Your finished novel will have a story, hopefully a great story, with a beginning, middle, and end. The beginning is a specific point in time within your story universe and so is the end. All the scenes within your novel often only represent a small portion of the time between the beginning and end. Usually you are just including the scenes that will give the reader the most engaging and exciting experience to keep them hooked and satisfied.
So as you brainstorm before you begin writing your novel, you have ideas for the world that your story will live in and some of the history of your main characters. As you get to a plot, you may have trouble deciding where your story should really begin. This is probably one of your most important choices.
Star Wars is the perfect example to study. The beginning of this classic story throws you right into the middle of a conflict that has been raging for quite a while. You find the characters in various stages of unrest, either because they are running from trouble or trying to cause trouble. The back story fills in as the story is told, but you don't have to wait to be engaged.
Why didn't George Lucas chose to begin at the inception of the rebellion, and show how the whole thing started? Because that was not the plot story or the character story that he wanted to tell. Of course years later we finally saw in Episode III how the empire and the rebellion came about, and it was also a great story. The key is he chose the specific story out of the story universe to tell in each episode.
It may be more important to carefully choose the story in epic adventures, but I think it applies to all fiction. The key may be to just choose the combination of plot and character progression that is most interesting, usually at a point of great change.
Think about your own life. The majority is just business as usual, but maybe you had a big family tragedy that turned everything upside down, or you met "the one" and had a whirlwind romance leading to a proposal. I think you get the point.
Endings are just as important as the beginning. If you end too early in the story, the reader may feel unfulfilled. End too late in the story and the reader is bored on the last page, which is not good. Find that sweet spot where you wrap up the plot points and the emotional promises that you made throughout the middle of the story.
I know this is just an overview, but I hope it helps you identify the right part of your story to tell. Search hard enough and you just might find a gem.
J Hugh Thomas is a database developer and a programmer who is writing his first novel. Read his blog http://onwritingmyfirstnovel.blogspot.com/ to see all of his writer's resources and free advice.
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