In the Beginning…

  • Posted on May 16, 2017 at 3:44 pm

By Cheryl Taggert

Recently, Juicy Secrets received an email asking for advice on how to begin a story. While many new authors have no problems at all with starting a story, some do. After some emailed discussions between my site partners and me, we decided to post the information in my reply as a blog entry to continue our series of posts regarding the craft of writing. The following is the result of this endeavor.

Often fledgling authors come up with great ideas for a story, or even a book. Major aspects of the plot materialize and the thought occurs that these concepts should be put together for others to read and enjoy. The potential author sits down at the keyboard, enthused by the idea of creating a story. He or she stares at the blank screen. And stares. And stares. The idea is a good one, but where should the story begin? They’ve always heard “begin at the beginning,” but what exactly IS the beginning?

Sadly, for some the beginning of their story idea is also the ending of it. The story remains unwritten; the computer screen remains blank. I can understand the intimidation of the blank screen. Anyone who has set out to attempt to write anything has heard how important the beginning is. It must grab the reader’s attention immediately without seeming to try too hard to do so.

Published writers will disagree on which one of the “big three” — character, plot, or conflict — is the most important element in a story, so there is no set answer. For me, the most important is character. Who these people are that populate the story, especially the protagonist (the main character), is essential to a story’s opening. The plot and situation, or conflict, can come later — not TOO much later, but I feel if a reader cares about or is at least intrigued by the characters, he or she will continue to read. The opening line is important, which makes the start of a story so crucial.

For example, in addition to erotica, I love mystery stories. When I was in high school, I started reading Lawrence Sanders. In his novel The Tenth Commandment, he begins with this sentence: “I was an only child, so I became an only man.” Think about what this says about the first person narrator, whose name was Joshua Bigg. We’re told in the book’s second sentence that the character’s name is one of life’s jokes, since Joshua Bigg is very short — five-feet-three and three-eighths inches. However, this irony is clearly not for comic effect in the story. That first line says it all. It was an opening I’ve never forgotten (clearly), and I also never forgot the lesson I learned from it as a writer: Beginnings are the most important part of any story.

The truth is that no story actually begins “at the beginning.” In reality the lives of the characters you are creating have already been going on for a while. It is simply a case of thinking of a basic scenario that at least one of your characters finds herself in. (From this point I will be addressing how to write for our website, so nearly all of the characters would be girls or women.) It is also important that we know who this is, and that does not mean her name. But just having this character sitting on a sofa drinking a glass of wine is all well and good, but something does have to happen to her in order to keep us interested. So while I say character is the most important aspect in the opening, we must have plot, or a situation in which the character finds herself.

Many of the details of that situation are dependent on where the story the writer has envisioned will be going. Here are a few questions someone should consider when starting a story:

  1. Who is my protagonist (the main character)? What kind of person is she? Overbearing? Curious? A divorcee? A widow? Shy? Outgoing?
  2. What is her life situation? (How old is she? If she is a child, how much does she know about sex? Where is she? At home? School? Outside? Inside? What is occupying her mind when we meet her? Those kinds of things.)
  3. How much time will be spent developing the characters before actual sex takes place? (This can be tricky. Too little, and the reader can feel as though the characters aren’t important. Too much, and the reader can get bored before the fun even starts.)
  4. Who will my protagonist have sex with first? A friend? A relative? An adult? A playmate? Herself?
  5. How will I set up a situation in which my main character succeeds in having sex with this other person? Or if she is masturbating, how will I make sure she has enough private time to complete the act? If she is having sex for the first time with someone, she will still need privacy. How I provide that is up to me and will dictate the setting.
  6. Are there any problems that must be considered prior to the first sex scene?

These are just a few questions that a writer should consider. Most of these can be answered as you write, but some basics must be in place to set up the scenario the character finds herself in.

Take my current story (at the time of this writing), “Island of Joys,” as an example. When I began, I knew the following:

It would be a period piece, in this case the mid-1800s. I knew this would limit some of the things I included in my story. Battery-powered toys, for example, would be an anachronism, or out of place for that time period. Next, I decided that there would be four main characters in the story, two adult women and their two daughters. I wanted the women to be about two years apart in age, with the second main adult character, Sharon, slightly older and running from an abusive man. The primary protagonist would be recently widowed and taking her daughter to Australia. The children would be a mirror of their mothers regarding age differences: the younger woman’s daughter would be about two years younger than the older woman’s daughter. I would open with the four on a boat they had caught a ride to Australia on, having left from San Francisco, California, several days prior to the beginning of the story. There would be a storm that would sink the ship and cause the women and their daughters to be separated from the boat and the remaining crew. I also knew that the seaman who was rowing their lifeboat would attack someone the first night out after the storm had sunk the boat and be killed in the ensuing fight. I knew the sex between characters would take care of itself, which is what I think would happen regardless of the gender and situation the shipwrecked people found themselves in.

Those were the things I KNEW when I began writing the story. Since I knew the ship would sink in a storm, the best place to start the story was the storm itself. That is why I said that the situation the characters will face determines a number of aspects regarding the beginning of the story. If you go back and look at that opening chapter, you will see I begin with the captain warning one of the women about the storm. The rest sort of wrote itself after that because I knew where I wanted the story and situation to be by the end of that first chapter.

This brings up the point that a writer should ALWAYS have the target situation in mind when writing. Otherwise, an author can write him- or herself into a corner VERY easily. So… the story doesn’t start “at the beginning.” It starts in the middle of everything. I fill in the gaps of information with narrative later, such as how Sharon learned about survival. I will admit that this was a later addition, after JetBoy read the first few chapters and mentioned how unlikely it seemed that women in that time period weren’t totally paralyzed with fear when faced with surviving on a desert island. I thought about his comment and realized he was 100% right. This was not in the days of women in the military. This was the mid-19th century, when women, like children, were seen and not heard, as well as constantly ordered about by men. Thus, I used Sharon’s situation — running from an abusive husband — to help explain why she’s so prepared for this frightening task. So having a reader or two goes a LOOOONNNNGGG way to being a successful writer. All professional authors have them in addition to their agents. (Thank you, JetBoy!)

Therefore, because I knew where I wanted the situation to end up, I knew what had to be told to the reader in that first chapter. Because I knew that a special situation had to be in the story — a ship wrecked by a storm — I knew where I had to begin my story. After the opening line, it was easy as far as what would happen. When a mother accompanied by her young daughter is on a ship in the middle of an ocean and is warned about an approaching storm, she finds her daughter before doing anything else. That’s only natural. Then she sets about following the captain’s suggestion in this case to “tie everything down.” At that point, it’s all about getting my characters onto that desert island, where the idea of sex would eventually make itself known, which is already chronicled in chapter two.

So now our fledgling author might be thinking, ‘Okay, I have this girl age eleven who has discovered that she can find a lot of pleasure by rubbing her pussy.’ This brings up the question, how and where did she learn? Did a friend tell her about a sexy website (a very common storyline)? Was she washing herself in the shower or tub and had a ‘hey, that feels good… I wonder what would happen if I did it more and harder’ moment? Let’s say our author chooses the second one, the shower. She could start with the girl either getting into the shower OR she could have her lying in bed that night thinking about it and wondering about doing more… maybe she had a friend who had hinted at such feelings and she is curious about them. Who knows? The fact is how our new writer develops the plot is totally up to her or him.  One can begin ANYWHERE in the story, so long as it helps set up the first scenario the main character finds herself in. Here is a beginning to such a story:

Beth lay in bed, staring up at the ceiling and wondering about the feelings she had experienced in the shower that night. The sensations seemed to come out of nowhere. She remembered how her best friend, Leanne, had smiled in an odd way when mentioning how her nightly shower was her favorite time of the day. Beth had wondered if Leanne had been talking about some sort of sex thing because of that smile. It had been… suggestive.

Suddenly, Beth had an understanding of a term she had only thought she understood. A suggestive smile. She had heard that term before but had never realized it had something to do with sex. She’d just thought it involved a secret. Any secret. Here she was a normal, healthy eleven-year-old girl who got good grades in her sixth grade classes, and she had never realized the meaning of that term until now… when she had put two and two together and arrived at an adult understanding of something that had escaped her before. Did this mean she was finally growing up?

She had accidentally aimed the handheld shower massage unit at her pussy. She’d been thinking of Bobby Tyler and what it might feel like to kiss him when ZAM! the shower’s powerful sprat had hit her square in the pussy and sent shivers running through her. She’d pulled the handheld unit away suddenly, as if it had stung her. Then she had realized that if that was what it meant to be stinging her, then let the stinging commence! The accidental squirting of her pussy with the shower massage had started feelings she’d never experienced. Oh, things had felt “nice” before when certain pressures had taken place, but this was different the same way that riding a plastic horse on a carousel was different from riding a roller coaster.

She had aimed the jets of water once again at her center and had felt the most incredible things. Tingles had run through her like an electric current. She had shivered involuntarily although the water was very warm, almost hot in fact, the way she liked it. And the sensations she felt down below her waist were, well, both amazing and scary.

Slightly frightened and wondering if she were hurting herself without meaning to, she had put the shower head back in place and finished showering, intending to forget about what had happened.

But now she could do nothing BUT think about it.

And wonder how she could repeat those feelings now that she was no longer in the shower but lying here in her bed.

Now, look what we have here. We know the main character, Beth, is eleven years old and in sixth grade. Her best friend, Leanne, is probably slightly ahead of Beth in the sexual discovery department, something sure to come into play later, which foreshadows events that serve as an additional hook for the reader, who is now anxious to read about the characters’ future experiences. Beth is a good student, and she is discovering things she had never realized existed before. She has discovered that there’s something more to her pussy than something to pee from and bring babies into the world. She is obviously rather sheltered from the facts of life as far as her parents and explaining her body are concerned. She is on the edge of discovering some wonderful things about her body. And now the nocturnal situation our heroine finds herself in can lead to a full-on exploration of her pussy, an act of further discovery that could or could not end with her first orgasm. Frankly, if I were to continue writing this, I would have her not reach a climax this soon. I would want her to talk to her friend Leanne about this discovery first. However, the exploration could be a LOT of fun to write as well as to read.

I’m already thinking of where to take this — a sure sign that the story will hold my interest. At this point I would have to decide if I wanted the conversation between the girls to take place in this chapter or the next. If I’m writing only a short story instead of a longer work with chapters, I would get to that talk faster and end up with Leanne and Beth discovering more than just how to reach an orgasm when alone, but in all honesty doing that would be rushing events a bit too much, so this scenario would best be served by a multiple-chapter story at the very least, or an erotic novel should I get interested enough in these characters and their situation.

As far as creating a beginning to a story goes, all I’ve done is put a girl in a situation in which she is thinking about sex. There’s no set way to begin a story. The beginning all depends on where the author wishes to take the story in the long run. Our fledgling author could just place a character in a situation and tell us about it through her actions, dialogue, and thoughts… Once upon a time there was a little girl who thought about sex. It’s as easy as that.

If you are a fledgling author, give it a try. The feelings of accomplishment are well worth the effort. Just ask a few of our Guest Authors featured at Juicy Secrets. They’ll tell you. And who knows? Your new story could even be as hot as a Carolina reaper pepper.

27 Comments on In the Beginning…

  1. Matthew says:

    The end is important. Focus on where you want to take your characters helps keep your story cohesive and readable.

    • Cheryl says:

      Yes, I agree. It is ONE of the things an author needs to know and focus on. That’s why I said this in the blog:

      The beginning all depends on where the author wishes to take the story in the long run.

      Furthermore, the ending was not the subject of this blog entry, which is why I used it as supporting detail instead of wandering off onto the topic of endings and their importance.

  2. robt66 says:

    Great advice Cheryl. Might I also add that accuracy and consistency are important here as well. Don’t have your protagonist’s age change throughout a chapter or their parents occupations go from teacher to stockbroker. I’ve read so many stories where a girl starts at 12, then she is 13 overnight and one chapter later is 12 again. This drives OCD people like me crazy. :D

    • Cheryl says:

      Yes, this is also very important, and the reason I am so happy I now have readers like JetBoy and Naughty Mommy — not to mention fans like you — to check for such things. :)

    • Girl Lover says:

      I’ve read stories that change the names of the characters and one story that change from first person to third person.

      • robt66 says:

        Yeah, me too. And also mixing up the characters.

        • Cheryl says:

          robt66, I have done this more than once and find it’s easier to do than most realize. The fingers just type the wrong name sometimes. :)

          It’s similar to parents who will sometimes call their children by a sibling’s name. I’m also a teacher and often call students I’ve known all year by another student’s name. It’s gotten to the point that I begin the year telling my students that will probably happen and not to be offended, essentially apologizing in advance. This usually leads to laughter as students tell stories of their mother or father calling them by their sister’s or brother’s name. I then mention if their parents can mix up two names, I should be forgiven for mixing up twenty-five or thirty.

          • robt66 says:

            Oh I can imagine it’s not easy keeping things straight. My father used to call me by my two older brothers’ names all the time. I haven’t mis-named my daughters yet (not that I am aware of) but give me time and I probably will. I sometimes call the dog one of my deceased dogs’ names. :D

  3. Amanda Lynn says:

    Very interesting read Cheryl, and I agree with you. Of course, I am still wet behind the ears when it comes to writing. When I wrote “A Girl Named Charlie” I knew it was going to be about a businesswoman who picks up a hitchhiker. I knew that having the woman hop into bed with the hitchhiker in act one scene one wouldn’t make any sense so I gave her a back story in chapter one. Well, all of chapter 1 actually. Stephen King would shake his head if he read my story.

    By doing that I could focus on Charlie and her past and present. I hadn’t nailed down how the story was going to end until chapter 4 or 5.

    • Cheryl says:

      Actually, assuming he likes our kind of story, I doubt Stephen King would have a problem with providing a back story to explain the direction the plot takes.

      • Amanda Lynn says:

        What I was referring to was from his book, On Writing:

        The most important things to remember about back story are that (a) everyone has a history and (b) most of it isn’t very interesting. Stick to the parts that are, and don’t get carried away with the rest. Long life stories are best received in bars, and only then an hour or so before closing time, and if you are buying.

        King, Stephen. On Writing: A Memoir Of The Craft (p. 227)

        • Cheryl says:

          Oh, he uses back story. He just does it in such a way that it is woven into the main story, not set apart.

          • Amanda Lynn says:

            Which kind of backs up my original statement. Chapter one is all back story and honestly, there is a lot of fluff. Wouldn’t you agree? :)

    • robt66 says:

      I’m really getting into “Charlie”. Can’t wait for more.

    • Personally I love the long, protracted, full-chapter backstory in “A Girl Named Charlie.” It’s certainly unorthodox, but that’s just fine. Good writing doesn’t always have to follow all the rules. The chapter is very well written and puts us in the mood for what will follow. I don’t even think Stephen King would object. ;)

      • JetBoy says:

        Hear, hear! Amanda, you have no reason whatsoever to feel uncertain about “A Girl Named Charlie.” It’s a superb, sexy story. I’m proud to have it as part of the Juicy Secrets library… and to have you as one of our authors. So there.

  4. eloquent delinquent says:

    I really enjoyed this – it’s got a lot of useful advice. What I try to do is 1) introduce the main character at a heightened moment that reveals who they are (especially if it contradicts who they THINK they are or should be), and 2) put at least one solid, memorable detail that sets the action and/or the stakes in the first paragraph.

    One other thing I might add is that, especially with longer stories, you should be prepared and not afraid to rewrite the beginning. I’ve found that often, after I’m about a third of the way in, I have a much clearer idea of the characters and tone of the story. So I go back and rewrite the first few paragraphs so the style and language is more keeping with what’s developed.

    When you’re writing a story that you really feel something about, what you create is often a surprise! That’s part of the fun, even though it makes a bit more work. It’s worth it.

    • One other thing I might add is that, especially with longer stories, you should be prepared and not afraid to rewrite the beginning…

      I definitely agree about this. In fact, I would say that at least half the time, if not more, I will go back and rewrite the opening of my stories, once I’ve got far enough into them to have the characters and the plot more fully revealed to me. I’ve always believed the opening is vitally important. It’s the hook, and it sets the tone for everything else, so it’s worth putting extra effort in there, even revising several times if necessary to get it right.

      • JetBoy says:

        Also agree. About half of my erotic writing has never been made public, because the story isn’t finished. For me, until that last chapter is complete, the first one isn’t done either… because I’m constantly shaping the story in ways that require going back and making changes to the earlier parts. The second piece of lesbian fiction I began (shortly after my first Leslita story was posted) is still in progress, over a decade later — and I was making alterations to Chapter One just last week. Crazy? Yeah, probably.

  5. Girl Lover says:

    Whenever I write a story, I make an outline divided up into days and sections in chronological order. Then I try to imagine how the characters will meet up and have sex. It all depends on who the characters are, so sometimes it happens quickly and other times they have to go on a few dates before having sex.

    • Cheryl says:

      Yes, one of our readers recently contacted us asking if we were what is referred to as “plotters” or “pantsers.” A plotter plans out the entire story before writing. A pantser writes by the seat of the pants, knowing the basics of the plot but not the details until they write it. I’ve read material from published authors who admit to being pantsers, so I don’t mind admitting that’s the technique I use. You are obviously a plotter. There’s nothing wrong with either approach. The final product is all that matters. And my, what a wonderful final product you provide!!

  6. JayP says:

    It is an interesting tutorial. I have never thought of what goes into achieving a successful story and I have never attempted to write one. If it helps others to write as good as the three of you who own this blog, as I think it will, then it serves its purpose. Keep up the good work. I love this site.
    Jay

  7. PoppaBear says:

    Two things which aspiring writers always need to remember to do are: one, read and absorb as much advice on how to do it as possible (the more you read the more you’ll learn to discriminate between what is for you and what doesn’t work for you); and, two, you need to write as much as possible. The most successful authors are almost obsessive, even selfish, about what they do. Graham Greene described it, I think, as the sliver of ice in the soul.

    Here is more advice for all of you who want to develop your imaginative muscles. It’s from The Guardian, last Saturday 13th May 2017, and it’ll be on their website for a long time.

    Writers often refer to other authors as if everyone knows who everyone else is. The first author quoted here, Rainer Maria Rilke, is German and wrote All Quiet on the Western Front, one of the best novels about the First World War, and an even better book, but less well-known called The Road Back.

    Read, enjoy, and then, write, write, write.

  8. CaptainMidnight says:

    I like very much how you write about the act of writing, drafting, getting things together, then having someone else scrutinize your story. An outside editor often can cut ruthlessly and give you a much better product. Do you write essays very often?

    • Cheryl says:

      First, welcome back, CaptainMidnight! It’s been a while since we heard from you! I’m glad you are commenting again.

      Most of the essays I write are for this site. I like to stick to fiction mostly. It’s more fun and allows me to use my fantasies. :) I have written some articles in the past that have been published, though.

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