Working Writer Tip: About Beginnings

I made baskets yesterday, demonstrating the coiled basket technique as my part of advertising a farmers’ market we belong to.  When I do this I’m always surprised at the interest people show in simple grass baskets.  And they all want to know what it will look like when it’s finished. 

 I tell them they can imagine what the finished basket will look like by examining the beginning, that tiny circle of tightly-wrapped grass in the center of the bottom of the basket that is the beginning of the coils that circle around and around that small middle before gently curving upwards to form sides until enough height is achieved and a basket is made.  Whenever I tell them this, they carefully examine the center of the basket bottom and nod their heads.  Yes, they say, they can see the finished product in that small beginning.

 Same with fiction. 

 When you write a story, you make a contract with your reader.  The beginning of the story contains the terms of the contract.. The first sentence.  The first paragraph.  At least the first page.  The end of the story should be an emotional sense of the fulfillment of that contract.

 When you write a story, make a promise to your reader.  An  honest contract.  Whatever method you use to lay out your story, make sure you connect the end to the beginning.  It doesn’t have to be obvious to the reader (and shouldn’t be for some stories) but it should be as easy for you, the writer, to see the connection as it is for any casual visitor to the farmers’ market to follow the end of the coil back to that first tightly wound knot that was the beginning of a basket.

 If it isn’t, then try harder.  Redo your beginning.  Change it completely.  Do something.  Your story will be better for it, and your readers will hopefully read your next story because they will know they can trust you to make a contract with them in the beginning that will be  fulfilled in the end.

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