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  1. Introductions Having a hard time starting your story? Remember the beginning sets the tone for the rest of the narrative, so don’t wimp out! Here are some ideas …

  2. Begin with dialogue. “Git yer self up this instant, Patrick Connelly!” my mother yelled as she stood over my bed. “The foreman’s expectin’ ya at dawn.” I wiped the sleep from my eyes and stared, not quite awake, at her scowling face. “Aye. Aye, Ma. I’m up.” “And no lollygaggin’ this mornin’. It’s payday.” Slowly I sat up and pulled my boots on over my long johns, mentally preparing for another day working the rails.

  3. Begin with a description. Hiding under the warmth of my woolen blanket against the chill of the house, I could hear my mother’s boot-clad steps across the floor. From my lair, I could see it was still dark; the shift in light from my dark grey blanket to the grey of the room was nearly imperceptible. Ma’s footfalls approached, and I could see her boots, brown, scuffed, and worn almost to tatters at my bedside.

  4. Begin at the end. As I watched Mr. Strobridge heave the sledge to drive the final spike, I looked round at the hopeful and dirty faces that surrounded me. My feelings were mixed; the rage I felt toward the fat, grinning Strobridge and his cruelty as a boss was confounded by the sense that I was a part of something larger than myself, that a permanent mark on history was being made … and I had had a hand in it. “Ma’ll be proud,” I said to myself under the din of the giant engines.

  5. Begin with action. The blanket flew off the bed and, before I could get my bearings, Ma’s cold chapped hand had me by the back of my shirt collar. My stockinged feet scrambled to find purchase on the floor boards as I felt myself being hauled from the bed. Slam! My rear end hit the chair with a thud at the same moment Ma slammed the bowl of porridge in front of me. I met her gaze, dumbfounded, and she shoved a large spoon in my hand. “You’ll eat if ya know what’s good fer ya, Patrick Connelly.”

  6. Begin with a peek into the character’s thoughts. Lord, how I wish it were Sunday, I thought as I steeled myself for another day of hard labor. Two more days, Lord. Just two more days.

  7. Here are a few more ideas … Begin with a question: Where will I go from here, now that the rail is done? Where will my friends go? Begin with background: It had been four years since I left Ireland for America’s open West, and though I missed my home, I saw opportunity here, opportunity to build a life that would be impossible back in Limerick. Begin with a startling statement: As I lifted the sledge, I imagined Strobridge’s head on the receiving end.