The Artist’s Corner: Reel In Your Predictable Story Beginning

I’m blogging chapter by chapter through a great book on the art of writing by James Scott Bell. I encourage you to pick up a copy of “The Art Of War For Writers”.

Tip 37 is this: Discipline cliched or predictable story beginnings.

Call me Bear. 

JSB gives three Thou shalt nots in this reading.

Don’t start your story with a description of weather.

Don’t start it with a dream.

Don’t start it with ‘Happy people in happy land.

He offers a couple exceptions. You can describe the weather but “only if you connect it to a character viewpoint and use it to add to the tone of the scene.”

I begin my novel A Sparrow Could Fall with weather, but I think it passes Bell’s smell test. You be the judge.

The thinnest peel of orange sun peered above the western horizon as the pick-up pulled off the blacktop onto the gravel road and headed north. It was the only sun the man had seen that gloomy October day, and appeared now beneath the clouds like a sliver of light under a windowless prison door. Then the opening vanished as quickly as it appeared, slammed shut by the brooding darkness. The man turned back to the road ahead.

I’m after both giving the reader a character viewpoint and also setting a somber tone.

But at least it’s not a dream, which Bell says do not attempt until you are a best-selling author. Then you can break every rule in the book.

As for “happy people”, the idea here is to inject tension into the story right away. If the husband dies in a car accident in chapter two, it’s – and I quote – Not soon enough.

Here’s a project to consider. My idea, not JSB’s. Read through this list of the American Book Reviews 100 Best First Lines. (Click here.)

Write down your ten best. Think about why you like them so much. Then go and do likewise.




Tinker: The TV Series

One of heaven's mightiest angels...

...comes to earth as a
school maintenance man... protect a teenage boy...

...who will save the world
as an adult.

The Tinker Pilot Episode...

"Turbo Jam Boosters"

A powerful angel works to win the friendship of a
troublesome teenager he’s been sent to earth to protect.

Tinkerville Episode 2

"All For One And One For All"

When a growing number of demons show up to attack Josh's
pastor, Tinker turns to the local angelic council to fight them off.

To Read The "Tinkerville" Series Bible...

A Sparrow Could Fall

A Sparrow Could Fall

A dying country church battles
a hate group that attacks a black
family new to the community,
not realizing that a leader in the
hate group is one of its own.

To Read The Book
Click Here:

To Read The Script
Click Here:

Ben-Hur: The Odyssey

Ben-Hur: The Odyssey

Judah Ben-Hur, the noble Jewish prince,
fights to save his family and best friend,
Paul the Apostle, from the rage of a
madman, who happens to be the most
powerful person on earth – the megalomaniac
emperor, Nero.

To Read The Book
Click Here

To Read The Script
Click Here

Deep Freeze

Deep Freeze

Deep Freeze

Trapped by a 30-foot snowstorm, survivors in an
isolated Colorado town fight to save themselves
from starvation, sickness, madness...
and a ruthless band of escaped prisoners.

To Read The Script...