Broken Brains and Where Shouldn’t You Start Your Story

A lot of writing coaches talk about story structure and plots and inciting incidents, which is all well and good but Carrie is burnt-out this week so on this episode of our podcast we’re going to do some tough talk.

Carrie: I have worked too hard and my brain is broken for anything mellow and nice.

So, instead we are going to tell you what NOT to do. We are going to be the story police and harsh out the rules.

Carrie: I don’t like rules or broken brains, but let’s do this. Although, you need to remember, writers, that these rules come in degrees and you can break them. Just know that you are and be cool with it.

With that disclaimer…

What Not To Do When Starting a Story According To Conventional Wisdom Right Now

Do not start with dialogue.

This used to be super popular and a totally literary way to start a story, but MySpace also used to be super popular. Things go out of style and it is not super popular anymore.

Here’s an example:

“I like elephants.”

“Awesome. Me too.”

“No way?”

“Actually, I am lying.”

In this example, you have no clue who is talking, where they are or why they do or don’t like elephants and you probably don’t care. We want readers to care from the very beginning of the story.

An alarm clock buzzing.

Who even has an alarm clock anymore, actually? But no alarm clocks or cell phone alarms or whatever. Waking up is dull.

My alarm buzzed and I groaned.

“Another day, another dollar,” I said to my cat, Muffin.

Muffin hit me in the nose with her paw. She’s tired of my clichés.

The whole IT WAS ALL A DREAM start.

Unless this is a paranormal or fantasy where the dream is a key part of the power or the threat? Then it’s okay even if people say ‘never ever.’

Cough. You don’t want to be super invested in a story and then find out that it was all crap and not real even to the character.

Amazing thing happens. More amazing things happen. More amazing things happen for five pages. Oops. It’s all a dream.

Being dorky without meaning to.

This is when you accidentally make a super silly mistake or state something obvious in the very beginning of your story. Gasp! I know! You would never do that, right?

Spoiler alert: We all do this.

She knew she had to wear a mask in a pubic place.

Try to avoid the typos like that one.

“I love to love you,” I think to myself.

This is an example of being unintentionally silly. We all think to ourselves. Cut the ‘to myself.’

All narrative all the time.

There is no dialogue anywhere in the first ten pages of this story and instead everything is just a solid block of text in which I, the author, tells you exciting things — well at least they are exciting to me — about the story, but honestly it’s just a lot of navel gazing. Did you know that people get lint in their navels? Did you know that a lot of that lint is actually random fibers from your clothes, if you wear clothes, and dead skin, and then it gets stuck there and mixes all up together. I wonder if you care. I wonder if you care that I care. And so on.

Agh. Did you even read this example? It ruined our SEO readability score.

Writing Tip of the Pod

Don’t start off on the wrong writer foot.

Dog Tip for Life

It’s okay to start over.

This is a dog trying to figure out how to start her story about a dog who went under a desk in order to get her author friend to give her a treat.


The music we’ve clipped and shortened in this podcast is awesome and is made available through the Creative Commons License. Here’s a link to that and the artist’s website. Who is this artist and what is this song? It’s “Night Owl” by Broke For Free.


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This week’s episode.

Link to Jose’s bonus interview. Jokes, Stuffies, And Using Your Weirdness for Good, An Interview with Jose De La Roca

Link to Caitlyn’s bonus episode. Books, Law School during Covid-19 and just being Kick Butt — Using Law to Create Lasting Change — Interview with Caitlyn Vanover

Link to last week’s episode of awesome.

Author: carriejonesbooks

I am the NYT and internationally-bestselling author of children’s books, which include the NEED series, FLYING series, TIME STOPPERS series, DEAR BULLY and other books. I like hedgehogs and puppies and warm places. I have none of these things in my life because I live in Maine and I already have two grown dogs and three cats.

Originally published at on May 26, 2020.

I’m an internationally bestselling and New York Times bestselling author, writing coach, podcaster, speaker, human, & editor.

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