One good way to start a story is to choose a character; think of what that person would least like to do and then have that person go face to face with his greatest fear.

Let’s look at each step:

The character:

If you have a clear picture of each of your characters it will make a big difference in the way your story feels because it will be more realistic. If you have a vague, fuzzy idea of a character, the story will be vague and fuzzy. For example, you shouldn’t write, “…there was this bad kid…” Give him a shape, size, place in school, home. Help us see him. But first you have to see him clearly in your own mind even if you never bring all of directly into your story. So, think of someone you know (especially if you love or fear that person) and go from there. Use your imagination. Ask yourself what does this person look like: height, weight, skin color, hair, eyes. How old is he or she? What kind of clothes does s/he  wear? Does s/he have tattoos or piercings or scars? How does s/he talk? Walk? What do other people feel when they are near this person…are they afraid, do they like him or trust her?

Keep going. You can’t stop here. Where does this person live? (in the city, on a farm). What kind of house. Describe his or her bedroom (what’s on the walls, bookshelf). What kind of computer games or hobbies does this person have? What is his family like? (one parent, brothers and sisters, step parent) Does he have a pet? Is he a good student in school? Is he homeschooled?

Now, think of what that person hates the most…snakes, speaking in front of a group, taking tests, camping, eating strange food.

And then, of course, put him in a scene or situation where he has to deal with what he hates the most. That’s the beginning of a good story.

Here’s a scene from my story, Can Do, Zan, where Zan who fears the bully, Lazelle, has to deal with him right in the middle of having a diabetic insulin reaction.

Zan took his time changing. Then he climbed to the middle trail carved along the side of the long hill that led from the beach to the main camp ground. The trail above went by his grandpa’s old cabin. The trail below was busy with noisy campers heading to the mess hall for lunch. He didn’t feel good, preferring to trudge along, alone, in the cool, quiet shade of towering trees. A familiar feeling passed over him—weak, sweaty, slightly dizzy. He recognized the beginnings of an insulin reaction. His diabetes. Normally he would avoid eating sweets but because he had just exercised so hard and then lost his breakfast, he now needed food or at least sugar. He reached into his pocket and pulled out a glucose tablet that he always carried for this kind of emergency. It would be enough to get him up the hill where lunch waited. 

“Hey, gimme that,” Lazelle growled, startling Zan, snatching the tablet from him.

Not him. Not now, Zan moaned to himself. His eyes rode up the towering bully. It’s like being in a dentist’s chair, he reflected, looking up someone’s nose, waiting for the pain.  “I need that, man,” Zan pleaded. “It’s, like, my medicine and I don’t have any more.”

“Yeah, right,” the older boy mocked. “Zan Man.”

“No. I mean it. I need it or I’m going to be real sick,” Zan cried reaching for the tablet.

Lazelle half turned. “Looks like candy to me,” he said, slowly unwrapping the pink pill.

Zan stumbled forward. Swiped at Lazelle’s hand. 

The bigger boy simply raised his hand high over his head. “Besides,” he continued, “don’t you know you’re supposed to share your treats, Toe Jam? Didn’t anybody teach you that?” he asked, slamming the smaller boy in the chest, knocking him to the ground. “You got no manners,” he said as he delicately dropped the pink tablet into his upturned mouth. Zan groaned.

“Yuch!” Lazelle cried, spitting the pill into the loose, sandy soil. “What kind of candy is that? Bleh!”

Zan scrabbled in the dirt, grabbed the slimy, sticky pill coated with pine needles and sand, wiped it on the bottom of his shirt and quickly sucked it into his mouth before Lazelle could change his mind.

The bigger boy stared, eyes wide. Zan hunched back against a tree and waited for the glucose to kick in.

“Dang, you’re for-real about this,” Lazelle said.

Eyes closed, Zan barely nodded, hoping he would feel better soon and the bully would be gone.