I’m a plot-driven writer. Before I commit anything to paper, I know where the full arc is going (setting + plot), how the characters will drive it forward, and what the themes will be.
All this should make it easy to start writing, right?
Yeah, so there’s a story idea I’ve been kicking around for at least a year – probably more – where I’ve written the ending, I know how I need to get to the ending, I even wrote a draft way back when, and I still have no idea where to start it.
Note that’s a where, not a how. How to start stories is simple. Subvert expectations so that the reader does a double take and before they know it, they’re sucked into the rest, like a demon summoning gone wrong.
What’s the deal with this story? Why isn’t it coming together when all the pieces are there?
The plot of this story is, in essence, a relationship that turns into a codependent mess because a shitty human being unintentionally trains an AI to also be shitty.
There’s three different approaches I could take to beginning this.
- Start with the broken human relationship that sets this off. (Which is where I began it originally.)
- Start with the accident, which breaks said human relationship and is integral to the plot.
- Start with the AI relationship, which is the meat of the main plot.
What are the pros of each?
Why not cons? Because those can be fixed in editing. I could have listed how they each influence the plot arc and ambience, but that’s the whole point of the beginning: creating that initial impression. If that starting point isn’t plonking readers where you want them, it’s not right.
I have a clear starting image for all of these, so I haven’t listed it as a pro, but that’s worth considering too.
Option 1 pros
- Shows how the AI is supposed to work
- Sets up the protagonist as selfish
Option 2 pros
- Shows the moment of the AI upgrade (twist!)
- Shows the accident
Option 3 pros
- Can surprise readers with the revelation that the lover is an AI
- This is the true main arc (but it needs to be explained by prior events)
- Also, I want to
I was reluctant to jump into Option 3, even though I want to, because it’s so far ahead of the events that predicate the climax. But, as I said above, that’s something which could be fixed in editing. This is where “kill your darlings” comes in. Be open to unfixing a fixed point.
Yes, it’s gonna suck a bit to fill in the backstory. But at the same time, I’m not grabbed by the other two options, and I thought of the damn thing.
I’m not a “just start writing and sort it all later” type – I don’t work well without any direction (I am Captain Tangent) – but it is sometimes necessary to put off solving a problem until later, when you have something to look at. Simultaneously holding the words in your head and trying to sort them out is friggin’ hard.
The process of writing out the pros helped me realize just how unenthusiastic I am about the first two options, even though they’re more logical than the third. I don’t write a lot of nonlinear plots, but it looks like that’s where I’m headed right now.
So, we’ll see how that goes.