The advent of Catch-up and Box-Sets, has removed one of life’s most frustrating pleasures. Missing the first couple of episodes of a tv series which suddenly becomes unmissable.
You didn’t watch those first couple of episodes because you have more important things to do in life than tv, or the trailer didn’t look very good, or you were out at the gym and forgot to set it to record just in case it was any good. The end result is the same, however, you didn’t catch the start of the show.
And this didn’t matter, until your friends and co-workers started asking you if you have seen it, because it is awesome.
And now you are the outsider.
In our modern times, we can immediately pull out a smartphone of our choice and download the missed episodes and catch up to where everyone else is.
In the olden days, about eighteen months ago, you just had to suck it up and pick up at the next episode.
And here the frustrating pleasure of beginning on episode three or four kicks in. You are now part of the story and the conversation, but there are loads of references and plot points you don’t quite get. You have to work them out, and everything suddenly seems important.
You got straight on your phone, not to watch the missed episodes, but to contact your friends, peppering them with questions until everything made sense.
Great writers discovered this secret long ago.
J.R.R. Tolkein, set The Fellowship of the Ring in a history of a long running conflict between forces of good and evil. All of his characters had a back story which began to be pieced together throughout the three volumes of The Lord of the Rings.
J.K. Rowling, seemed to have begun at the beginning with Harry Potter, but you quickly come to the realisation that Harry is unwittingly in the middle of a much bigger story. This was no accident. Rowling planned out the wider picture to begin with.
George Lucas began his Star Wars saga on Episode 4. But he knew what had happened in episode 1-3, and what was going to happen in episode 5 onwards. All of these story points were referenced in some form or another in Episode 4.
So, take a leaf out of the playbook of three of literature/film’s most successful and commercial writers – begin after the beginning of where you think the story should begin.
Start on Episode 4 and allow your readers to relive the old days when you had to work it all out from where they started.
At least, that is, until you decide to write the episodes 1-3.