What’s the Firestarter in Your Story

The lightning cracked and the tall ponderosa pine exploded like a matchstick… And that is how our most recent fire in Colorado apparently go started. The Red Canyon Fire is well on it’s way to being contained. My thoughts and prayers go out to all those involved with still another in a string of forest fires that have plagued Western states all year. The only effect of this fire 150 miles to the east where I live is a vastly different sunset, almost as if I’m in the middle of a sci fi movie set on another planet. Here’s the view at about 7:30 p.m. yesterday:


A fire gets immediate attention. The inciting event might be that lightning strike. It could also be two kids (or big kids for that matter) playing with fireworks, a cigarette butt thrown out the window of a car, or possibly a more subtle beginning with the spark off a campfire winding its way to dry brush. However the fire gets started it gets people’s attention and that’s exactly what you want in a story.

When I first began getting serious about writing, my first attempts had way too much back story. I was rushed to get all the great things out about my characters and setting. By the time I got to my own firestarter (The inciting event that keeps the reader interested), it may have been 15-20 pages in, much too late.

I have slowly learned a great lesson. Put your firestarter on the first page, get your readers hooked from the get go and keep them there until every hot spot (plot points) are put out successfully.

Don’t start any of your own fires in the real world, but do start a great one with those first words in your story.

About Greg Pattridge

Climbing another mountain...writing middle grade novels.
This entry was posted in Editing, Writing and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to What’s the Firestarter in Your Story

  1. Jodi says:

    We’ve had a rash of fires as well over in Utah, and that blood red sunset as well. It was raining ash and I couldn’t help but think about judgement day. You’re right about having the inciting incident early on, it’s the most efficient way of getting a reader hooked.

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