Gila Green on Beginning

Gila Green grew up in Ottawa, Canada and moved to Israel in 1994. Her short story collection White Zion was a finalist for the Doris Bakwin Literary Award (Carolina Wren Press). Her writing has been nominated for seven awards including The Best New Writing Eric Hoffer Award, Walrus Literary Award, TenTen Fiction Contest and Haaretz Short Fiction Award. She won a fellowship to the Summer Literary Seminar for an excerpt from her new novel. Her stories have been published in literary magazines and anthologies in five countries including: Fiction Magazine, Many Mountains Moving, Quality Women’s Fiction, The Saranac Review, Pilot Pocket Books, Kunapipi, Yuan Yang and The Dalhousie Review

One of the most common questions I answer in my classes is: “How do I begin my story/novel/chapter?” or the variation: “I don’t want all of my short stories/chapters to begin the same way-help”. I have found that my response over the years has helped many writers, so I wish to share it here.

The answer is another question: What is a noun? Remember grade school? A noun is a person, place or thing. This answer will help you with your beginnings every time. Start by focusing either on a person (usually the main character or a key character if you are foreshadowing), place (also known as setting/atmosphere) or thing (an object that is relevant to the story or to a character, usually the hero or heroine).

Keep in mind, that your choice will be a signpost to the reader that this is important, so don’t choose to focus on your heroine’s necklace if it has no relevance to the rest of the story, similarly don’t spend two paragraphs describing the view of the lake unless an important event is going to take place there or unless you are using this as a metaphor for your theme somehow. It goes without saying that you are not going to choose to describe a character who has no relevance after page one.

Choosing the same scene and writing it from these three reference points is also an excellent writing exercise.

Feel free to let me know your results:

Gila Green is a freelance writer, editor and creative writing teacher and enjoys meeting other writers all over the world. When she is not writing, she is mothering. Look for her virtual class on the WOW-Women on Writing Site

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