A Matter of Perspective


If you had a reader sitting in front of you right now, which of the following would you use to open your story with?

1. A nagging worry or anxiety about something that the protagonist was concerned about

2. A larger concern that threatened to disturb the protagonist’s life

3. An even more serious concern which caused your protagonist pain and possibly serious injury

4. A life-and-death situation which placed your protagonist in real and imminent danger

Your answer will determine more or less the kind of story you are likely to end up telling.

Most stories - by far the bulk of fiction, whatever form it takes, prose, plays or screenplays - follow the sequence above.

That might surprise you: you might have been expecting the answer to be ‘Start with the life-and-death situation to increase tension to the max right at the beginning.’ Some stories do exactly that, but there is a price to be paid for it.

Luke Skywalker, when we first meet him in Star Wars: A New Hope, has a nagging anxiety about getting away from daily mundane chores to train as a pilot in the academy. This is then magnified after his uncle and aunt are slain by the Empire into a drive to escape. He is plunged into an adventure in which he is at risk of pain in the heart of the Empire’s Death Star, then goes on to a life-and-death situation which places him in real and imminent danger in the film