travener said…
I tend to agree that if the story is mostly post-suicide you should start there, then segue into backstory.

But honestly, WTF do I know?
pinkflipflops said…
I think starting it off with the Laurel ... it hooks you right from the beginning..perhaps you could merge that other paragraph into another part of the story..

otherwise, start with post sucidide and then keep dropping hints about the past or even move from past to present throughout..
Tina Lynn said…
I say start with her getting the news.

Then, she can ponder why she broke his heart, and...

(insert shiny childhood backstory here).

Ta da!


Awww...*walks away, shoulders slumped*

I have a hard time trying to find the place to start the story, too. Good luck and all.
Thanks, peeps, for your your conflicting opinions.

We shall see what will be. :)
carissajaded said…
Amber I like it... I would def. read it! And I think you should start with her childhood... makes sense.
If the childhood stuff is backstory, I would sprinkle it in to the main story--her dealing with the suicide. Unless you're going the literary fiction route, which may offer you a little more leeway to do a novel spanning a lifetime.

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