Mini Lesson: Narrative Leads

Looking for a way to start your short story?  According to one of my favorite writing teachers, Nancie Atwell, there are three ways you could start an engaging narrative:

* Action: A Main Character Doing Something
I gulped my milk, pushed away from the table, and bolted out of the kitchen, slamming the broken screen door behind me. I ran down to our dock as fast as my legs could carry me. My feet pounded on the old wood, hurrying me toward my dad’s voice. “Scott!” he bellowed again.

“Coming, Dad!” I gasped. I couldn’t see him yet—just the sails of the boats that had already put out into the lake for the day.

* Dialogue: A Character or Characters Speaking
“Scott! Get down here on the double!” Dad bellowed. His voice sounded far away.

“Dad?” I hollered. “Where are you?” I squinted through the screen door but couldn’t see him.

“I’m down on the dock. MOVE IT. You’re not going to believe this,” he replied.

* Reaction: A Character Thinking
I couldn’t imagine why my father was hollering for me at 7:00 in the morning. I thought fast about what I might have done to get him so riled. Had he found out about the way I talked to my mother the night before, when we got to camp and she asked me to help unpack the car? Did he discover the fishing reel I broke last week? Before I could consider a third possibility, Dad’s voice shattered my thoughts.

“Scott! Move it! You’re not going to believe this!”


Keep in mind that this is also a helpful guide for the rest of your narrative.  For instance, you could start with an Action lead, but then follow it up with a reaction paragraph and then several dialogue paragraphs!  Writing a whole short story doesn’t feel quite as daunting when you break it down into paragraphs. . . .



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