by Tiegan
(New South Wales, Australia)

Hi, I have yet another question.

When I begin my story, I usually first think of the setting. I always ask myself the following: should I have real places, towns and cities? Or should I have a fictional world?

I would also like to ask how to begin a story with action and tension. In my book, there is a girl that discovers she is something else, but how could I start the story with something interesting?

Answer: Nothing wrong about beginning with setting. One reason many people enjoy stories is because they want to be transported to a unique and different place or time in their imagination, so a strong setting appeals to those readers.

As for fictional versus non-fictional settings, again it depends on your readers. In some books, the selling point is that it takes place in an exotic but real setting. These books are like travelogues with the added bonus of a story thrown in. They appeal to armchair travellors. Similarly, history buffs often find historical fiction a more fun way to learn more about a time period they are fascinated by.

On the other hand, high fantasy readers like to immerse themselves in a highly developed fictional world. Science fiction readers like stories that speculate not on what is or what has been but what could be in the future.

Of course, not every reader cares as much about setting. Some are far more interested in a strong plot, fascinating characters, or philosophical explorations so not every story needs the same richness of setting.

Occasionally, if you're writing about a small but real community, you may want to change its name to fictionalize it - in order to not offend anyone in the community who thinks he/she resembles one of your characters. This also allows you to make changes to the setting so that it better fits your story. On the other hand, big cities have so many neighbourhoods and people, the risk of this is far less.

Again, it depends where your interests lie - the place or the plot. As a writer, you can bend one to serve the other.

As for starting the story, my advice is to always begin with an event - a irreversible and significant change that leaves the characters with a new purpose (and makes the reader want to keep reading to see what this new purpose will lead to).

In the case of your heroine, you don't have to begin with her discovering her true nature. But you could begin with a strange event that gives her a clue - a mystery which she will then go on to solve.

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