3 Most Important Elements of Chapter One

The first chapter of a novel is arguably the most important—if a reader isn’t hooked, she won’t keep reading. And if that happens, nothing else you write matters.

chapter one

Think of your first chapter as the tip of the iceberg—sure, there’s a ton more to your story that readers may not be seeing yet…but that’s what the rest of the manuscript is for. In the first chapter, you just need enough to hook the reader and get them curious about what’s going on under the water.

How to Write Your First Chapter

But what does it take to create that hook? I thought a lot about this as I wrote and edited my first novel. And my conclusion is that, while there are many different ways to creatively introduce a story in the first chapter, there are three key things a first chapter must do to pull a reader in.

1. Establish the main character

The protagonist is the reader’s conduit into the story. So you’ve got to make it easy for readers to make this connection—quickly.

This is simple to say, sure, but can be harder to execute. How can you be sure your protagonist hits the mark? Start your story from a place where your lead character is vulnerable or shows their strengths.

For example, it’s easy to immediately feel for Harry Potter because of how terrible his aunt and uncle are to him. It’s easy to love Katniss Everdeen right away because of her pragmatic strength as a provider and protector for her sister. Even unlikeable characters need to be able to make a connection with readers.

2. Establish a setting

Nothing is worse than starting a story and not being sure of where you are. Readers need firm ground to stand on, so give them a strong sense of the setting from the get-go. It’s doesn’t have to be the extensive rules of the entire realm, but offer strong cues for how the world works, and a concrete understanding of its most immediately relevant elements.

For a great example of first-chapter world building, take a look at Ray Bradbury’s The Martian Chronicles. While most of the book is about humanity’s invasion of a new world, the opening chapter shows Martian culture through a single couple, revealing all that is about to be lost.

3. Establish tension

The first chapter may be too early to roll out your story’s major conflict, but there should be tension here that’s relevant to what’s to come.

And if your story is not clearly moving toward something, why’s a reader going to keep reading?

Divergent offers a good example of this. Its opening scene of Beatrice getting her once-a-month haircut is, at first glance, quiet. But internally, Beatrice is debating whether this quiet life is what she wants for herself moving forward—and whether she can let go of her world’s value of selflessness to find something that would make her happier at her upcoming Choosing Ceremony. Talk about stakes.

The Goal of Chapter One is to Get the Reader to turn to Chapter Two

First chapters can be tough. You’ve got to quickly give readers what they need to invest, without overwhelming them. Crafting that perfect hook is a fine line between information and holding back. But when you focus on the right elements, making that first chapter a knockout gets a little simpler.

What book can you think of that hooks you from the beginning? Let us know in the comments.

PRACTICE

Take fifteen minutes and start writing a first chapter for your next story, making sure it includes these crucial elements. How can you incorporate them all? What must you include in this chapter to draw in the reader? What’s better left for later? When you’re done, share your chapter draft in the comments!

About Emily Wenstrom

By day, Emily Wenstrom, is the editor of short story website wordhaus, author social media coach, and freelance content marketing specialist. By early-early morning, she is E. J. Wenstrom, a sci-fi and fantasy author whose first novel Mud will release in March 2016.

  • rycbar123

    First

  • manilamac

    Although I’m not a “just write” kind of guy—generally more of a “carefully planned & edit as I go” sort, because for me that saves a ton of time later on—aside from the “who, where, when” feature, Chapter 1 is usually the exception. I’m perfectly willing to just write it—because I know it will be the most edited chapter in my book.

  • Janet Aristotle

    “Can you open this one?” I passed yet another pickle jar to my grandfather.

    “This one?” He smiled, his strong, beefy arms quickly snatching it and his fingers aligning on the glass to get a better grip. His face turned red as he strained. But it popped open, and he quickly unscrewed and showed me the lid.

    I shrieked because it was so awesome, and retrieved a pickle from the depths of the vinegar. He had an impressive streak going now, 13 jars in a row! I bet no other Grandpa could do that.

    “How about this?” I pushed a jar of tomato-garlic paste, and he laughed when he saw it.

    “Ooh, tomato sauce.” He tapped the lid, testing to see how hard it would be. “Grandma’s going to be mad.”

    “VERY mad,” I added. But what the heck, it’ll be fine!

    He gripped the lid and popped it open without even breaking a sweat. I shrieked and banged my fists on the table, and he laughed too. It was great.

    “What about…” I ran my hand down the row of jars still unopened. We weren’t even halfway through. “This one!”

    “Macaroni and cheese,” Grandpa said, taking the jar. “Hmm, this looks like a tough one. I might need some help.”

    I giggled. I haven’t ever opened jars at home, but I could definitely do it at Grandpa’s. Everything was magically possible at Grandpa’s, and that was awesome too.

    “Could I choose a helper from the audience?”

    I stuck my hand in the air. “Me! Pick me!” I was the only person there anyway, so I knew I was gonna get picked, but one has to do his duty, right? Because what the heck.

    “That one! Yes, the young little boy in a green shirt, sitting first row. Come on up!”

    I jumped down from my seat and ran up to Grandpa, who hoisted me onto his knee, and placed my hands on the lid.

    “Ready?” He placed his hand over mine. Grown-ups have really big hands. “Three… two… one…”

    I twisted with all my might, but the lid didn’t move! We tried again and my hands hurt after that because Grandpa squeezed them too hard, but the lid stayed on!

    “Hmmm,” Grandpa said, and he put me back on the ground. He gripped the jar in both hands, and twisted until his knuckles turned white, and then green, and purple, and then white again, and the lid popped. He slowly unscrewed the top, looking at me with concern.

    And then I started crying. Because what the heck? Nobody ever gave me jars to open, and I wouldn’t ever be strong enough, and I nobody really loved me and I was going to run away, and then they’d be sorry for opening all the jars before I was even old enough, and I would become rich and famous without them and have all the jars I wanted.

    Grandpa tried to console me, but it was no use. If you gotta cry, you gotta cry, y’know? And if you start crying, even in you actually aren’t sad or hurt, it’s kind of hard to stop. But eventually, I stopped just enough for him to tell me to “wait there”.

    Grandpa came back with a spoon. I almost went back to crying because what the heck do I need a spoon for anyway, but he put it in my hand and said it was a magical spoon. And so I stopped because I knew that when one was playing with magical things, one had to see what one was doing, and tears wouldn’t help.

    “This is my magical, multi-purpose, class-distributed, stainless steel spoon with no side effects. I got it when I went to the magic school, and you know what mine does?” he asked. I shook my head cause I didn’t know. “It opens jars!”

    I told him that I didn’t believe him and that Harry Potter never used any magical spoons to open jars. He shook his head.

    “That book wasn’t all real; I told the author to omit the part with the spoon because I didn’t want anyone finding out.”

    I nodded my head, because it seemed logical to me. If I had a magical spoon I wouldn’t want anyone knowing either, because can you imagine how much trouble that would be? People lining up for miles around your house to get their jars opened, that’s how much.

    “It’s actually really simple to use, want to try it?” he asked. I nodded, and he pushed me towards the row of unopened jars. “So, pick a jar.”

    I grabbed a jar that looked really hard to open, and Grandpa positioned it directly in front of me without protest. And then he told me to tap it three times, on the lid, with the belly part of his magical, steel spoon with no side-effects. And so I did. And nothing happened.

    “It takes a second. Actually, around four point five seconds, if I remember correctly,” he said, scratching his head with one finger and looking very lost-in-thought. “When was the last time I even used this thing? Anyway… watch carefully now.”

    And just as he said so, a bright flash of light exploded in front of the jar, and I squeezed my eyes shut so they wouldn’t hurt, and when I opened them again there was something in the room that hadn’t been there before.

    It was an enormous figure of a man, though clearly not human. Its skin was red, the muscles popping everywhere on its body, and it was wearing some sort of black armour with spikes around the shoulder pads, and a helmet with two horns on the side and two red lights peeking out from between the metal. Steam was curling off of his fingers and between his metal plates, and a giant sword hung from his belt. I jumped back behind Grandpa.

    I watched as it bowed, low to the ground and in my direction. Then he turned around towards the jar, grabbing it with his giant paws and twisting it open like one would twist a loose screw, before disappearing in another bright flash of light.

    Grandpa, who now seemed rather small and thin, laughed, and patted me on the head. “Your first jar!” he said, handing me something. I looked down, seeing the pickle jar and its lid, separated. There were still claw marks on the glass. “Your very first jar! Oh, I remember the day…”

    “Grandpa?”

    “Yes yes, you probably want to know what that was, right?” I nodded. “Well, my boy, that was the jar-opener. He lives in my magical, multi-purpose, class distributed, stainless steel spoon with no side effects, and opens jars whenever you tap on the lid. And get this, he does nothing else but open jars!”

    “That was awesome!” I pump my fist in the air.

    “I know! You get another jar and I’ll bring up more from the basement.”

    • gemma feltovich

      I love this so much. Really funny! I really wanted to read more.

    • Darryl LyrrÆd Page

      Love the fantastical shift haha Really pulled me in. Awesome ^_^

    • Wolf271

      I absolutely loved this! So funny! It was awesome (fist pump!) 😉

    • Lee Robinson

      So good! Do you write anything else?

  • Contrary Bear

    Leaves crunched like paper bones, step after forceful step. I couldn’t help but feel a sick sense of satisfaction out of the snapping of their brittle necks, the way their fragile debris was left in the wake of my (how fitting) combat boots. Die, die, die…as if you weren’t already dead anyway.

    The frigid wind seemed to take pity on my helpless victims and increased in force, carrying the unsuspecting corpses clear of my war path. I settled onto the bench nearby, and couldn’t help thinking a little smugly, Fine. I’m sitting down now anyway. The wind didn’t answer back, of course, but I already thought it was a shitty conversationalist to start off with.

    I took out my super special leather bound moleskin, and the sturdy book slipped over to the well indented page that I’d last left it at. God, the fucking division in pages, the place where I’d opened it to that spot and absentmindedly bent it up, exposed, was so huge the journal practically willed itself to flip to it. I could hear it now, saying in some whiny, sanctimonious voice—Please, keep going. It’s as simple as putting pen to paper. You do it everyday. Persevere. Stay the course. Do it for me. I wouldn’t be lucky enough to have a journal (notepad? Diary? Almost beyond caring at this point) that had a cool, badass, chainsmoker voice. I would get the defective one that sounded optimistic and fucking hopeful and like sunshine came out of its bindings.

    But then again, if my imagined holier-than-thou voice of my journal sounding in my head wasn’t enough to kick my writing into high gear, what was? Because my last word dangled at the end of an deserted sentence that I’d penned there 6 months ago today, taunting me and driving me essentially crazy.

    Because, honestly, who ended (or even stopped, for that matter) a sentence or thought with a but? What writer, or writer in training, would be loony enough (or, arguably, mentally unstable enough) to not just dangle their reader off the edge of a cliff the size of the Empire State building, but also themselves? That obviously does not make for good continuity or story progress. But that’s where I found myself for the past agonizing 6 months—staring down the face of my own b-u-t, in my own half-illegible chicken scratch.

    (A case could be made for a stall that was much longer and damaging than 6 months, but clearly I was or still am in denial. And none of this river bullshit).

    So I did what every self-respecting slash floundering self-proclaimed author does in a situation like this, when the page is blank and you’re resisting every urge to either throw the book and run, burn it with prejudice, or give it to my nearest homeless community staple because who doesn’t need material for the shitter? (All of which sounded so damn tempting that I really needed to distract myself anyway)

    I stared at my surroundings.

    Did I not mention? I was at my nearest neighborhood cemetery.

    I personally have mixed feelings about being here, if I’m being really honest. On one hand, I don’t wear all black, my favorite eyeliner is onyx but it doesn’t manage to track its way all around my eyes, and I’m not particularly interested in séances (because who really has the time to track down crossroads dirt and the charred metacarpal of a fetus?). I’m not into voodoo and sensing the spirits of the dead.

    On the other hand, did I mind being here? No. because unlike every other pansy-assed human being out there on planet Earth, graveyards didn’t bother me, nor have they for as long as I could remember. Other people saw them as haunted places doomed to house the poor souls who couldn’t pass on and were stuck on this sorry excuse for a hunk of space rock.

    To those people, this is all I have to say—what the hell are you smoking?

    Fucking seriously.

    Because a cemetery is just a place, just like any other place you happen to visit. It’s like a park in that it has benches and trees and grass. It’s like the zoo in that it has signs frequently pointing you in the right direction to go. It’s like a church in that it’s often quiet and you don’t want to disturb this thin veil of silence that covers everything.

    It’s like a graveyard in that it houses potentially a great deal of your relatives in metal boxes in the ground while they decompose.

    It’s never particularly bothered me, but then, I never had a great deal of people to ‘visit’ with here.

    Just the one.

    • Janet Aristotle

      Take care, Most writers don’t use parentheses to insert comments, and it’s relatively difficult to use. And spell. I probably got it wrong, btw.
      Watch your vocab, don’t use big words. Most people will not want to read this with a dictionary.
      I get the feeling that your character is mad at everything, getting upset over little details like the breeze and then unrealistically taking time to describe it. Are you sure?
      Because of the cursing, it feels like a guy narrator, but then a ‘he’ wouldn’t be wearing eyeligner. I’m not saying to be sexist, women can swear all they want and guys can wear eyeliner, but really now…

      Overall, really good. I actually enjoyed how you built up tension with the last two paragraphs, and I can get the character’s voice clearly. I hope you continue, this is a pretty good opening for a rough draft.
      Good luck, best wishes!

      • Contrary Bear

        Thanks for the feedback! Several of the things you commented on I’ve gone back and looked at. The parentheses are a replacement for italicizing, which it wouldn’t let me do. And thanks for the heads up about big words- it fits the character, but I’ll watch out for that in the future.

        And unfortunately, in these short exploratory pieces you don’t really get to know the character as well, and while yes, it sounds like a man’s voice, that was sort of done intentionally. This is a female character I wrote that is cynical and for various reasons cuts through the thin veneer of social niceties. I wish I could have posted more, but I figured less is more with these posts. Thanks for the well wishes!

        • Gary G Little

          To use italics bracket the phrase with em and /em surrounded by . It’s the HTML markup language for it. You can also use i instead of em.

  • Opportunistic Predators – Chapter 1 Not all of it is here and no I didn’t write this in 15 minutes. It is more like draft 3.

    The Moa river curved through the rainforest like a black artery piercing a dark heart. A drenching heat slithered its way into the bush plane’s cabin as Billy pointed the camera that took him to all corners of the world. Sitting in the co-pilot’s seat of a Cessna 172 Skyhawk, he set his Samsung’s shutter speed to fast while the bush plane dropped in altitude. The professional in him took care not to rest the lens on any part of the plane and popped it out the small window rigged to stay fully open. In his viewfinder people on the road below looked like a hodgepodge of colorful smudges on its light brown surface as it snaked through a clearing and then back into the rainforest. Billy shouted over the engine noise to the pilot. He motioned down first with his thumb then his forefinger. An adrenalin rush excited him. Billy’s enthusiasm for the task at hand was about to be shattered. The pilot gave him a thumbs-up and nosed the plane towards the scenic roadway. Bending over to look through the long-distance lens, Billy blinked and flinched away from the viewfinder. He looked at the pilot and pointed at the road.

    “No one’s moving,” Billy shouted, mouthing the syllables.

    The pilot considered his instruments and shrugged his shoulders before nudging the joystick upward.

    “I told you, you were crazy to come here,” he shouted over the din.

    Billy got a series of snaps on automatic. He could feel the tension creeping into his stomach the way it always did when his lens revealed what men spawned in times of war. Feigned indifference masked his true feelings behind an affable smirk. People who mistook Billy’s expression for gullibility lived to regret their hasty assessment.

    ………

    • Perry

      This is everything I’ve wanted to read and more. Seriously, the way this is written is just so gorgeous. the wording is perfect, and can we just take a moment to appreciate that opening line? I was instantly hooked on that; it sets the scene up perfectly, establishes the tone early on, and makes me want to dive into the world you’ve created immediately. My God, I would buy this book and devour every word and probably give it a special place on my shelf. Hell, I haven’t even read it but I can already tell it is going to be one of my favorites. Fantastic work!

  • James Wright

    I love this article, very good information to know.

  • juanita couch

    Danny lay there on the dry sandy earth,burning alive from the wrath of the sun. He looked around him to see if there were any other soldiers nearby who could halt the rushing of death upon him, He closed his eyes and prayed a silent prayer to God to save him from further torture.

    Deep in his mind, he had given up the fight. He slowly wandered into unconsciousness from the loss of blood from his wounds. In his unconscious mind he rationalized that the wetness and coolness he thought he felt on his face was only part of the death process. He forced his eyes open and found there was a shadow that blocked out the ferocious sun. He blinked and realized the shadow came from Tom Nelso, his closest friend in this forsaken land.

    Tom was dripping drops of water out of his almost empty canteen onto Danny’s seared face. Danny attempted to ask him who else was alive, but the words were halted in his parched throat. He held out his hand and Tom knelt down beside him. Tom tried to check out Danny’s wounds. He then gave Danny a swallow of water. After the refreshing water he was able to voice his questions.

    “Where are Rod, Stan, and Elmer?” Tom looked away and said, “They didn’t make it.”
    Then a teardrop fell down his cheek onto Danny’s face.

    Danny said, “I was behind you guys about fifteen feet when all of the sudden two enemy soldiers began blasting away at me and I lost sight of you all. I thought I was going to die here all alone.”

    “I don’t think you are going to die, at least not today.” Tom assured.

    “That sounds like an answer to my prayer.”

  • Marx Gardener

    What if I have male readers?

  • LaCresha Lawson

    This is coming at the right time as well. I just started a book of my past and I feel a little lost with the “main character” who isn’t me and I am making sure not to lose my focus.

  • S.M. Sierra

    A dream right? This is
    what I told myself right after I saw the cats, by the way my name is Serta,
    yeah, my mom named me after a mattress, ha ha so funny don’t say it I’ve heard
    it all… I’m fourteen going on my real life, which I hope, what is happening to
    me now, is just as weird, I like weird I get called weird all the time,
    therefore I use words to get back at those who are to ignorant to be offended.

    Now back to how my dream,
    not a dream, started. This morning as I sat down in geometry class I brought
    out my book, graph paper, ruler, protractor, and there I was without a pencil,
    so dumb right, anyway I raised my hand and asked if anyone, teacher included,
    would be so kind as to lend me one.

    After much ignorance
    from my fellow students mumbling that I should have brought one and others just
    ignoring my request, the teacher, lets call her Miss Newman, (Fabricated
    identity), reached into her desk drawer, and benevolently, but not before
    saying, ‘This is mine it has cats on it, I doubt any one in this class has one
    that is similar, therefore I will know if someone steals it.’

    I nodded my assent
    while I took the pencil, thinking yeah sure lady as if I want to rob you of
    your precious pencil, while I muttered, ‘Thank you, I’ll be sure to return it
    after class.’

    Now back to the dream,
    you know, not a dream, turning to the page with the title ‘Find the
    coordinates. I began graphing what looked like a sideways triangle, and as I
    drew it seemed to get bigger, I blinked and looked around at my fellow students
    to see if it was happening to them as well, however they all were pretty much
    more or less doing whatever. In other words, I saw no shocked expressions from
    any of them.

    So I went back to my
    own paper, the drawing quite normal now, and started the next coordinate, lines
    circle… black hole ‘what the…’ I glanced around, and then stuck my finger
    into the dark space in the paper, it grew bigger as did my eyes, I tried to
    look away, however a greater force than my strength sucked me in.

    Now here I stand gazing
    at cats, small ones black ones orange ones multi coloured ones and do not
    forget the striped ones, in trees, on couches, lounging, running, jumping,
    playing with socks and yarn balls, stuffed toys and pencils.

    My pencil (well Miss Newman’s’)
    butted from my hand by a beautiful calico kitten wearing a purple collar with a
    red bell dangling from it.

    My heart falls as I remember
    when I was six, drawing squares, circles, and triangles on my etch-a-sketch
    while Skittles pawed my hand for attention.

    I go towards her, fall
    to my knees and pick her up and there is her name on the purple collar I made
    for her from the straps of my too small purple maryjanes. And as I cuddle her,
    I think back to the last time I saw Skittles curled up on my etch-a-sketch when
    I went down for dinner. “Oh my girl, I thought I left the door open and you ran
    away…” then a thought occurs to me upon seeing the cat pencil, now tell me if
    this theory sounds likely, geometry and etch-a-sketch, I believe I have found
    the coordinates to the dimension of lost cats.

  • Sana Damani

    I wrote this a while ago and never got back to it, mostly because I never had a really plan regarding where this was going. It’s meant to be a children’s/YA story. Hope to hear some feedback that might help me get back to it 🙂

    **************************************************************************************************

    It was what one might call an “uh-oh” moment. The moment you realize that you really shouldn’t have “borrowed” Mom’s car for a joyride. And that you definitely should not have listened to them. Ivo had just had the biggest ‘uh-oh’ moment of his short life and he was terrified. He’d heard there was no use crying over spilled milk; but this was a rather larger catastrophe in his humble opinion and so he cried anyway.

    Ivo stopped crying when he remembered that there was no one there to see him and that the tears wouldn’t soften the ire that was due to him this time. He also remembered with mild concern that there had been another vehicle involved. At twelve, it is easy to forget sometimes that one isn’t the center of the universe, despite all evidence thus far pointing to the contrary.

    So Ivo got out. He made this look much easier than it should’ve been, considering the car was upside down, not to mention his back was bent at an angle no contortionist could have achieved. But at that moment, he didn’t think very much of it because children also have an enviable sense of immortality. And so, very nonchalantly, Ivo stepped out of the wreckage and looked around to see if anyone was hurt: his parents had taught him well (except for the no-stealing-and-driving-without-a-permit bit; but in their defense, most people don’t realize that that sort of thing needed to be explicitly stated).

    The boy recalled admiring a motorcycle – donor-cycles his Mom, the surgeon, called them: those she had remembered to explicitly warn him against – even as he spun spectacularly and crashed into a telephone booth. The rider was on the ground next to the beautiful black machine and Ivo crossed his fingers and hoped he hadn’t just gotten into even more trouble by providing the local hospitals with a new donor. On a scale of 1 to 10, 1 being the least trouble he would get into (you know, the sort where you forget to hand in your homework), killing someone would probably have been a googol (his favorite number, though not so much when used in quite this context).

    He walked up to the leather-clad form and nudged it with his foot. The rider moved and boy danced a little (on the inside of course).

    “Hi, are you all right?” Ivo asked the back of a head.

    “Oh yes, just fine, thank you. Just having a little nap out here in the middle of the road. Oh and don’t you worry, my ankle is indeed always twisted at that odd angle.”

  • Pingback: 3 Most Important Elements of Chapter One | First Edition Design eBook and POD Publishing()

  • T.K. Lewis

    This is actually a second rewrite. This is the first 2 pages of 9 or 25 (depending on how I want to work this chapter)

    The impact surged through Mythias’s fist. The feeling of the opponent’s nose buckle and turn to pulp sent adrenaline coursing through Mythias’s veins. The other’s eyes rolled up into the back of his head and the man fell limp to the floor. Mythias gazed down at the broken, bleeding man and stood ready to strike should he rise to his feet again. When it was clear he was unconscious, Mythias turned towards the howling crowd that encircled the two pugilists. He threw up his fists and roared proudly over his victory. The crowd met his voice with equal enthusiasm.

    Mythias dropped his hands and exited the circle, pushing through the crowd. As he made his way over to the bookie, the winners of new fortunes patted his bare, sweat drenched shoulders. He met the leering eyes of those not so lucky and chuckled to himself as they timidly looked away. It didn’t matter to him either way. It was all just a game, something he could control.

    He approached the bookie’s table and waited patiently as the gamblers scrambled to place the bets for the next match. The incessant noise and babbling of the crowd made Mythias uneasy. He feared that anymore bodies in the dark wet basement would draw the headmaster of the social club to the commotion and that would ruin a great deal of fun. Mythias trusted his instincts and decided it was time to leave.

    The bookie spotted Mythias through the chaos and beckoned him over.

    “Give’m some room!” the bookie yelled at the gamblers crowding the table.

    His gruff voice startled the bettors. The crowd cleared to let the victor through.

    “My winnings, Schill,” Mythias demanded of the bookie.

    “Easy, Prince. You sure you don’t want another go? Sizeable marks in it,” Schill suggested.

    “And drain your pockets? You know I could not do that to you, Schill. No, pay me out,” Mythias said.

    “Come on, Prince. We can double the take. Hell, triple it if luck’s about you,” Schill said with a smile, exposing his various gold teeth.

    Mythias’s patience began to wear thin. He leaned forward and placed his blood spattered fists on the bookie’s table. It was a subtle yet calculated message.

    “Schill, I like you but I get the feeling you are stalling,” Mythias said.

    Schill’s eyes widened as the message was received.

    “Easy, now. I’m just a businessman trying to make my way. You can understand that, can’t you?” Schill’s voice cracked.

    “I will not ask again. Pay. Me. Out,” Mythias said, looming over the bookie.

    “Alright! Relax,” Schill said.

    Schill reached out and grabbed one of the three young children that served as his assistants. He pulled the child towards him roughly, startling the boy.

    “Give’m his damn marks!” he barked, shoving the boy away.

    The child scrambled away and returned with a large roughspun sack. The boy reached in and removed the winnings, setting it on the table in front of Mythias.

    “And my effects,” Mythias said.

    The boy dashed away and returned a moment later with a rapier sheathed in a plain brown scabbard and a plain white shirt. Mythias accepted the effects and donned them. Afterwards he counted five hundred of his winnings and placed it on the table, pocketing the rest.

    He pushed the money over towards Schill.

    “Here. Two hundred for your services and three hundred to be divided among your protégés,” Mythias said.

    “You’re too kind,” Schill said sarcastically.

    Mythias smirked and left the bookie’s table, once again battling with the chaos of the crowd. Cheering erupted as the next match began. Heckling, cursing, and encouragements of murder were flung at the new fighters. Each heavy packing sound of fist to flesh whipped the crowd up in a frenzy more intense than the last.

    After pushing through the crowd, Mythias reached the stairs. He climbed the old, rotting steps towards the ivory door that led outside. He pushed the door open and left the primal display behind.

    Cold, wet air swirled around him and the sound of heavy rain filled his ears. The storm had intensified since he was in the basement. The vivid colorful flowers of the courtyard lay beaten and drowning under the relentless torrent of the sky. The stone floor of the promenade lay soaked by the rain blown under the shelter of the social club’s second tier. Mythias quietly thanked the building for keeping his head dry.

    The city guard that stood watch at the door looked at Mythias.

    “Shoulda brought a cloak, m’lord. Nasty bit a rain, this is,” the guard said.

    “Hindsight is twenty-twenty,” Mythias said.

    Mythias pulled fifty marks from his pocket and handed it to the guard.

    “For your unwavering vigilance,” he said.

    “Thank you, m’lord!” the guard said happily, stuffing the money in his pockets.

    Mythias began to stroll down the length of the promenade under the shelter of the building. His eyes darted around as he walked. He had given his bodyguard the slip and hoped he wasn’t nearby. His absence must have been noticed by now. Mythias relaxed when he realized the coast was clear and strolled more leisurely.

    He looked across the flooded courtyard, up at the lights cast from the windows of the building above. Though the Gaustwin Socialite was a second home to every noble’s son and daughter in the Capital City, it was a place Mythias despised. Here every waking moment was wasted away in lecture after lecture of law, economics, science, and mathematics. What wasn’t spent listening to the droning of the professors was monopolized by the noble sons and daughters playing aristocrat. To Mythias, it ate away valuable time for more fulfilling activities and he made a point to avoid it whenever possible despite its requirement.

    The door to the basement flung open, knocking the guard to the floor.

    “Mythias!” a furious, high pitch voice yelled.

    Mythias whirled around to see the familiar source of the anger.

  • Jean Blanchard

    I hope this isn’t too long for these comments; and please ignore the ‘scenes’ etc as I’m still working on it. Am I on the right track?

    In the garden

    The earth worm curled around the tine of the border fork and fell apart. Knowing that didn’t automatically make two earth worms, Pammy looked dispassionately at the tiny pink body, now dismembered, struggling for life in the clay. She struck the earth with the fork to break up the clods and buried the worm. Brushing her pale blond hair off her face she looked up and watched the branches lifting and falling with the breeze and the earth sighing over its weariness. She turned back and noticed the speed of the racing clouds reflected in the window; and through them the sleeping face of her husband Jack.

    In the sitting room

    Reclining in his vast brownish armchair, his slippered feet on a leather pouffe, his slack jaw and unshaven double chins, reverberated like wattles as if snoring or smacking his lips in a dreamland burger bar. Sometimes he thoroughly disgusted his wife Pammy; no, not sometimes, always, she was thoroughly disgusted by what he had become. In the garden. And now, as she rested on the fork, she watched him with morbid fascination; and for a moment she thought she caught a whiff of his unwashed body and greasy hair, until she realised it was her that smelled of him: if the whole house smelled of him, how could she avoid it?

    Pammy Henderson was no gardener but just liked to get out of the house into the fresh air, away from the source of her misery and torment. She fulfilled her own stereotype of a downtrodden woman and berated herself for falling in to the pattern. And as she turned the soil she reflected on the damp, downtrodden-ness of things: the earth, the dead and rotting leaves and plants she had failed to remove last autumn; the split brown bark and dead twigs of the few trees, the rickety fence, the derelict shed, the bean sticks still standing, the dried bean pods still attached to the pale dead vine rattling in the wind. That’ll be me in a year or two, dried up and useless, a roaming bag lady found dead behind a pub’s brown wheeley bin!

    Something in Pammy quickened. She didn’t know if what she had just thought was true but she didn’t dismiss it. The wind was getting up, the clouds blackening, so she pulled the fork out of the soil, scraped the wet earth from her trainers on the edge of the concrete path and, glancing at Jack who was now yawning, grabbed the green bin and dragged it behind her to the back door. She stood the fork behind it. Leaning against the back door to shove it open it grated on the tiled floor and set her teeth on edge.

    In the kitchen.

    She shrugged off her brown anorak, hung it on the pantry door, and kicked off her worn trainers and put them in a corner.

    ‘Pam, Pam, where’s my tea? Get me my tea and biscuits.’ Jack was awake.

    If only he didn’t shout. But he always shouted and he wasn’t going to stop any time soon. Pammy switched the kettle on and put a tea bag in Jack’s mug, the one that daughter Ellie gave him that said, ‘I (red heart) my daddy’. She added the boiling water and three heaped tea-spoons of sugar and let it stand to brew.

    ‘Pam! Pam? You getting my tea? Don’t forget the biscuits. Pam?’ he yelled.

    Pammy emptied a packet of custard creams into the biscuit tin and spooning the tea bag into the compost bin, she added the milk to the mug, and gave it a stir.

    sitting room.

    ‘At last!’ Jack gave her a dirty look as she set the tea and biscuits down on his side table. Pammy tidied round, putting the newspaper back together and plumping the cushions; clearing up after Jack, waiting on Jack, obeying Jack, supplying Jack’s needs, she thought, I’m a martyr to that man. Any one would think this was the 1950s not 2001. Then she caught sight of Ellie through the front window, kicking the gate shut.

    kitchen

    Pammy hurried through to the kitchen and got there just as Ellie burst through the back door. She threw her school bags across the quarry-tiled floor, her books flying out with the force of it.

    ‘Not a good day, Ellie?’ she ventured.

    ‘Mind your own effing business and get my tea’.

    Pammy never knew what set Ellie off; neither did her teachers. She’d been sent to several different schools and all reports said she was a very bright child. The child psychologist suggested parenting lessons for Jack and Pam. Only too recently Family Therapy had been offered. Jack objected on the grounds that there was nothing wrong with Ellie or them and that they should look to their own practices of education and discipline. And anyway, in Jack’s eyes, Ellie was incapable of doing anything wrong. There was no one like his Ellie. Ellie stamped up stairs to her room and slammed the door and soon a heavy beat resounded and rattled the windows. That’ll bring the neighbours round.

    Back door

    Sure enough, some one was rapping on the back door and Pammy opened it to George, her elderly next door neighbour.

    ‘I’m so sorry, Pammy, and I do understand, but that noise is not helping my wife’s migraine …’ he trailed off and felt guilty for being there when he saw Pam’s apologetic face. He knew how hard she had tried over the years. The girl was just plain wilful, in his opinion, and Jack had been less than helpful, and now Ellie seemed to be on the road to perdition his wife had said. Pammy’s pale blue eyes became red-rimmed, her face full and her nose red as she held back her tears.

    George had just laid his hand kindly on her arm to comfort her when Jack came lumbering through demanding to know what the old man wanted and why was he touching his wife.

    ‘If you were a decent man and a proper father you’d keep that spoiled brat of a daughter in check and protect your wife from her bullying. But, right now, because I know it’s too late for her, at least get her to turn that noise down, my wife’s got a migraine. And if you must know, I was just comforting Pammy.’

    ‘Fuck off, you silly old sod. Mind your own business and stay out of mine.’ Jack shouted; and grabbing Pammy’s thin arm, yanked her back into the kitchen and slammed the door. Pammy’s tears spilled over and she wiped them away with her sleeve; and as she looked up at Jack, she hated him with all her heart and mind.

    Hall stairs and landing

    Jack went back to the television and Pammy crept upstairs, knocked on Ellie’s door and there being no answer, went in.

    Ellie’s room

    ‘Please turn your music down a bit, Ellie, poor Mrs Mitchell’s got a migraine and George has been round to ask, and he was so nice about it.’

    Ellie ignored her and wafted her hand at her, as if she was a bad smell, to go away. Pammy moved towards the CD player and went to turn the volume down. But Ellie, quick as a flash, grabbed her by the wrist forcing her upright, and looked straight into her mother’s eyes. A cold shiver of fear ran down Pammy’s back. Not a word was said but Pammy got the message. What could she say? How could she forgive this daily torture from her husband and daughter. Leaving the room, she pulled up the sleeve of her cardigan and rubbed the red marks on her arm and wrist she knew would soon turn to black and blue.

    Bathroom

    In the bathroom across the landing, Pammy splashed cold water on her face and then gripping the edge of the basin looked at herself in the round shaving mirror on the window sill. She glimpsed her daughter’s threatening stare in her own eyes, as if, somehow, she’s caught something off her, something evil, or that somehow, something had been implanted in her – something she had to get rid of. Quickly. She felt again that strange quickening she had felt earlier in the garden and knew it to be rage.

    Pammy paused and looked into nowhere. Ahead there was nothing she could recognise and behind there was only history, the past, all that had gone before, nowhere she wanted to go again. And now, in that moment there was already rage and now it was joined by fear.

    Sitting room

    Downstairs, Jack leaned back into the only comfortable but grubby chair in the house, a tin of lager in one hand and the other in the biscuit tin. Upstairs. Upstairs, Ellie sat at her dressing table, making up her eyes with black eye liner and purple eye shadow, heavy metal banging away – just like every one else in her gang.

    Garden

    In the garden, Pammy looked intently at the vapour trails of airliners flying across the now clear blue sky, to heaven knows where. And softly the tune, then the words came:

    ‘Someday, I’ll fly away, leave all this to yesterday …’

  • Excellent advice! Thank you so much for this! 😉 <3
    I posted the link on my FB page, just as I do many of the TWP posts!
    Sherrie Miranda's historically based, coming of age, Adventure novel “Secrets & Lies in El Salvador” is about an American girl in war-torn El Salvador:
    http://tinyurl.com/klxbt4y
    Her husband made a video for her novel. He wrote the song too:
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P11Ch5chkAc

  • Kess Raisor

    The sun hadn’t peaked over the horizon just yet.
    Walking down the street between two lines of tall buildings, with streetlights to light her way, it never bothered Piper Reed. This was, after all, one of the nicest parts of the entire D.C. area — but that wasn’t what was on her mind that particular morning.
    As it had been for the last four days — and counting — she looked over her shoulder and across the street. There it was again. She’d never seen such a massive white dog as the one that was loping along, almost like it was following her, on the opposite side of the street. She looked away again, and continued — likely, it was just a stray. She dropped the thoughts from her mind as she came up on the building — a huge, finely built complex with wide glass windows and a decidedly modern look.
    She went inside and checked in, nodded to the robotic secretary at the desk when the feminine voice signed her in: “Agent Piper Reed. Clocked in at: 5:05.”
    Piper went upstairs, opening the door to the work room. She was a touch startled when someone was already there, and she went to sit down at a desk on the opposite side of their office. “You’re late, Piper,” he insisted without looking up.
    “It must be easy to chide everyone else’s schedule when you never need to sleep, isn’t it, Fangs?” Piper replied, sounding mildly amused.
    Her companion rolled the chair over and turned in it to look at her, a smile playing at his sharp facial features. “That helps,” he replied, flashing her a smile — and indeed, it proved the nickname was accurate: Fangs rather than canine teeth. “So, paper work. I’ve been working on reports all night, my hands are terribly sore. Could you help me out?” He flashed another radiant smile.
    Piper looked over at him, one eyebrow raised, looking not at all impressed. “Corin, you’re dead. You aren’t sore from a little bit of writing.” He sighed, shaking his head.
    “Well, it was worth a try,” he said mournfully. “Vampires were made for better things than paperwork.”
    “Which reminds me,” Piper responded, stopping what she was doing at the computer and turning to face Corin. “That dog was hanging around again. The big white spaniel?”
    Corin looked at her with a frown, suddenly far more serious. “Do you suppose it’s a shapeshifter? Is it stalking you?” He asked, leaning forward.
    She shook her head. “Too big. I don’t know — it just… walks along the other side of the street until I get here, and then when I get inside it seems to just disappear.”
    Then the phone rang. Corin was on it with lightning speed. “Hello? Yes… Okay… Oh.” He suddenly seemed more interested. “We’ll be there.” He hung up and looked at Piper. “Locked door murder, Agent Reed. They think this one’s got paranormal origins. Let’s head out.”

  • AmazingMc

    hush hush

  • AmazingMc

    hush, hush, really good series