Start in the middle

Writing Advice

Want to spruce up an opening? Start in the middle!

Sure you could write:

I love spaghetti. It’s my favorite dinner.

But seriously, who cares that you love spaghetti? We’re finished before we start. The truth is out and there’s nothing more to know.

So how about starting in the middle?

The noodle slipped out of my mouth and smacked my sister’s chin.

Whoa! How did a noodle get from your mouth to his chin? We all want to know! And so we’ll keep reading

Another example:

Dogs are better than cats.

Yes, this qualifies as the typical topic sentence. However, it doesn’t conjure up anything in my imagination. Readers are fickle. They want to be lured forward as though on a treasure hunt for the next clue to what the writing is all about. If you let the “cat out of the bag” too soon, the reader is bored and will only slog through the writing if required to give it a grade.

How about:

I try not to take it personally when Cookie, my cat, goes on licking her paws when I get home. Charlie, my dog, on the other hand…

Starting in the middle might not seem like you are following the topic sentence top down paragraph form. But it’s one of the most common tips in revising that professionals are taught.

Tell the story and I’ll know the topic!

Image © Nagy-bagoly Ilona |

2 Responses to “Start in the middle”

  1. Excellent advice, Julie! This is exactly what I do whenever I’m stuck on a scene in one of my novels. I think of a different scene, a new adventure, and start writing smack dab in the middle of the action. Early drafts of my manuscripts always consist of scattered scenes with the word [transition] typed in between. Later, when I go back to weave the scenes together into a fluid narrative, I usually find that I need less transitioning than I supposed. The meat of the story is already there.

  2. Julie Bogart says:

    Makes a lot of sense.

    I had a “quick fix” technique I suggested to novice writers who wrote for the magazine I edited. I’d call them on the phone and ask questions that would draw out personal experiences related to the topic for writing. It always amazed me how animated these “writers” became once they were free to talk about the topic from a personal viewpoint. I’d take notes while they spoke. Then we’d craft them into a new opening for the article. We’d start in the middle of the experience/passion/memory and then introduce the direction of the article from there.

    This technique is also known as the “opening hook.”

    My favorite of these in a novel is in Charlotte’s Web:

    “Where’s Papa going with that ax?”

    That’s all it takes. We’re in. 🙂