Starting Stories With Flashbacks/Prologues

by J. Camille
(South Carolina)

Question: I enjoy writing, but I usually tend to start all of my stories with a Flashback/Prologue. It's becoming repetitive, and for the story idea I have now, it would be best for the audience to not know the details of the flashback/prologue until later in the story. My problem comes in where I don't really know how else to start the story. I want my audience to be engaged in the writing, and to me the writing seems boring if I try to start the story in a normal day of the main character's life. Any advice?

Answer: Here's a couple of things to think about...

First, don't start with a "normal" day in your main character's life. Normal days are boring. Start with a day when something important happens that shows how your main character typically copes with a problem under pressure. This will establish who your MC is at the beginning of the story, before other events force your MC to grow (reconsider their usual approach), but still be an event that engages the reader's interest.

Think about how every James Bond film starts with a short episode that may be unconnected to the main story but shows the viewer who Bond is, what he can do, and how he reacts under pressure. It's not so much a "normal" day for Bond as a day when he handles an urgent problem in his normal way.

Second, sometimes if you hide the inciting incident (which is usually what's in the flashback/prologue) you can create a bit of mystery. The reader sees characters reacting to that event, but doesn't know why. That mystery can help pull the reader into the story.

In some stories, you don't find out until the very end what event actually started it all.

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