No Dumping: Establish Conflict in the Very First Sentence

How do you start a story? Do you, like many writers, meander around like this?

The day promised to be warm and sunny, another clear, orange day on the alien planet. Lucrezia rose early, and after bathing in the spring near the pod, she contemplated what to have for breakfast. So many of the large, crested, birdlike creatures roosted in the giant trees near the landing site that she imagined she could find some of their eggs to eat.

Today, Lucrezia decided as she shimmied up the nearest tree in search of eggs, she would fix the ship’s Universal Translator. She had not come across any inhabitant of this unknown planet, but she had found elf bolts near the spring the day before. In her travels, she had come across so many different types of aliens. . . .

And so on. What’s the point of these paragraphs? Do they introduce a conflict? No. Does anything happen? No. Do they do anything but info dump? No.No dumping!

Conflict is essential in storytelling; without a conflict, whether inner or external, a story is just not interesting and reads more like an anecdote. And the most essential aspect of the opening lines of a story, whether short or long, is to establish that conflict.

So start with the problem. You don’t have to give away the ending, but you do have to let your readers know from the very first sentence that trouble is brewing. For example, what if Lucrezia found one of those elf bolts buried in a suspiciously human-looking skull?

Now that begins a story.

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