How to Start a Story

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I am so excited.

Tomorrow afternoon, I’m teaching my kiddo’s third grade class about writing. Specifically, how to start a story.

When I sat down this morning to write out my ideas for the lesson, I had to stop and think. How do you start a story? I mean, I just…do it. I just put my hands on the keys and start typing.


So I did some analyzing, and what I came up with is this:

Someone. Does something. Somewhere. Because.

Nice, huh? Oh, perhaps you’d like it translated this way:

Character. Plot. Setting. Conflict.

The building blocks of story…which (ta da!) also serve as avenues for entering into a story. It’s up to the author to decide which one (or combination) serves as the best jumping off point for the story.

To illustrate, I’ve chosen the opening lines of several of my favorite chapter books. Among them:

“Beatrice Quimby’s biggest problem was her little sister Ramona.”
(from Beezus and Ramona by Beverly Cleary)

Character. Conflict.

“Once, in a house on Egypt Street, there lived a rabbit who was made almost entirely of china.”
(from The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane by Kate DiCamillo)

Character. Setting.

“You could see from here the house was haunted.”
(from A Season of Gifts by Richard Peck)


“You see, the whole problem starts because Marcie is running a bath while she is also talking on the phone and she forgets that she has the faucet turned on and is just nonstop chatting with her friend Stan–Stan is a girl even though it doesn’t sound like it and she mainly wears boys’ clothes.”
(from Clarice Bean, Don’t Look Now by Lauren Child)

Character. Plot. Conflict.

This, along with an abbreviated discussion of hook and voice, and I think I’ve got the makings of a pretty good lesson.

And not just for the class, either. It’s been a good reminder to me as well.

Wish me luck!

UPDATE: Teaching the class was a blast! So much fun. The kiddo said what I taught made sense. Yay!


5 thoughts on “How to Start a Story

    bnelson321 said:
    October 10, 2011 at 5:52 pm

    I wish you all the luck! I believe it is important for children of that age to learn how to start a story. Writing is one of the greatest joys in life, and once you get them started, I’m sure many won’t be able to stop!

      Amy K. Nichols said:
      October 11, 2011 at 5:53 pm

      Thank you! I completely agree. The lesson went well. I had so much fun, and my kiddo’s teacher told me I was welcome back any time. Yay!

    Lisa Nowak said:
    October 11, 2011 at 9:22 pm

    Congratulations! I’m going to be doing some of this type of event soon, and it’s hard coming up with ideas.

      Amy K. Nichols said:
      October 12, 2011 at 11:14 am

      Thanks, Lisa! I’m sure you’re going to do great. Get them to laugh and they’ll follow you anywhere. 🙂

    Jackson said:
    October 21, 2011 at 12:37 pm

    good stuff
    had the opportunity to help the school our children were in develop and put on a christmas program. was awesome


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