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Tips for young writers ...

1001 Red-Hot Tips for a Super-Duper Start to your Story 

(well, okay 3 – but that’s all you need)

Jill McDougall

Q: How do you get someone to hang out with you?

A. Grab their attention and keep them entertained. 

That’s what we writers must do. We want the reader to hang out with us for a WHOLE story so we use sneaky tactics to keep them in our power. How? We can’t give out balloons or offer free choccies at the end of every page*. All we have are bunches of squiggly things - no, not sour worms – words. And we must choose them carefully my friend to hook the reader from the very beginning.


Introducing … drumroll please ….

Tip Number 1

Say something. Yes, really. Get your character talking. In fact your first mark on the page might be one of these thingies -->    “   . Dialogue (speech) looks friendly and it lets you introduce a character without forcing the reader to trudge through a long-winded boring snoring sentence (a bit like this one).


Wanna see some magic? Watch how dialogue turns (boring) Sample A into (scintillating) Sample B:


Sample A: Chip was embarrassed. His grey school pants had a big hole over the right knee.


Sample B. “I’m seriously dead,” said Chip. “There’s a hole the size of Australia in my pants.”


Yes folks, dialogue gives your opening the oomph factor. Especially if it’s funny or exciting or scary. This leads us rather neatly to…

Tip Number 2

Use the Pulse Test. Get your reader all fired up (racing pulse, goggly eyes) before they hit sentence two and you’ve got ‘em where you want ‘em (reading your story remember?).


What’s the secret? Simple. Place your main character in a situation that’s funny or exciting or … you guessed it … scary. This is where you need to do a bit of thinking before you plunge in. I started my novel Jinxed! with a joke because the main character thinks she’s a comedian. But your MC (that’s writer-speak for main character) might be the serious thoughtful type. No worries. Simply pop your serious thoughtful character onto the back of a bike plunging down a forty-metre cliff and hey presto! you’ve passed the Pulse Test.

Tip Number 3

Combine Tip Number 1 with Tip Number 2 and what do you get? Yes, yes, Tip Number 3 but what else? That’s right – a Super-Duper Start to your Story.


*If you do happen to hear of someone offering free choccies at the end of every page, email me. It’s for, you know, research.


Check out the worksheet on describing characters

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