This blog is for everyone who uses words.

The ordinary-sized words are for everyone, but the big ones are especially for children.

Wednesday, 21 August 2013

Nuts and Bolts: How To Start Your Story

The easiest way to discover how to start a good story is to look at the beginnings of some admired and successful books.

So here we are. See if you can spot something they all have in common.

They're all identified at the bottom of this post.

1. It was a morning when all nature shouted ‘Fore!' The breeze, as it blew gently up from the valley, seemed to bring a message of hope and cheer, whispering of chip-shots holed and brassies landing squarely on the meat. 

2. There was no possibility of taking a walk that day. We had been wandering, indeed, in the leafless shrubbery an hour in the morning; but since dinner (Mrs. Reed, when there was no company, dined early) the cold winter wind had brought with it clouds so sombre, and a rain so penetrating, that further out-door exercise was now out of the question.

3. It was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen.

4. The sun did not shine. It was too wet to play. So we sat in the house all that cold, cold, wet day.

5. It was a queer, sultry summer, the summer they electrocuted the Rosenbergs and I didn't know what I was doing in New York.

6. A Saturday afternoon in November was approaching the time of twilight, and the vast tract of unenclosed wild known as Egdon Heath embrowned itself moment by moment. Overhead the hollow stretch of whitish cloud shutting out the sky was as a tent which had the whole heath for its floor.

7. Thunder and lightning. Enter Three Witches

First Witch
When shall we three meet again
In thunder, lightning, or in rain?

 8. The beginning is simple to mark. We were in sunlight under a turkey oak, partly protected from a strong, gusty wind.

9. It was clearly going to be a bad crossing.

10. The madness of an autumn prairie cold front coming through.

And here, to sum up, is a nice handy rule from the very much admired and successful writer Elmore Leonard:

Never open a book with weather.


Thing To Describe Today: the weather. This word comes from the Old English weder, and before that the Old Saxon wedar. Yes, that's right, we've been talking about the weather in England for a long long time.

Still, mustn't grumble.

1. P.G. Wodehouse,The Heart of a Goof.
2. Charlotte Bronte, Jane Eyre
3. George Orwell, 1984
4. De Suess, The Cat in the Hat
5. Sylvia Plath, The Bell Jar
6. Thomas Hardy, The Return of the Native
7. Shakespeare, Macbeth.
8. Ian McEwan, Enduring Love
9. Evelyn Waugh, Vile Bodies
10. Johnathan Franzen, The Corrections.

Afterword: Oh no! I have just this minute seen the sad news of the death of Elmore Leonard.

I am an admirer of his, and I hope this post will be viewed as an affectionate, if slightly cheeky, tribute.


  1. I got to #5 before I clicked!
    I guess sometimes rules are meant to be broken!
    RIP Mr. Leonard.

    1. I'm sure you're right, Jingles.

      'It is impossible to set bounds on a creative process' might be one of the few maxims worth observing.

      That, and 'omit unnecessary words'.

    2. I am very guilty of using unnecessary words.
      One of the many reasons why I am not a writer. :)
      I'm quite happy to leave the writing to those more capable like yourself, and I'll keep to the reading part!