“Every secret of a writer’s soul, every experience of his life, every quality of his mind, is written large in his works.”
—Virginia Woolf

Have You Found Your Writing Voice?

A version of this post was originally published in October 2011.

I asked Ted Dekker how long it takes for an author to find their voice.

“It takes four to five novels,” he said. So if the average novel is about 80,000 words, then you have to write 320,000 to 400,000 words before you find your voice.

Voice by Jack Batchelor

That’s about 1,000 blog posts.

Or 400 newspaper columns.

Or 80 short stories.

And how many have you written?

Feedback

At first, you have to listen to the feedback, he told me. People tell you what they like and what they hate, and you incorporate their feedback into your style.

When you have found your voice, though, you don’t listen to the feedback much. You don’t need to. You know who you are and what you’re doing.

Until then, you write.

You listen.

You ask for feedback and you learn to take it graciously.

Do You Have a Cartel?

Story Cartel CourseThis is what the Story Cartel Course is about. I recently heard from a currently student, who I encouraged to start a “mini-Cartel,” a group of writers who read each other’s work, give feedback, and do what they can to help each other. She told me the four other writers she reached out to agreed to join her mini-Cartel, and she’s so excited to finally have a community of people who understand what she’s trying to do.

My dream for the Story Cartel Course community and for The Write Practice is that they would be the online meeting places of a community of writers who want to help each other.

We’re here to challenge each other to find our voices. I hope, online or off, you’ll join us.

PRACTICE

Let’s twist things up today. You and several interesting friends attend a ritzy party.

A famous novelist is found murdered in the drawing room.

Everyone is locked into the lounge while a detective collects evidence. As you look around the room, describe your suspicions about whodunit.

You have fifteen minutes. Share your practice in the comments section for feedback, and if you share, make sure to leave feedback for your fellow writers.

About Joe Bunting

Joe Bunting is a writer and entrepreneur. He is the author of the #1 Amazon Bestseller Let's Write a Short Story! and the co-founder of Story Cartel. You can follow him on Twitter (@joebunting).

  • I’m not sure this is true. It may take that long to bring out the more skilled version of your voice, but I think most people have the voice to begin with and, like a gem in the rough, have to have the edges knocked off to really make it shine through and have others notice.

    • Your analogy of a gemstone is perfect because it takes so much energy to find one. And then after you do eventually find it, you have to clean it, cut it, polish it. This is not something you have at the beginning of your career. You have to work for it.

      • I have to disagree. Finding the gemstone is the easy part. This is the basest voice, that which we WANT to say.

        Voice is based more in HOW something is told, not what is told.

        Noelle’s analogy is perfect and we do start very early with the gem in the rough.

        Every time you write something and HOW you told it didn’t live up to WHAT you wanted to say, this is the discrepancy between your voice and its potential.

        This is why if a guy writes 20 books, the first might not be as good as his latest book, but you can almost always tell it is the same author because their voice is still theirs, just different from when they started.

        It does take hard work, though, to get that voice refined.

  • Adriana Willey

    eek. my “conscious self” is screaming obscenities at me right now. but the only place to start is at the beginning…

    the room is a soft murmur of people talking without saying anything. silence would be too hard a blow for our tentative states. the woman in front of me keeps talking as i look around. the murderer is obvious. no one else was with him but megan. she is sitting in front of the fireplace, trying to get warm. it’s a furnace in here, yet she’s cold. her chestnut hair and slightly plump hands are shaking. she’s never been a strong girl. i think sadly of her two month old boy, remembering her way with him. so tender, so genuine, a little unsure, but fiercely adoring. it just doesn’t seem to fit….

    joanna is bowing low, comforting her. the two are night and day, really. the minute the death was announced joanna began ordering the chaos. we scattered ants fell in line. everything about her is in charge. tall, sturdy, wild blonde hair, her tan skin making her large, white teeth larger and whiter. they form a straighter line than we. sensing her importance, the police are asking her questions. “she did it”, i think to myself. i ignore my gut that tells me this isn’t true. to state her innocence is to admit that i know where she was at all points in the evening, that the voice of present company is under water compared to hers, half way across the room. that might seem i cared.

    • I had a hard time tracking on this one, which may mean I am tired, or that you need to be more clear. I started to get engaged when you described Megan, and then again when you introduced Joanna. You might make it a loose rule to start with the people, then move on to the silence of the room.

      Your description of Joanna is great, especially the way that you observe her as Megan’s opposite. It definitely throws suspicion on her as the killer.

  • Mark Almand

    They are talking about the wounds, now. This is the part that makes me coil. I don’t like hearing things like “entry,” “exit,” “clean,” “fluid” and so on. Especially when the victim is someone I know. OK, I don’t know him well, but come on, I have spoken with him and gone on walks with him and talked grammar with him. Now as I embrace that process of realization he surely had as life left him, the knowing, I feel myself grow cold and sad as the wave of loneliness comes over me.

    Ah, the old friend, it’s here, finally, my reward. After the bumping and twirling, the speaking, the hands reaching out for mine, the interruptions of the fragile constructs of my mind as it stitches and unstitches, all gone with an inconsiderate “excuse me,” the pestering, the annoyance, the faces in my face, the pushing forward and sweating, never leaving me alone, oh, after craving of the aloneness, my desire to be alone, to be left alone, to feel the absence of caring and germs and crushing halitosis of humanity, to be sad and lonely, to FEEL that wave, that true wave, that good and old friend….

    Come, friend, like a blanket over my gaping soul, and give me succor, for yes, it was me, it was me, it was me. And as I sink down into the familiar embrace, a frightening thought crosses my sleepy mind and nearly jars me awake: Or was it “I”?

    • This is a bit ambiguous, but let me see if I’ve got it right. Your friend died from a gunshot wound? And then I actually have no idea what the second part means, except that maybe it’s a switch to the dead friends perspective.

      This is beautiful, although I don’t know what it means: ”
      Come, friend, like a blanket over my gaping soul, and give me succor, for yes, it was me, it was me, it was me.”

      And then you wake up from a dream. Ha! Yeah this is a hard one.

      • Mark Almand

        Good effort, Joe!

        I made a mess of this. It’s way outside my style. It needs editing.

        Anyone else want to take a whack at what’s going on here?

  • Debby

    Kill All the Writers!

    I found the body. And he didn’t just have one knife in his back. He had many. The blood of wounds covered everything. This wasn’t just a crime of passion, it was the assault of a life and a dream. Who in their right mind could do such a thing?

    One by one, our fellow writers arrived. A stark realization gradually replaced shock as we understood what had actually transpired in this cozy English-style library. We gathered here once a week to encourage, inspire one another. Yet so often, we left feeling like the body lying on the oriental carpet, dripping blood for all to step in. We left our footprints in the pools of the assault as we gathered in the nearby study to be questioned.

    We were a group of wanna-be writers. We had vision. We had stories. We had adventure on our minds. Somehow in the course of pursuing our dreams and ambitions, we had come together as a support group. A motley crew of story-tellers who wanted input and constructive criticism. Different backgrounds, various styles, personalities that could breathe life or deflate your balloon. Weekly the platitudes flowed and the arrows hit. It was fun. It was challenging. It was dream building. It was life-giving. And at times, it sucked the life right out of us.

    As the police carefully and methodically questioned each one of us, we began to comprehend what the tip of an arrowhead does when it pierces the flesh. The pain, the pressure, the wound as it bleeds and has no way to stop. Somehow, we knew our words had done this to our friend. Often we squirmed in our seats as we tossed out what we ascertained as “constructive criticism”. But in actuality, we each desperately wanted to be “the last writer standing”. Which one of us had actually flung the fatal arrow? Or was it a combination of all the weapons over time?

    The afternoon wore on. Coffee flowed and confessions spewed forth. We knew each of us had played a part. I viewed myself on that floor, my life’s blood oozing away until my dream was dead. The forefront thought in my mind was “how could this have been prevented?” What could I have done to prevent this tragedy? Could it have been avoided, perhaps with more encouragement? Isn’t this part and parcel of trying to succeed? The casualties of reaching your dream, no matter what the cost? Blood, sweat and tears to reach the prize.

    What about our colleague’s dream? Did he not have the strength and mettle to survive? Perhaps not. But yet….our lives grow stronger through difficulties. Our dreams survive the war when we have a battle strategy. Our armor should be strong enough to deflect the arrows. Or at least know how to handle them. As we looked around the room at each other, something dawned on every face. Arrows were needed in our particular battle, but nerf-arrows. Arrows with a plastic tip. Arrows meant to help, meant to make us strong, meant to help us grow in our own pursuit. We weren’t out to fight one another. But rather make us each stronger to succeed against a world that shoots real arrows. Our armor will have the visual evidence of battle. But inside, we are alive and dreaming. And each time an arrow flies and hits its mark, beside the warrior is another warrior…..there to help, defend and reach the end of the battle both alive and in tact. Breathing. Dreaming.

    A body needs breath and air to live. Food and water took on the face of encouragement. We couldn’t reach our dream and potential without the struggle, but we would survive it with the praise and encouragement of our compatriots.

    As the body was wheeled away in front of us, the black tarp draped over a dream, we vowed to not let the wounds defeat us. We promised to accept the constructive criticism, but bathe it in the praise and encouragement so as to not be overpowered by it. We took hands and made a circle. We took a deep breath. And we walked out alive and changed. Who in their “write” mind could have done this? Me, you, him, her…..

    • What an interesting twist! You definitely took the prompt to a new level, creatively speaking.

      • Winnie

        You equate the arrow that killed him with the hurt that criticism, however constructive, we writers endure at each others’ hands. (Present company excluded, as they say.).

  • The Book Club Murder

    Feeling like taking break from the boring conversation of my fellow book club members, I quietly slipped away to the drawing room and the drinks cart. I desperately needed something stronger than wine. Not the cheap stuff that Linda always served. She goes on about her son and his vineyard. His wines are barely palatable, but I cannot say that to her face.

    The drawing room is to the side of the dining room and lit by subdued down lighters. I like this room, the walls are oxblood red, leather furniture, oriental carpets and hundreds of books. A lovely room to hide away in from the chatter going on in the kitchen.

    Closing the door behind me I headed straight for the drinks cart in the corner and tripped over feet. Thinking it was Linda’s husband, Gustaf, taking a nap, I turned around to apologize. Then I nearly fainted from shock, it wasn’t Gustaff, it was Debbi’s feet and she was dead as a doornail.

    You might wonder how i know that. Well, if your head is bent at an unnatural angle then I guess you must be dead. I am a murder mystery writer and know about these things. Now I definitely need that drink more than ever. I poured myself a stiff whisky on the rocks, downed it and decided to rally the troops.

    Opening the drawing room door I saw that the everyone was already seated at the dinner table. The first course being served by the maid. A lovely girl from Malawi who does not speak english very well; but she can cook up a storm.

    Clearing my throat and trying to look sad, I was not a big fan of Debbi, she was a loud know-it-all that always had to have the last word. I said; “We need to nominate a new book club member, tonight, guys.” “Why?” they asked in unison.

    Well, Debbi has been murdered in your drawing room, Linda. The group reacted with shock, clasping hands to mouths and Gerda and Rose-Marie fainted.

    The police arrived in due time and we were all made to wait in the lounge. Sitting in a circle, we all eyed each other with suspicion. No one said anything, for fear of incriminating themselves. Of course everyone eyed me with more than a little suspicion. I found her and they all knew that I did not like her very much, no one did, but it seems beside the point now.

    Personally, I do not think anyone of the group had the guts to murder Debbi, nor the physical strength to do so. They were a bunch of twittering fools anyway.

    Half of them was over sixty and the other half over fifty. I was the only one, that was fit and strong. They must think it was me who-dunit.

    So far I have not said a word and the police is still processing the scene, having left us behind lock and key.

    • Lovely work! I love the cavalier style, and the little details that bring it to life. I’m also a big fan of the name “Gustaf.”

      • Winniw

        I agree.

      • Thanks Abigail. I struggle to finish the story. I have too much back story…but your kind comment compels me to finish now.

  • We stared at one another across the room, two of us in genuine shock, but one in mock horror. Somebody wasn’t surprised. Somebody knew exactly what had happened.

    The body of Jessica McCartney, the famous novelist, lay on the Persian rug in the room next door. One of the caterers had tripped over an arm sticking out from under the coffee table. That’s how they found her.

    The police hadn’t arrived yet, but I already knew what they’d say. It had to be one of us. None of us had a sturdy alibi, and we all had a motive.

    Jerome Lattimer leaned against the wooden paneling, smoking his cigarette, a fedora pulled low over his eyes. He pretends to be a “man of mystery” but it was all a show. He’s just a hack writer from Buffalo who got to this party by sheer luck and a shady connection with Jessica. When she’d introduced him to all of us earlier in the evening she’d described him as a “business partner.” I was looking right at him when we heard about the body, and his reaction was perfectly natural–a spasm of shock and then a somber tug on the cigarette. Not devastated, of course, but not callous. Perhaps he was a secret lover? A blackmailer? I’d believe anything of a guy that hard-up in the company of a lovely and extremely wealthy novelist like Jessica.

    Lauretta Shizern had been tapping the tips of her fingernails against her champagne flute for a quarter of an hour before I quietly asked her to cease and desist. I’ve never felt so sorry for a woman in spangled silver evening wear and $1,000 makeup. She looked about ready to break down in tears and I patted her back, trying to console her–for what? She hadn’t really known Jessica that well, and from what I’d heard she had loved her even less. In fact, Lauretta is married to Jessica’s brother, and that family has been estranged for decades. I once came across an article about the falling out between Jessica and her sibling, but it was so long ago I don’t remember any particulars. There were harsh words, and no doubt a grudge, and I was surprised to see them both at the same party that night. They hadn’t spoken much, opting to ignore each other. Could Lauretta have finagled an invitation just for an opportunity to stab Jessica in the back?

    • Margaret Terry

      this was a fun piece to read, a very film noir feeling. “He’s just a hack writer from Buffalo who got to this party by sheer luck and a shady connection with Jessica” Really good! Your writing is strong, but I got a little lost when you set me up to consider more than one potential suspect. I would have preferred to follow the Jerome lead and his relationship with Jessica – the family and Lauretta feel like a whole other chapter!

      • Thanks for the advice, Margaret! I find myself incredibly limited by just 15 minutes…I meant to go on and give everyone a motive. Ah well, perhaps it’s to be continued.

    • The Striped Sweater

      Loved this sentence, “None of us had a sturdy alibi, and we all had a motive.” Makes me want to say, “Yeeeh,” and puff on a cigar.

      • Thank you! I think I was channeling my inner Agatha Christie 😉

  • Marie Dina

    All you could see were eyes staring at the door.

    Everyone knew Liam Kelly lay behind the oak doors,dead.
    Not one guest could control the urge to look.

    Dinners were left half eaten,glasses of wine spilled on the white Irish linen table cloths.

    The floral arrangements knocked over and staining the tables.

    The
    blonde heiress to the Bekerman publishing house sat trying to look calm
    ,betrayed herself with the twitch in her eye. It had been rumored that
    she had had an affair with Karl Marshall 20 years ago ,while she was
    married,

    Marilyn Marshall sat twisting her napkin nervously ,her
    hands trembling. Her aging husband, Karl the biggest publisher in the
    city, sat unfazed,smoking his Havana ,letting the ashes fall on the
    carpeting.

    Detective Earl Davis was asking mundane questions as
    to where each guest was at any given time. As if anyone could actually
    recall where they were.

    Who would do such a thing? After all Liam Kellys’ book was fiction. No one believed all the things written in it. Or did they?

    Was it possible that one of the guests thought that the story was about them?

    Kevin
    Ingersoll ,the chief editor at Marshall Publishing House had once been
    involved with one of the secretaries. Nothing secret there.

    Yet he could hardly hold onto the glass of champagne he was trying to sip.

    After
    all who would believe that Kevin Ingersoll ,the chief editor at Karls
    publishing house had a mistress? He was a playboy and it was well known.

    For some reason he appeared to be too stiff and was standing too rigidly.

    There were too many characters in Liams book to even suggest that they weren’t fiction.

    Yes
    some of the stories appeared to be a bit like all the things that had
    been going on behind closed doors at Marshalls , but surely no one
    actually thought the story was about them.

    Well , maybe one person had thought so. Liam

    For a while before Karl and Marilyn married the chatter at the
    publishing house had been that Marilyn had a baby and given it up for
    adoption years before they had met and married That one circulated for
    years and had been put to rest.

    As I looked at her aging face I could see she had shed a tear or two.

    The mascara was running in brown streaks down her cheeks.

    Why would Liam Kelly death effect her that way? They barely spoke when Mrs. Marshall stopped at her husbands office.

    From
    what I could observe it looked as if I had created at least half a
    dozen suspects for Detective Davis to entertain himself with.

    Expertly executed I had set the investigation going in just direction I wanted it to go.

    Eileen
    Kelly would inherit her fathers money and mommy dearest would get to
    live with the guilt of having given me away like a used book.

    That was a secret she would carry to her grave..

    • Margaret Terry

      This line hooked me right away “Everyone knew Liam Kelly lay behind the oak doors,dead.” And, I loved his name! Liam Kelly. So cool. But, there were too many characters and I got lost and had to re read bits to figure out who was who and what was going on and when I read “There were too many characters in Liams book to even suggest that they weren’t fiction” I had to wonder if you were playing all of us 🙂

      • Winnie

        About all the characters. I get the feeling this is around the beginning of a novel, one that will make interesting reading when the characters are fleshed out and the many subplots each is involved in are exposed. .

  • Margaret Terry

    Thanks Joe, for another fun prompt and wise lesson about the writing, writing, writing x 400k! This lesson made me think about artists who paint. Did you know that Picasso was banned from museums in his later years because he was caught trying to alter his work? I sooo understand that…

    This was a fun exercise, but for some reason I wrote back story instead of the scene…am chalking it up to the creative process, with gratitude 🙂

    I didn’t want to go to the bloody party, but, oh nooooo, my publisher promised the sponsor I’d be there. “I know you hate all the boozy small talk Sarah, but this is a great opportunity for you to rub shoulders with John Graham. Who knows? Maybe if you bat your big baby blues at him, he’ll offer to read your book – you know he’s got a reputation for redheads.”

    The last person I wanted to bat my eyes at was John Graham. The guy was an
    arrogant ass. He was an arrogant ass long before he was famous. My publisher didn’t know John and I had been an item in college. A week-end item, was all. No one knew. It wasn’t worth talking about because John Graham changed girls as often as most people changed their underwear. “Had a great time, baby, but you know we can’t do this again.” He’d said while I was crawling on the floor searching for my bra under his bed. “Research. For my book. Gotta test drive as many as I can.” He stood by the door and smiled that crooked smile that bathed his eyes in light and made every girl on campus swoon.

    I hadn’t seen John since college but I’d thought about him. A lot. It pissed me off his memoir did as well as he said it would. “Changing Lanes” he called it. The car metaphors were so cheap and unoriginal, it sickened me to know he’d sold three million copies.

    John Graham was dead by the time I arrived at the party. There was so much chaos with the police rushing about and the children’s author who fainted face first onto the sushi buffet that no one noticed my recent arrival.

    No one noticed my other arrival either when I had sashayed in an hour earlier wearing a blonde wig. They glanced at me just long enough to see if I was someone famous and when they decided I was no one, they looked away and continued sipping champagne while they gossiped about the takeover at Random House.

    There was only one person at the party who recognized me in my blonde wig.
    And, he wasn’t talkin’ anymore…

    • Carol

      Loved it! Very well plotted from start to finish.

      • Margaret Terry

        thx, Carol!

    • George McNeese

      Well construed and constructed. I like that the victim and main character have history. It makes for a compelling plot.

      • Margaret Terry

        thx, George. I had no idea where it was going until my 15 minutes was up!

    • The Striped Sweater

      Haha. Sweet revenge.

      • Margaret Terry

        Thx! Oh, the sweet plans I’ve made after being dumped, such good therapy!

    • I didn’t know that, Margaret. Amazing!

      Compelling story. And what a last line! When the investigators start asking her questions, the story will get very interesting.

      • Margaret Terry

        Thx, Joe. You know, I would never dream to write a piece like this about a murder. I love the ways these practices challenge and inspire me to write outside my genre and comfort zone. Some days I read the prompt in the morning and w/o me stirring the pot at all, I think it stews and becomes this little taste I get to present here. It’s my favorite part of the writing process. The surprise. These surprises are food for me those days I feel I have nothing to give my current WIP which is so different from anything I write here! It’s called “The Year of Letting Go” about a woman who sells everything in her house to be able to keep her house. The themes are about letting go and the definitions of home. Thanks, again. Just want to let you know how much I appreciate being a part of this group.

  • The Striped Sweater

    Gerald folded his paws, calmly
    surverying the room. English bulldog with a dark patch over one eye. He’d
    served the Carlton family for over five years. He was not easily impressed. He
    opened his mouth, allowing the scents of sweat and fear to more easily roll on
    his breath through his nose.

    Mr. Canary scratched his back. His
    bright yellow shoes clashed lightly with his dun gray suit. A stubborn cowlick ratcheted
    through spastic revolutions at the edge of his ear. He eyed Miss Matilda.

    For herself, Miss Matilda was content.
    Her powder blue dress puffed round her hips like fresh, creamy makeup. Miss
    Matilda always smelled nice, even in unpleasant circumstances. She fluttered a
    little lace fan.

    Miss Aardvark was the first to speak. “Look,”
    she said, hands on hips, the lines of her straight, tweed skirt stabbing toward
    the absurdly polished floor. “Either we figure this out, or no one’s getting
    out of here. Charlotte von Heyen was found dead on the eve of the publication
    of her greatest novel to date. We were
    the only ones in the house when it happened. One of us must know something. The
    police will keep us locked up here until one of us tells them something.”

    Mr. Sorenson sneezed. His trainers
    squeaked on the marble as he jerked to cover his mouth. He looked up, blue eyes
    sheepish. “Sorry,” he said. He looked around as if he’d like to do squats or
    pushups to burn off some tension, then settled his bulky athletes body back
    into an uneasy stillness.

    • Margaret Terry

      Loved the first two sentences and felt like I was going on be on a ride with animals as the characters and I was clapping my hands at how clever that was! But, wasn’t sure when I got to Miss Matilda and Sorenson so don’t know if it’s both. BTW – I always wanted to have a dog named Gerald. 🙂

      • The Striped Sweater

        Thank you. I wasn’t sure myself. Just brainstorming. 🙂

    • George McNeese

      I like the unique perspective. No one suspects the pet.

      • The Striped Sweater

        Thanks, George.

  • Why do so many do this? By this, I mean, why do so many assume that what it took for them will be the same for everyone? The thing is, Joe, you asked the wrong question of Ted. The question you should have asked was how long it took for him to find his voice. Then, his answer would have been accurate. Just because it took him four, or five, novels to find his voice, doesn’t mean it’ll take me the same amount of time. It may take me less time to find my voice as an author, or it may take me longer. Then again, I may have already found it.

    It took Stephan King 63 rejections before Carrie to be published. It to JK Rowling 107 before the first Harry Potter was published. Do you see what I mean?

    What works for Ted won’t necessarily work for you, and it probably won’t work for me. We’re all different.

    • Just a rough estimation. Like almost uselessly rough.

      “When you have found your voice, though, you don’t listen to the feedback much. You don’t need to. You know who you are and what you’re doing.”

      I don’t like the “voice” description anyway. As an author, I don’t think you should ever not listen to constructive feedback. Notice I did say constructive, there is crappy feedback out there.

      I do realize there are time constraints, especially if you get tons of feedback. If you are spending more time reading feedback then writing…

      As an author, there is no “found my voice” moment or “I’m there now” moment. You grow as a writer all the time, and that process should never stop. If you do, you already need some constructive criticism. Its right here.

      • I can definitely see your point. My guess at what he meant is that when you grow in your craft, the pool of people who can give you excellent feedback (vs. crappy feedback) narrows. Dekker still has editors. It’s not like he’s not taking feedback. But I doubt he’s incorporating much feedback from Publisher’s Weekly or his Amazon reviews anymore.

        • I probably would be looking at amazon reviews. Though it would probably be nice to read the 5 star reviews, I tend to read the 3-4 star reviews when inspecting a book for purchase. They usually point out those couple of things that could have made it better, without a ridiculous amount of bias, such as hating the genre as a whole.

          Genre is another interesting topic. Seems to me people come to avoid certain genres. Usually it is because there are tons of dime novels in certain genres. Reasons I’m afraid to pick up a romance novel… My wife reads them though, and we have a deal thing going where we trade books.

          I think given a good author, every genre offers something to every single person. I also think authors should try to write outside their genres.

          I also think authors limit themselves by trying to write inside a genre, especially when it is a sub-genre. Another vampire-fantasy-romance, Oh puh-lease…

          Maybe your next prompt post should be “To genre, or not to genre.”

    • I don’t disagree with you. I think it’s interesting what Dekker said, though. It surprised me. I don’t think it will be true for me (or you?), but of course that could be wishful thinking on my part.

      To me, the point of what he said is less how long it will take to find your voice and more that it will take time and, surprise, practice to find it.

  • Carol

    How ironic. To be invited to a Who Dunnit dinner party only to have an actual murder occur.

    Tabitha sat across the room from me, glancing every so often at her watch. She had come playing the part of an eccentric old woman, and she had played it well, right down to her white coiffed hair and monocle eye piece.
    “Will they ever let us out of this dreadful room?” she said, sitting stiffly in the straight-back chair. “I can’t stand the thought of being in the same house as a corpse.”

    I glanced around the room and my eyes caught on Esther. She seemed aloof to what was going on around her. She sat snapping her gum and picking at a hole in her fishnet stockings. I wasn’t quite sure if she came dressed for a part in the dinner or if this was her usual attire.

    “I really gotta get going,” Esther said now picking at her finger nails. “My boyfriend is gonna be waiting for me at O’Malleys Pub at 9.”

    “I’m out of here,” said Jim as he got up and crossed the room, leaning heavily on his cane, his belly protruding out ahead of him. I wasn’t sure if he needed the cane or if he had brought it for a prop. He chuckled under his breath and said, “I’m betting it was the butler with the candlestick in the library.” He reached for the door handle and I let out a gasp. Everyone in the room turned to look at me.

    They followed my eyes to where I was staring across the floor. A trail of dark red spots hopped across the room from where Jim was sitting right up to the door and the bottom of his cane.

    • Sandra

      Wow. Cool.

  • George McNeese

    I know it’s only a matter of time before they get to me. Everyone’s pointing their finger at me, as if I had anything to do with Barry’s murder. I knew him longer than any of his guests. I worked with the man for six years. He taught me everything I know about the publishing business. He was to publish his greatest novel yet, or so he says. Lately, he’s had bad reviews, but so does everybody else. He was so used to having success plated to him like a fine dinner on a pure china plate. The thought of anyone badmouthing his work was inconceivable to him.

    I look around the dining hall. The police flipping through their notepads and jotting down anything that could be of help. I’m feeling queasy. One of the officers is making his way toward me. He’s steady, thorough. He might buy me some time. And he’s speaking to the Daynes. I know they’ll immediately point the finger at me. Tyson never really liked me. He’s jealous of the relationship I had with Barry all those years. Look at him, acting like the stiff, upstanding gentleman he pretends to be. And his wife, Melissa, is no better. I know Tyson and Barry were partners at the publishing firm where I interned in Sacramento. Rumor was they had a falling out and Tyson left to start his own firm. After that, I was brought in, but I never understood why.

    “Mr. Hilson?”

    The officer snaps me out of my recollection. I nod and answer his questions.

    • Winnie

      ‘He might buy me some time.” Am I right in assuming the narrator knows more than he’s willing to tell the police? The short sentences build up the tension. Nice writing.

    • Adam

      Good stream of consciousness. It grabbed my attention.

  • Winnie

    It could have been any of this lot. As I took out my notebook when I stepped into the lounge I could sense the undercurrent of suspicion flowing through the room.
    “He had it coming.’ Mavis Gerbel looked at me over her wire-rimmed spectacles balancing on the end of her nose, her mouth set in a prim determined line.
    “Why?” I asked. “Thanks, that’ll be all.” I stopped her just as she began a stinging tirade that would crucify Jake Willesden, the leading thriller writer who now lay in the master bedroom, his toes curling for the last time.
    I immediately crossed her off my list.
    As she flounced away I turned my attention to Horace Wills, wealthy and well past middle age.. The murder hadn’t decreased the ardour with which he was chatting up the ladies. “Great party,” I said, adding “It was,” as I passed. He raise his flute of champagne in agreement.
    “When will you be removing the body?” Gertrude Walsh was acting the distressed hostess, extracting as much indignation from the situation as she could. As a part-time actress she was doing very well.
    “Before rigor mortis sets in,” I assured her.
    As I turned around my eye was caught by Janice Whipman. Hers were the eyes I’d felt boring into the back of my neck. I wouldn’t ask her; having stood like a wallflower for most of the evening she’d confess to anything to get attention. Pity for her what should have been a social occasion would be turned into the interrogation room of a police station. With me around everyone would be careful what they said.
    I took in the rest of the guests as I walked over to a tightly huddled knot. Wallace Grantham, whom I’d taken an instant dislike to when I was earlier introduced to all the guests, I also crossed off my list. He didn’t do it, but I felt he knew who did. There was too much schadenfreude lurking behind that impassive face. He’d the one who most wanted Jake dead. His wife had recently moved in with him.
    The low hum of conversation dried up as I joined Eusebius McMaster’s circle. A leading financier he attended only those parties with the least risk to his precarious reputation. “Good evening,” I grunted to him. He smiled back warily. He wasn’t interested in avenging the death of his wife’s favourite author. He had other, much bigger, fish to fry. Like the Competitions Board that was investigating his latest deal.
    “It takes all sorts, doesn’t it.” Georgina Hays was whispering in my ear. There had always been bad blood between her and Eusebius, her brother, since she’d been ousted from the board of the multinational family company.
    “You can say that again.”
    That’s how much these Philistines cared for Jake, a leading writer who’d risen from a mail room employee of a publishing company to become its top author.
    “Excuse me.” Brushing my way out of the circle I ran after a guest who was trying to leave early. Taking out my notebook I steered Grant Gerard, the latest heartthrob of the social scene, to the study to begin my interrogation. This man with the smouldering good looks wasn’t capable of hurting a fly, but his obviously guilty conscience was the best place to start.

    • Sandra

      The characters are interesting. I was interested in the ending with Grant, “obviously guilty conscience,” but “wasn’t capable of hurting a fly.” That is an interesting combination.

  • Adam

    I didn’t get to the part about the murder. This was fun though. I want to continue it. Also, I feel like I was writing the back story to Clue.

    Jim:

    He found the double-door to the patio blocked with the backs of others. Each was pushing forward, their voices ecstatic and rising above to the high-ceiling dining room. There was crying. Not just one cry, but several, heaving with each other, then against, then together again.

    He pushed through black jackets and colorful gowns, between the fragrances of colognes and perfumes, through the door and into the night. With his first step on the cement patio, the first breeze of the night against his perspiration, he looked down and stopped.

    Carla:

    This will be the night. She’s sliding red lipstick alongside her lips, her reflection puckering back against her. She looks into her eyes and widens them to make sure her mascara is even. She smiles.

    She goes through her tiny black purse emblazoned with ivory buttons.

    Such a nice party, of course he is going to ask me tonight. Since when does he wear cologne, only on the nicest of occasions. And of course it will be romantic. If that is all he writes about then it has got to be tonight.

    Jack:

    All the people are at the doors and their legs leave wide tunnels beneath. He crawls, sometimes getting kicked then stepped on, or under the curtain of a dress. Somewhere five people in, he pulls out his chocolate chip cookies his mother gave him and gives it a chew. He moves on, thinking he could see something laying down outside. But legs keep pushing him and he has to retreat and move back.

    Bub:

    Just look at him, jesus look at him. Addie, my god. The blood is soaking through his shirt, goddammit. His eyes are still open, shouldn’t they be closed, jesus why can’t they be closed.

    Dominique:

    He was in the kitchen, covering the leftover foods with plastic wrap to take home to his children. He could feel his cooking clothes stained but liked the feeling of being dirty. He liked the feeling to have felt rushed to cook and serve and then to have defeated it.

    Louie, he said and his fellow cook turned to him. We did well tonight, the dinner was very fine. Your alfredo was heavenly. And the shrimp, perfect.

    Jack:

    He was against the wall and he slinked alongside it till he came out on the patio. He looked up as soon as he was free from the tunnel of legs and saw the moon, full with each crater transparent and deeply gray. He looked away because it was too bright and found himself looking at the man on the ground. He chewed some of his cookie and swallowed and then coughed the cookie up onto the cold cement patio.

  • Great piece! I’m in my forties, and really just now finding my voice. By the way, this sentence seemed a little awkward: “I recently heard from a currently student…” Otherwise, really well done!

  • Thanks for reposting this Joe! It’s amazing to me just how much my writing has been changing lately.
    When you and Jeff started shaking up the writing world online, I too began in earnest. BTW, thank you for visiting and commenting on my small blog almost 2 years ago. It meant the world to me.
    Now, almost everyday I write, there’s a breakthrough. It shocks me to see my voice breaking free and expressing what I really think and feel. I’ve got piles and piles of unpublished post, tettering in a tangled mess of ideas. Writing is like forging a good sword. It takes blood, sweat, tears and a lot of time to pound it out. But it’s totally worth every second of it.
    So I’m chasing down those 1,000 blog post, if I haven’t already passed them. Again,Thank You for being such an encouragement!

    • Hi Bob! It’s been a crazy 2 years, hasn’t it? Glad to be enjoying the ride with you. 🙂 I love that you’re writing everyday. It’s not an easy habit to maintain, but it makes all the difference, doesn’t it?

    • Giulia Esposito

      I love that metaphor, writing is like forging a sword. So true!

  • Brian D. Meeks

    I’ve just released my fifth novel (today) and have written a blog post every day since Jan 2, 2010. (1323 + guest blog posts). I’ve also written one non-fiction.

    My writing has improved steadily over that time. I hope that over the next five novels I’ll continue to get better.

  • Emily Scott

    This would expalin why my writing is all over the place. I have a lot more stories and blog posts to get to.

    • Professor Campbell

      Emily, it sounds like you and I are in the same wading pool – lol. My writing is literally, ALL OVER THE PLACE. I sometimes think I suffer from an insufferable case of ADD, because, for the life of me whenever I start blogging, I get distracted. When I start working on my book, the doorbell rings – I don’t even have a door bell – lol.

      But, and here’s the kicker, I have plenty of time to respond to Facebook posts; schedule Facebook posts; share laughable, and not so laughable posts from others, I kid you not, Facebook is stealing my writing voice with their indoctrination into the world of ‘status updates’. Uggggg, SOMEONE PLEASE, IS THERE A GROUP FOR THIS lol…

  • Megan DaGata

    I’m technically only doing on of these a day, but I have gotten behind on sharing them here. I have a total of 185 blog posts, roughly 750 to 1000 words or more each…I get long winded on occassion. Many stories over the years and there is marked improvement from my first blog post to my more recent ones. Also enhanced creativity that comes from studying and reading and learning along the way. I’m so glad I’ve found this blog through Jeff Goin’s posts. Thank you!
    —Now…Prompt 3—
    Annabeth finished typing not a moment too soon. She had writing group in 30 minutes, just enough time to make copies of her story and fly over the expressway to Mrs. White’s house.
    It was Annabeth’s favorit home. She loved the Tudor architecture and the sprawling grounds. You would never know that you were in the middle of the city. It was so peaceful and quiet. However the treasures on the inside were her favorite part of her writing group.
    Annabeth grabbed her cell phone and bag, quickly locked the door as she bolted down the stairs of her apartment. She drove as fast as the law allowed and sometimes went a little over, but she arrived only five minutes late. Walking across the lawn and up the cobbled path she could see everyone gathering in the den through the window.
    There was a great mahogony door at the entrance to Mrs. White’s home and as she knocked on it she pushed it open. The grand foyer was empty. Annabeth walked in and closed the door behind her. To the left was the most beautiful 18th century Walnut dining table with matching side board, to the right the door to the library. She started to walk through to the den, but Annabeth remembered that she needed to get a copy of the book Tess of the D’Urbevilles for part of her reading tonight. She knew where right where it was, it would only take a second.
    She eased open the door to the library. Mrs. White had a way of arranging the furniture so you had lots of nooks and crannies and never feel completely surrounded. Annabeth walked to the bookshelf furthest from the door and picked out the novel she needed.
    Flipping it over in her hand she turned to walk back out when she dropped the book and screamed, “AHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!”
    Immediately you could hear the sound of nearly a dozen sets of shoes tapping across the wooden floors.
    “What?!”
    “What happened?!”
    “Annabeth, dear, what’s wrong?” asked Mrs. White.
    Annabeth couldn’t move, she couldn’t speak, she just raised her hand and pointed. All eyes looked down on the couch they had been standing behind and they saw the most gruesome body of the late Mrs. Dodds.
    Thinking back Annabeth can’t remember exactly what happened next, but soon there were police cars and ambulences driving up onto the manicured lawns. Annabeth was in shock and all she could think about was the blood that was on her shoes. She tried to wash it off. She tried to bleach it. She looked like a crazy person in Mrs. White’s kitchen cleaning her shoes. Everyone watched her, but no one said a word. Until the police were done with their investigation they all had to sit in there drinking coffee and making small talk.
    When her shoes would get no cleaner Annabeth set them on the counter to dry then grabbed a stool to sit on. She sat at the end of the bar staring at the people who had become her writing family and she couldn’t help but feel in the pit of her stomach that one of them had done it. One of the people that she loved had murdered poor Mrs. Dodds.
    Mrs. White handed her a teacup and saucer, poured her a coffee and gave her some cookies to eat. “They will make you feel better,” she said.
    Annabeth nibbled and sipped her coffee. One by one she analysed her group.
    Tim is a balding man in his twenties, very studious and calm.
    Amanda is a bubbly mom with two kids who sees the world through rose colored glasses. Annabeth couldn’t remember her even writing a story with murder in it.
    George was different. He kept everyone at arms length and had been known to explode when Mrs. Dodds had a critic that he didn’t like.
    Mark could be considered the most educated of the lot of them. He always had a point of reference for his thought process and could tell you things you never knew you always wanted to know.
    The twins, Amber and Darcy, they were partners on their writing adventure. They had just joined our happy group. There is no way that it could have been them.
    Next to the twins sat the most inconspicuous of people, John. Oddly enough his last name was Smith. He could have been anybody really and with such a common name it was likely that his name wasn’t John Smith at all. He had the look of someone who could possibly conceive of murder.
    Then there was herself and Mrs. White. There was no Mr. White of course, he had died some years back. Leaving just Mrs. White and their son, Gregg, who had long departed to broaden his horizons.
    As Annabeth finished her coffee a police officer walked in and said they were all free to go. This had been the work of a serial killer who was wanted in three states. He left tell tale signs on the body and all of their ID’s checked out.
    After she got her car keys and belongings Annabeth looked around at all the faces of her friends one more time and she couldn’t help but notice that the twins seemed to be supressing a smile and communicating as only twins can…

    • Sandra

      I love the part where Annabeth is scrubbing the blood off her shoes so intently. It’s a very telling scene.

  • FH Turner

    Working at making my writing my favorite habit and these prompts are terrific and challenging to someone just dipping their toe back into the writing process. Thanks so much.

    As the rain poured down outside we all gathered in the lounge of Phrynee’s home. A lovely 3-story town house with a large porch and filagree wrought iron balconies above. The occasion was a housewarming of sorts as she had just moved into town recently. Stormy night and evening gowns created a rather classic scene as the party took a surprising turn.

    The police were now in the drawing room surveying both the dead body (a popular home-grown novelist, Fawn Overme, back in town for the holidays accepted the invitation hoping to build some PR for her latest release, an interesting challenge as she had burned a few bridges) and the scene.

    Quickly surveying the room here’s who wouldn’t be above suspicion: a professor of literature at the nearby university was pegged by Ms. Overme as a plagiarist, hmm he published, she perished; or the clergyman, played for comic affect as a communion wine tippler with his hand in the church funds; our popular hotel’s owner portrayed as a snoop and blackmail artist and not least the widow, Mrs. Monroe, who runs the dress shop and is set up as her deceased husband’s murderer. A cool million in insurance money will set tongues to wagging won’t it?

    Further prognostication will have to wait, the police have just stepped into the lounge.

    • Glad you’re enjoying it! Loved this. “He published, she perished” Very funny.

  • Jay

    Okay first time writing in the practise community.Here goes nothing.

    We looked up at the swanky hotel, wondering how we could possibly qualify as the right sort of crowd for this ritzy party. I turned to my friends, seeking comfort- but they were too engrossed in a conversation about their shoes or whatever it was that was fashionable at the moment.Their sequinned gowns matched the sparkle of excitement in their eyes, and made me feel inadequate as i tried to lower the hem of my second-hand dress down my tight clad thighs.

    The elevator ride that took as to the top floor was incredibly uncomfortable. The stylish and the suited had crammed into the closet like space of this metal room. I closed my eyes and listened to the hubbub of nonsense i heard around me.
    “I heard Daniel Jones would be here, right here tonight” a baritone had said. A refined female voice had replied with a “yes of course he’d be here. This party would be nothing without him”
    A ding. Must be a floor then. My eyes fluttered open almost before a collective gasp had emerged from the elevator.
    We stepped out. Our eyes all locked on a figure in the middle of the room. Daniel Jones seemed to be lying on the floor, with red paint permeating the cream carpet below his head.
    And then the panic settled in. Hysterical screams filled the room, glass hit the floor and a few members were wailing.
    I left the group and walked towards the corpse. a morbid curiosity fueling my every step. I crouched down next to him, careful of the spilled red wine that had come from the glass held in his hand. his eyes were closed, and his face was filled with calm- a stark contrast to the atmosphere in the room. I looked up and my eyes locked with a figure across the room. He was wearing a crisp pinstriped suit, with a red tie, the colour of the blood that matted Daniel’s hair.
    I stood up and strode towards the stranger.

    And that was when the police began to file in.

    • Welcome to the community, Jay! Fun practice. Nothing like a murder at a fancy party to create drama. Well done.

      Joe Bunting
      joebunting.com

    • I love this! I get that feeling “I Must know what happened” 😀

  • Caitlin

    We all thought it was some clever ruse, really. After all, the man had married Cora Pince, miss performance art herself. She’d easily put him up to pulling a stunt in the middle of a party for up-and-coming artistic movers and shakers. Freak us out a little bit. Give us a good laugh. Give us a good story to tell later, whether on tour or in memoirs or in a mixed-media mural.
    But there he was. Nigel Breckenridge, THE name on all our lips even before we got to the rented ballroom, had been found run through his side with Norse runes drawn all over him. Looks like someone was a fan of his latest old-world inspired thriller.
    Naturally we’d all been shuttered off into a side room, up to our own devices in an enclosed space while evidence was gathered. Matter of time before we were all questioned, really. I found myself with my own inner nouveau-Gothic circle, all huddled around an end table, perched on ottomans and one ostentatiously pink silk fainting couch.
    “Do you think it could’ve been Boyd?” Elsa sipped her Collins with the comfortably confident air of a mother hen who fancied that she already knew all of the secrets before people had even promised to keep them.
    I shook my head. “Boyd’s twisted, but not that level of twisted.” I desperately hoped that there wasn’t a blush creeping across my face as I thought about just how deliciously twisted the dark and ferrety comic book writer had been for a few secret days the year before. I stole a glance over toward him, trying not to shudder as I looked at his long fingers and delicately pursed mouth. His face was a mask. I knew the look. I’d seen the mask before. It was one he put up whenever he actually had some modicum of feeling brewing beneath those pointed eyebrows.
    “So who else?” Sara leaned back on the couch and crossed her legs widely, openly, lazily. She flicked an imaginary speck of dirt off her immaculate boots and stretched her arms out as far as her pressed and starched oxford would allow.

    Certainly not finished, but I had fun starting out a whodunit story. Definitely outside of what I normally write.

    • I love you’re writing style. Really paints a picture. Your word choice is so unique. “It was the one he put up whenever he actually had some modicum of feeling brewing beneath those pointed eyebrows.” Loved that 🙂

    • Sandra

      I like how you use your words. “Elisa sipped her Collins with the comfortably confident air of a mother hen who fancied that she already knew all the secrets before people had even promised to keep them.” When you said that I could immediately get a strong emotional picture of who this person was.

  • I changed it up a bit to what felt more natural when I was writing, but anywho here it is. unedited.

    Alex cursed as the third traffic light turned red before
    her. She was late, Alex was never late.
    For anything. But between the rain and
    unkind traffic lights she had no chance of making it to her book club on
    time. And tonight was the one night she
    couldn’t be late. One of her favourite crime writers had agreed to meet with the
    club and do a reading.

    Alex jumped the light. Nothing would come between her and
    Karin Slaughter.

    Of course everyone was already inside when Alex arrived at
    Kristen’s extravagant house In the Northern suburbs. She saw a black SUV she
    did not recognise and felt childish excitement rise in her throat. That’s her!

    The house was quite when Alex slipped inside. “Kris?” She
    called.

    “In here Honey.” Came Kris’ sing song voice.

    As Alex turned the corner into the lounge she almost squealed with excitement
    but Karin wasn’t there.

    “Where is she?” She whispered as she hugged Kris.

    “She said she was running a bit late, should be here any minute.”

    Alex frowned and was about to mention the black SUV outside when they heard a
    shriek that turned her blood cold.

    Mikeal, the only man in their group told them to stay back as he ran towards
    the sound. Alex followed, maybe someone needed medical attention. She stopped
    dead when she caught up to Mike. His face was ashen and his hands covered his
    mouth. He looked like he might throw up. Monique, one of the book club girls
    stumbled backwards out the parlour where Mike stood. Blood covering her hands. Alex’s instincts kicked in and she ran to
    Monique.

    “Where are you hurt?” She almost shouted. There was so much
    blood, and even as she asked the question she knew the answer.

    Monique stuttered then whispered, “It’s not mine.”

    Alex turned around, she felt bile rise in her throat and she wondered if she
    looked like Mike.

    A chubby officer ushered Mike and Monique into the lounge
    with the rest of the book club and house staff before turning his attention to
    Alex.

    “Did you touch the body?” He asked coldly.

    “Yes.” She said. “I’m a casualty nurse. I had to see if there was anything I could
    do.”

    “Fine.” He grumbled as he led her into the lounge and closed the French doors.

    Alex rubbed Kri’s back, absent minded, as she glanced around
    at the 12 people in the room. 9 book club members and 3 grounds staff. A maid,
    a cook and the old gardener. Everyone seemed to be doing much the same. Playing
    a mental game of whodunit. Alex reprimanded herself. This was no game. A world renowned
    Author had been found dead in her best friend’s house. Alex’s stomach lurched
    again as she thought about the scene in the parlour.

    Johannesburg is a hard city and being a trauma nurse made
    Alex think she had seen it all. Numerous stab victims, rape victims and murders
    most people had only seen in movies. She had been wrong. When she went to check
    Karin’s pulse she had counted 7 stab wounds but couldn’t be certain with all
    the blood. The woman’s dress was folded neatly next to the body, her high
    heeled boots beside that. Her underwear was still on and undamaged.

    Alex caught herself frowning as she tried to make sense of it all. Logic and prejudice
    pointed her towards the two men. She couldn’t help playing detective. She
    looked at Mike. He still looked like he might hurl. She remembered as kids he
    would faint at the sight of blood, and wondered how he was still standing. Maybe
    not him.

    The gardener honestly looked like even less of a suspect, he looked to be a
    hundred and could barely push a lawn mower these days. Much less tackle, hold
    down and kill a fit 6ft woman. That brought her to the other girls in the room.
    Most of them barely over thirty and all but herlself and Kris substantially
    smaller than Karin Slaughter. She knew from experience though, that size was
    seldom an issue when a person got angry enough. She had seen a young man
    brought into casualty beaten within an inch of his life by a 15 year old girl
    protecting her mother.

    This didn’t seem like a crime of passion though, where
    adrenalin brought on super human strength. It seemed much more planned,
    premeditated. Alex looked again at Monique’s slight frame and blood drenched
    hands. She had said she fell forward from shock and put her hands on the blood
    soaked carpet when she found the body. She looked calm now. Almost too calm.

  • Sandra

    I am very new to writing. I remember doing alright in English 101, but that is the extent of it. I am trying to make a game and realized before I do I have to write the story/script for it. So I am getting reacquainted with writing. This website has been extremely helpful to me in getting the practice I need.
    I know I probably have too many characters summed up quickly rather than focusing on just one or two in more depth.

    I stepped onto the mat and rang the bell. The door was white and ornately decorated. This was a magnificent building that probably had a hundred rooms in it along with corridors that most guests have never seen. It looked a little out of place on the mountain cusp of some nowhere little town with no cell phone service. The butler let me in. He said that things would start soon.
    “We’re waiting on one more guest.” Someone called from the lobby. When I come inside, there was Ginny, in her thirties, she was looking very sexy tonight, in a tight skirt, and a hugging maroon sweater. She wore a deep lipstick that made her brown eyes look like the fall leaves coming down. I could smell a delicate perfume that reminded me of some intoxicating flower in the jungle.
    And then a knock from the door. Just then a scream was let out from deeper in the house. I turned around. “What’s going on?” I say. My eyes darting around the room. But no one was in the room anymore. I go through the house. I see Ginny in the hallway, her face is vacant, lost.
    “What happened?” She asks, her voice is soft like a child.
    People are gathered around a bedroom just past the kitchen. I slide past some people to the bedroom and see the body of a woman lying flat and lifeless there. A blood pool around her. Her eyes open and glassy staring out. It was Liz.
    There is George, looking a little too thin in his turtleneck, he hadn’t shaved today and it made him look a little messy. He was wearing a sour expression on his face like any other day in his life. His head tilted upwards at a slant, he wouldn’t be bothered to look down at people of a lesser quality than he. I am not even sure why he bothers being in our club anyway, he doesn’t like anyone. But he had been talking to Liz every meet up this month. Which was strange. She had none of the high qualities that he would qualify as worthy of his time.
    I realized I needed to try to pick this apart. I mean it is usually fine with me to let the police deal with things that happen in this town, and I mind my own, but this happened in my writing club. If this doesn’t get solved than I would probably have to find another and the chances of another one in this town were dim. And I needed this club, it get’s me out of the house, gives me a space from my wife and her searching eyes. She doesn’t let me out of her sight much these days, and I can’t imagine what I would do if she wouldn’t let me out of her sight at all.
    So first let’s start with the dead girl. Who would murder Liz? Looking down at her, he could see her long hair was sprayed underneath her. She had impressive hair that reached past the mid point of her back, towards the small. She had mermaid hair. She is extremely shy and rarely talks to other people let alone make enemies.
    She does go to this writing club obviously. She had been working on a memoir of her family, there were secrets in her past that she wanted to show the world, and I think she was close to finishing it. I have a faint feeling in my head that there is more to that, but I can’t remember. Some snippet of her book she may have read allowed that could be of use, but my head is aching at the moment and it is just out of my grasp.
    She had a pale face and she was already sick. Who knows if she even had long to live. Her life was not so good anyway. No significant other, no dates, lived by herself and spoke to few. Revenge doesn’t make sense, even if anyone wanted to do it, who would shoot her instead of let her slowly waste away?
    There was Pat, he was a boy of 17, he was a tough kid at school, who bullied the small and weaker kids, but here he shared his poetry. Stories of willows that weeped in the distance too far for anyone to know, except occasionally on an especially windy day. He was living a double life. And we knew his secret.
    Would it matter that much if others knew? But what reason would she have to rat him out? And I know he is tough, but I don’t think he seems shoot a person cold though.
    The police had come and started to tie us up in chairs in the dining room. “A little overboard maybe,” Jack says. Jack is an electrician, in his forties, has a lot of parties where most of the town comes to. He walks down the street and will greet each person he passes by name, and then offers to help them with whatever thing they need fixing. The go-to man.
    “It’s so the murderer can’t leave and no one else get’s killed.” said a Police officer. “Is that alright with you?”

  • Yass

    Very scratchy writing, yes I have to admit. And a little excess with my 15 minutes. It’s more of an excerpt than a short story, tsk. But here goes nothing.

    “It was crazy,” Gab shared. “I was just grabbing another cup of lemonade until I touched some foot, right under the table.”

    “You couldn’t have not noticed that.”

    “I didn’t, swear! I thought it was a cushion or something. Then there was a shoe.”

    They eagerly listened to each other at the lounge. Bits and sides of the story piling up on the table from one mouth to another. I stood up and approached the glass door, spying on the crime scene.

    There were about four to five CIA’s on the investigation. I saw Mr. Hunderick on the floor, eyeless and all-soaked with blood on his chest. He wore his favorite leather coat that now ended its service with his master. The bar had to close so everyone from the party was gone. It was weird because one officer, Officer Bickport, requested for the Nottingham Club to stay.

    So there we were. Gab, our youngest recruit who first discovered the corpse under the buffet table, was clearly paranoid over the situation. Lindsey, Mr. Hunderick’s lady right hand, calmly sipped on a glass of lemonade being the cool blonde smarty she was. Barnus comforted Jennifer, his loving wife. The couple writers have always been very dear to Mr. Hunderick who served as Barnus’s second father. And there was Isac.

    ‘Cutting Side’.

    Barnus couldn’t be right. Isac couldn’t have caused all of this. But if Isac really didn’t do it, why didn’t he try to protect his father? Or worse, if he did try, why isn’t he taking a sweat? My growing suspicion over Isac and his involvement in the situation strengthened when I found out that he knew about the Victions ahead of time. But he pursued the party anyway.

    Could Isac truly be the culprit of his father’s own death?

    • Scarlet Ferya Ma

      I think there’s some really nice turn of phrase in this – ‘from one mouth to another’ and ‘eyeless’ being my favourites. Possibly too many characters for a short piece I think, it got a little confusing towards the end. But I liked the direct style and that you didn’t over-describe or over-emote.

  • DJ Liu

    “Damn it!” I shouted. “What am I gonna do now?” I’ve waited 12 years to meet this guy and now he’s dead before I can get an autograph, much less even shake hands with the man.

    “Oh for God’s sake Christian. Why is it always about you?” Sara replied. “At least we got to stuff our faces and drink the open bar dry.”

    “Sara’s right man, at least it’s not you or anyone of us laying lifeless on the drawing room floor,” added Peter. “We all loved those murder mystery novels but it looks like this time someone will have to write the next one, that is unless he rises from the dead to plot on the methods of his own demise.”

    “You guys think this is funny? I followed Denny Jenkins since he was a nobody. Now, all of us are locked up here like rats in a cage until they can figure out what the hell is going on…barkeep! Another Tank and Tonic please. “At least I can get my gin on until they let us go.”

    “Well, based on the looks of it, who do you think could have done it…that is, if the culprit is still here?” interjected a man sitting across the bar top in a dark brown trench coat with a white button down shirt, tie loosened as if he’s had a long hard day.

    “Well, I suppose it could be anyone right?” replied Christian.

    The stranger continued on, “Yea, well it seemed there was a gentleman that was last seen with Mr. Jenkins outside the drawing room just minutes before he was found dead on the floor, drink in hand. Some say he looked upset, perhaps over something Mr. Jenkins would not comply with. You see, the book signing was over and…”

    “What are you saying?” said Peter. “Could someone have gotten so upset about a rejected autograph that they could have done such a thing?”

    “I never said anything about a rejected signature…you know something I don’t?” the man in the dark brown trench coat slided over to the other side of the bar to get more into the conversation. “Allow me to introduce myself…I’m detective Little.”

    He was anything but…little. Standing at about 6’1 with a chiseled frame and five o’clock shadow it looks like he’s had a rough night trying to work this case so far.

    “We don’t know anything, just speculating,” reassured Sara wiping her forehead as if she was hiding something.

    “Well in any case, seems like you 3 are nervous like everyone else here. Don’t worry, we’ll be wrapping things up soon. In the meantime, just let me know where I can get some of that powder y’all put in his drink”…the detective noticed a clear plastic glove with a powdery residue on one of the fingertips just barely hanging out of Sara’s hand bag on the floor under her bar stool.

    He casually walked back to the scene of the crime where two other officers were waiting.

    “Damn it! I knew it was a bad idea!” whispered Christian to his counterparts. “We gotta get outta here before they take us in!”

    “He had what was coming to him guys and you know it! He should have never ended the book that way and we all agreed. To make matters worse, we were only 2 minutes late to the signing and he refused to sign our books even though we bought him a drink anyway. Figures he was an alcoholic…but never mind…gone with yesterday’s news…”

    “Hey…wait! You three…stay right where you are!” Shouted two officers, guns drawn. “Hands where I can see them!”

    • James Alfred

      Thanks for your story. I really enjoyed it; it was if if I was there in the room.

      • DJ Liu

        Thanks!

    • Scarlet Ferya Ma

      This has a real kind of old-school Cluedo feel to it, which is good, and I like that it was to do with him ending the book in a way they didn’t like, nice twist. I think fewer characters would have been nice though in such a short piece, there probably wasn’t a need for the two friends. But absorbing though.

    • Elizabeth Cooper

      I love how you started with a dialogue, very enjoyae and kept me wanting more

  • James Alfred

    I will give this a shot.

    I was there to get an autograph from Stephen King. I have been reading his stories since well I was a kid. He is the best. “Oh my God.” Came screams from the drawing. I was like what the hell is going on. I walk over the the door of the drawing room and seen Mr. Kings lifeless body laying on the floor. His throat was cut from ear to ear. I was thinking to myself; I need to get the hell out of here. The last thing I need is the police asking me a bunch of questions.
    I heard a voice from the front door yell out. “Everyone needs to stay right where they are.” This police officer is a huge guy. “How can we help officer?” I ask. “First you can tell me your name your.” “My name is James. Sir.” He looked me over like I had done thing. “Hey officer! I didn’t have anything to do with this crap. I liked the guy way to much to have cut him from ear to ear.” I told him. The office just looked at me. “Sure you didn’t James.” He said. “This use to be your kind of work. You would go to little ass party like this and kill someone.” “That’s bull shit and you know it.” I said.

    Every eye in the room was on me. “Damn it officer. If it would have been me. Do you think I would still be standing here?”
    This officer was out to skin my ass. “Okay you might be right James” The officer said.

    “I know I am right and beside I would have not killed him that way. I would have used poison. It make people feel pain like no other. The way it burns going down. They try to scream for help and can’t because the poison has already ate holes in their tongue.” I said. I was thinking to myself. I think I might have just gotten away with killing this guy.

    Thank you for reading. Please let me have it. Be hard I am new to this. Thank you once again.

    James

    • DJ Liu

      Not bad for your first try. First drafts are always a challenge. Other than checking some general spelling and context, it’s a good start including dialogue between 2 characters. I’m new at writing fiction too. It’s not easy but that’s why we’re here right? Go back and break out your dialogue into separate paragraphs, it might help envision two people going back and forth in conversation and give you some space to add detail where it might make creative sense. Great job!

      • James Alfred

        Thank you for your feedback. It really helped. It has given me a different look. I am not really sure why I want to write. It is just something I think about all day long. As you can tell my spelling is not the best. It takes me long to have to look up words and make them fit.
        Like i just said not sure why I am writing just feels like something I need to do.

        Thanks again for your feedback.

        James

  • GabeG

    I wrote a short story based on a slightly different version of the same prompt, I include it in the beginning here. This is my first time writing something like this, your feedback is appreciated!

    The Prompt
    Let’s twist things up. You show up to Mrs. White’s Tudor style mansion to meet with your writing critique group, as you do every week. You expect to have a fun time talking about writing and getting feedback, not to find one member of the group murdered in the drawing room.
    First, describe how you find the murder victim. Then, after the police lock you in a room with the rest of the guests, write about your suspicions of who-dunit as you look around the room at your fellow writers.
    ——————————————————————————————————————————-
    “Today started as every other day, though this morning brought mixed emotions. I am relatively new to the group, I joined less than a month ago, and today was my first time sharing my work. Because of this my excitement for the meet and the chance to converse with like minded people, was coupled with a fear of what they would think. No matter how hard I tried I couldn’t stop my mind from focusing on the fact that this was a critique group, and all in attendance, with the exception of myself, were experienced writers and well versed in literature.” It was not difficult to discern that the older of the two men was extremely disinterested, as his face blatantly assured me of this. The two detectives felt only the need to hear information regarding the immediate situation, however I felt in this instance, that a wider perspective was in order.

    I was the first to be interviewed, as I was the one who found the victim in the drawing room. The room itself was well lit, equipped with 12 lamps and 2 chandeliers. There were 2 sofas, each facing the other, and multiple chairs placed in various places. The room was symmetrical in many ways, if there was a lamp next to a chair on one side of the room, there would be an identical lamp next to an identical chair on the opposite side of the room, each facing each other like the kings and queens on a chess board. There was a mini grand piano in one corner, and a fireplace in the other. Each wall was equipped with art; three of them having paintings, and one having statues set on custom made shelves that were set in the wall about 2 feet deep. The walls were a dark brown, natural wood finish. As with every room in the home there were many doors, this room had 6 different doors each leading to its own unique location. There were many end tables in the room, at least 1 per chair, and there was a large marble table by the fireplace. It was in this room that I found Theo Harvey, an old member of the group, dead on one of the many chairs.

    “Theo was a mathematician in his late 50’s,” I explained, “I don’t believe he had the faintest interest in writing, but came each week because of his interest in Mrs. White, the leader of the group. This of course, is just my belief. Interestingly though, he did grow an appreciation for writing as he read all of our work.” I then explained that this was all the knowledge I had of Theo, as he was a quiet man and didn’t talk much in the group. After each meeting Theo either spoke with Mrs. White, or if Mr. White was home, he left abruptly. The detectives inquired, “What do you know about Mrs. White?” “Mrs. White is perhaps the most interesting woman I have met to date.” I then explained “despite her seemingly meek personality, she has the ability to manipulate and use words in a such a fashion so as to evoke emotion and empathy in even the coldest of persons. Her life has taken a turn as her husband recently passed. Nobody in the group, except for Mrs. White, knows just how her husband passed. The only fact that seemed to be known was that it was an unnatural cause.” Just like that, they were done with me. I was sent to a locked room with the other members of the group, and there we were to wait as each person was interviewed. They interviewed Mrs. White next, the only other person in the group whom I truly trusted. So now it was just me, and 6 other people in a locked room. One of the six was likely the killer, and now I was to remain locked in a room with them.
    For the remaining hours I was to be in the room, nobody spoke. I would have much preferred talking as now my mind was left to wander, conjuring up possibilities as to which person could commit such a horrible crime. There was one person, though, who stood out among the rest as being a possible murderer, Andrew Davila. He was only 19 or 20, and each story he wrote was very macabre. He showed lack of emotion and empathy, like that of a psychopath. With the thought and passion that went into each piece, it wouldn’t surprise me if he brought a story to life. Other than him, I couldn’t really picture anyone else committing an act like this.

    I then began to wonder, what if the murder of Theo and Mr. White were somehow related? Perhaps Theo saw a possible future with Mrs. White, with only Mr. White in his way. Maybe Mrs. White was avenging her husband, by taking life for life. Perhaps they were only able to do this because of the stories they wrote or heard, those like Andrew’s. The other five members of the group were Rosa Mills, Ethel Butler, Mark Davis, Angelina Artemova, and Helen Varney. All of which lead normal lives, Rosa is a mother of 2, Ethel is a sweet old woman who comes on occasion, Mark is an avid learner seeking to expand his writing, and Angelina and Helen just appreciate good writing. It was 2 hours later that we were released, and we all went our separate ways.

    The writing group hadn’t continued from there on, and I never found out what exactly happened. Perhaps both the murder of Theo and Mr. White really were somehow connected? Even though I was never able to share my story with the group, they were still able to help me. I realized that my fear that day was focused on the wrong thing. I was consumed by how the group would receive my writing, where as the real fear lied in the unknown. By incorporating those same emotions into my story and into my character, I could write a truly amazing piece. I think this is how Mrs. White wrote such amazing stories, each piece of her work carried a little bit of her with it and still encompassed the unknown. Perhaps nobody will ever read my stories, but who knows? That’s the beauty in the unknown.

  • Here’s my attempt at it. Written in 30min. Haven’t quite stuck to the prompt, I got a little carried away but I think that’s fine, after all we all take a different path when writing.
    Would love some feedback! Crime/detective stories are not my forte..

    ***.

    I have been looking forward to this day all week. An opportunity to open up, share my inner thoughts on paper and talk about them with people who understand me, who are like me – curious human beings.

    It’s Sunday, nearly ten am. The sun is already high up in the sky and the air is moist, heavy. I can’t wait to be inside, pour myself a glass of ice cold water and sit around the table, ready to engage in a conversation.

    I walk up the marble stairs to the mansion. I have been coming here for two months ow, and yet, I am taken aback every time by the grandeur of the building, the greyness of the façade. Is this what living like a king looks like? I wonder…

    I push the heavy wooden door and instantly, I feel a lurch in my heart. As though something is not quite right. I can feel it, deep down in my belly, a soft murmur. I can hear it in my ears, an alarm, warning me of danger. I have always questioned my sixth sense and here I am, doubting myself once again.

    Gingerly, I take a few steps towards the drawing room. My heels are clicking against the
    cold, marble floor. I look at my watch. I am a little early. I am never early. The mansion looks eerie when I am alone. It is all too quiet and unnervingly perfect.

    I reach the door leading to the drawing room and place my hand on the cold, steel knob. The door opens with a little squeak and there, where we usually gather for a drink, right in the middle of the round room, I see a body. Inert. A small puddle at the base of the head. Eyes open. Devoid of life. Staring into the ceiling.

    I lean towards the garbage bin and retch. Nothing comes out. It is as though I have been emptied. Hollow.

    All of a sudden, a wave of panic washes over me. I look around furtively, afraid of an invisible opponent, harmful and evil. Whoever did this might still be around, I think to myself. For a short moment, I stand there, rooted to the ground. As still as the marble columns surrounding me. I can feel fear creeping in, paralysing every inch of my body, slowly and silently. A millions thoughts pass before my eyes. Like a fleeting flock of
    birds.

    Am I about to die?

    Don’t be silly, he has probably
    come and gone.

    You selfish Margaret, think of this
    man, lying still on the floor. Feel pity; stop fearing for your life.

    Do something.

    Voices
    in my head, echoing relentlessly. Deafening.

    Snap out of it, Margaret.

    Move your feet.

    Slowly, I lift one leg. And then the other. Until I manage a shaky, nervous gait that
    takes me around the room. Circling the body like a vulture circles its prey. Although
    I am not interested in the body. Perhaps I should be, but something, a glistening drop of red by the window sill – scintillating under the sun – catches my attention. I look around again. Silence.

    Does this blood belong to the victim? Who is the victim?

    No time for this, Margaret. This is clearly not his blood. Whoever attacked him must be hurt.

    I gasp.

    He could still be here.

    I swallow dry. I can’t just stand here, falling prey to my fears. Whoever that is, lying there on the marble floor must have a family, someone who is going to miss them. And since nobody else has arrived yet, I will have to do him justice on my own.

    You can do this, Margaret.

    I stare at the drop of blood again. It looks fresh. Although what do I know, I am not a detective. I wish James was here. He would know what to do. He always knows what to do.

    I look at my watch again. It is ten past ten and I can hear an alarm, resonating in the distance. The police.

    I sigh in relief, I am not alone. And at this very moment, Jeanette walks in, followed by Xavier and Olivia. They freeze at the sight of me, alone in a room with a dead body at my feet.

    I know what they are thinking. I can read it in their wide open eyes. Jeanette speaks first. She doesn’t accuse me, but I can sense it in her trembling voice, she is afraid of me. Of the tangible proof that she has, standing there, right before her eyes.

    I should say something. Defend myself. Laugh it off; assure them I had nothing to do with this. But before I can find the strength to open my mouth, two officers walk in.

    • Scarlet Ferya Ma

      I like the inner monologue of this, how she has to tell herself to move forward intermittently. I did think though that you used a lot of cliches – heels clicking on marble, retching but nothing comes out, vulture circling its prey etc. I really like the ending though, where it seems like it’s her who did it.

  • Patrick Mcgill

    I’ve always thought of myself as cautious. I check the backseat of my car before I get in on the odd chance that someone is waiting with a garrote. Like hell I’m gonna be the guy in the movie, everyone screams at to not go in the dark basement. Here I am, getting angry about horror movies when one is unfolding a room away. I’ve been told I overthink things, and I’m inclined to believe it. I build scenarios based on hypothetical scenarios and the layers pile up. The dead man on the floor wrote the best mystery novel I’d ever read. Each time I read it, I found more of the story he left for us. Surely the dead man overthought things more than I did. From the quick glimpse I caught between the passing uniforms, it looked like the man had been shot in the head. The music at the party was a soft jazz, but if the killer had an appetite for improvisation their handiwork didn’t show it.

    • Scarlet Ferya Ma

      I like how this piece is about the darkness in the guy’s own head, that’s a really interesting take on it. Very enjoyable, leaves me wanting more.

  • Scarlet Ferya Ma

    Hemingway lying dead in the next room? I know exactly who’s responsible.

    I look at this group of his friends. The permanent liar. The attention-absorbing socialite. The insecure enchantress who made him believe
    he could be hers, but never actually gave herself. The clown, the bore, the addict, the
    neurotic; self-obsessed monsters every one of them.

    He was in that room, he was sitting with his back to the
    door. He couldn’t really know about the darkness
    that was about to creep up upon him and snatch away his soul. He couldn’t possibly know that someone who
    was closest to him could ever have brought his ending upon him.

    In his last moments, as he took a glass of brandy in the
    study, I imagine him thinking about what a time he was having out here in the
    country for the weekend. The fine food,
    the fresh air, the exquisite architecture… the bickering, the boasting, the
    brawling, the baiting, the bullshit.

    I imagine him sighing – relief or resignation? – I’ll never
    know. I imagine him sinking into that
    chair and lighting his last cigarette.
    Swirling the brandy around in the glass, mesmerised by its sloshing and
    thinking about how desperately sad it made him to be here with all of the
    people he loved most, but knowing that they were poisonous. To him, and to everyone.

    He would have thought about going back to the city, how he
    would be surrounded by more people and yet be more alone, the weight of the
    loneliness amplified with each parasitic acquaintance draining his being.

    And then he stubbed out his cigarette. He took back his brandy. And he did it. He did it to himself.

    So yes, I know who’s responsible. Each and every person that he knew.

  • rellik4life .

    “What kind of monster would do such a thing?” I yelled as I slammed my fist on the table. The impact spilled the black wine on the milk colored table cloth. “To think that a sweet man like that was just taken like yesterday garbage. He had a family for god sakes!”

    “I get that your angry, but there is no need to make all that noise.” Richard said.
    Richard was fat pompous yuppie from the lower east side of Manhattan. He had been rubbing me the wrong way all night. He’s just been bragging about himself and stuffing his face for the past two hours.

    “Nice of you to sure your concern for the dearly departed, RICHARD!Don’t you feel even a little bad?”

    “I guess, but that doesn’t mean I want to hear your mouth while I’m trying to make sense of things you moron!”Richard was spitting pieces of turkey

    “Come over here and say that! I bet I’ll shove that drum stick down your throat! I stood up and my hands were ball up into fists.

    “Boys please relax! this isn’t the time to fight amongst ourselves, We just lost one of the greatest writers of our time” Stacy Ann butted in

    “Your right Stacy I apologize”

    “Shut up all of you just shut up!” Max said, as he paced the floor a few times. Max was stressed out, he was a struggling writer who thought that meeting the great Charlie Gordon would be solution to all his problems. Now that Charlie was being hauled off in a body bag, Max felt like his dream of being published would never come true. ” I need a smoke, you guys mind if I smoke?” Max looked like he was going to have stroke. His face was flushed and he was sweating profusely.

    “Max you alright man? You a little shaken up”

    We all looked at Max
    “Yes, I am fine, I just need a drink and a smoke You guys don’t mind do you?”

    ” No its fine, just open up a window .” Stacy Ann responded
    The police wanted us to stay in here for at least another thirty minutes. I tried to look around to see if I could figure out who Charlie Gordon’s killer was. The drawing room had about 23 people including myself but, as I looked a the faces all the possible suspects, I couldn’t imagine any of these upscale New York Socialites brutally murdering a middle aged author. I did wonder way the hell Max was such a nervous wreck. Was it his shattered dream of being the next great novelist or was it the guilty conscious of murderer.

  • Annie

    I wanted to hurl, vomit, regurgitate, the poor man was dead and oozing damp goo from his frontal lobe. I turned away and grabbed someones bourbon and emptied it.

    “Oh my GOd!” my burning vocal chords protested but I kept them inside with a small gasp for air as the liquid fell to my stomach. Why on earth do people do that in movies? But I digress, there was still goop on the carpet. I glanced around trying to be inconspicuous which was futile given that everyone was staring at me as I hacked and sputtered. No one else seemed particularly offended by the dead guy in the corner. I pointed toward a wall, “Should we call someone? Perhaps the police?”

    “That would be me, ma’am,” a burly young man intoned.

    “Right,so where are the other folks who flock around when bodies appear?”

    “They are on their way, I was nearby when the shots rang out, I in fact called 911 and then locked you all in here with Mr. Clancy. ”

    “Did you check for a pulse?’

    “Kinda hard as you were laying over him.”

    “I was not! Was I?”

    Some strangers nodded.
    Strangers? Didn’t I know these people? Hadn’t we been chatting, having cocktails as the lights went out?

    “Oh, I get it, this is one of those murder dinner mystery things. The lights went out, I faint or something and wake up, and you all think I did it. Well its not funny!”

    “Nobody said murder is funny ma’am.”

    “Well ,I want my money back and I want to go home!”

    “Not possible ma’am.”

    “Stop with the ma’am stuff. Look I’ll just say I did it and we can all go home. I don’t like this anymore.” The closeness of the party-goers and the smell of the curried eggplant souffle was getting to me, hurling was again becoming one option.

    “You did it? You murdered Mr. Clancy?” some dim bulb in a purple tutu gasped.

    “No, I didn’t do it. This is a play but I don’t want to play anymore. I am done. ” I walked over to the supposed corpse of the supposed Mr. Clancy of mega book writing fame.

    “Get up! Now!” I kicked him a couple of times. More ooze slurp across the toe of my satin shoe. “This make up had better come out!” I whirled to face the other folks. Glasses fell to the carpet, mouths were agape.

    “Oh, crap! He really is dead?”

    “Yes, ma’am.” Burly guy had only one speed it seemed.

    My knees buckled and once again, it seems I collapsed across the body of Mr. John Clancy.

  • grantburkhardt

    I did it. I killed that man exactly…64 minutes ago. And now everyone who was invited to the party is here in the lounge where I killed Shermer, and they’re doing exactly as I hoped they would do – they’re moving around talking to each other, touching everything.

    You see, in Shermer’s big mansion, there are soft spots where one can achieve a great level of privacy. The quiet can last long enough to have a long, deep conversation with another well-dressed invitee. The party, crowded but isolated in the ballroom to the east, allowed for an extra layer of intimacy away from the staff, and that last sheet of invisibility was the one I used to do what I had been invited here to do. The death was quiet, too, a subtle drift into unconsciousness. He wasn’t heavy.

    Now look at them, all the pampered faces of the wealth in the room, all whispering about the same thing as if straining farther forward into the path of the words being spoken would help them crack the case. And don’t be childish…that’s what they’re all trying to do here. I haven’t seen one look of pure shock, of real sadness, for the man whose eyes are open but shut in the room down the hall. No. No no no no no no no. They’re all trying to figure out who the killer is, the beautiful creatures.

    I’ve learned that not all people with money are the same, but those who are rich are homogenous. Far too narcissistic to really know anyone here besides themselves, they haven’t a clue who’s the stranger in the room. I’m playing the part, too. I’m skilled at the most crucial act, sure, but I’m even better in deception.

    “I saw him leave his wife on the dance floor not 10 minutes before that woman shrieked from up here,” said this woman. She was turned toward me, and her hands were gripping the arm of the couch.

    “Who, him?”

    “Yes him. And if you ask me he’s a bit too enthusiastic about this dreadful quarantine they’ve got us in.”

    “He seemed friendly enough to me when I talked to him near the band. He offered me a cigarette.”

    “No, darling. He’s an awful man, just an awful man. I’d bet my life he did it.”

    “You know, maybe you’re right. His eyes were a little too lively before. More full than the rest of ours.”

    “Yes, that’s what I’m saying, darling. He was up to something all night.”

    The idiots are all having the same conversation, all over this room, on the carpet and near the fireplace and on all the seats.

    By now, I’d guess the detective has scanned the window of the drawing room and the snow-covered ground below, finding no footprints on any part of the lawn. That rules out some theories, but not enough. What if the killer walked out the front door and drove away in plain sight?

    Exactly. He can’t rule out an outside job, and he probably thinks none of these fancy folks are smart enough to kill a man. He would, normally, be correct. He needs to interview each of us individually. Everyone will offer their unwanted opinions of what happened to Shermer, and they’ll all say how saaaad it is that it happened at his own party in his own house, as if that matters.

    For my part in the charade, I’ll put on my best shocked, inquisitive face:

    Was he killed? Goodness, what a shame, a terrible shame…well, what do you know so far, officer?…

    Oh, sorry, my name is Frank, sir, Francis Clark Dermont. I was a great admirer of Mr. Shermer’s work, the poor man…

    During the party? I was having too much fun meeting all these lovely guests to keep my eyes on the rest, but I did see him dancing merrily and entertaining his guests after dinner…

    Please, if I can help at all, let me know.

    It won’t be his fault, of course, that he can’t find any evidence of Shermer’s death in the drawing room or in any other room. These people will have mucked it all up and offered all their biases by the time he’s stopped the detention and sent them all home.

    I will exit with them when he does. I will walk out the front door unnoticed and into the backseat of my employer’s sedan, where we will drive away a more wealthy pair than the rest.

  • hmarieb9

    The past four weeks, it’s been sunny and warm on Wednesday afternoons. But today, the sky was fully of heavy dark clouds. I expected it to rain momentarily. Still, I left the
    umbrella in the car and walked up the driveway already full of vehicles. Usually I was one of the first to arrive, but today was different. When the sun is gone, so is my cheery mood. The fact that I had not written anything inspiring played a part in my reluctant demeanor. Still, free feedback is free feedback. So I walked up to the front door and walked in. As this was our writing group meeting day, Mrs. White didn’t require us to be announced as we arrived. A very wealthy woman, Mrs. White was
    generous to allow us to meet in her solarium. Today, however, its darkness depressed me.
    I walked into the sun room and found an empty chair by the window. A seat off by itself was perfect. I could listen in but not actually be there, if you know what I mean. I glanced at the other members of the group and suddenly tuned in to the mood. It
    was downright morbid. Melanie, one of the members, came over to me worriedly.

    “Did you hear? Didyou hear about the . . . ?”

    “About the what?” I replied, jumping up to attention.

    Melanie seemed nauseous. “Mrs. White has been murdered!” she whispered.

    “Oh no! What happened?”

    “We’re waiting for the detective to return. He told us to wait here, and he’d be with us
    as soon as he could.”

    “Well, what do people know? Do we know anything?” I nervously bit my bottom lip.

    “It seemed to have just happened right before you came. A group of us were here, waiting for everyone else to show up. Richard, Bonnie, Deidre, Paul, and Mark had all arrived. Martha had gone to look for Mrs. White. It was her who found the dead body.
    Poor Martha!” Melanie collapsed into my vacant chair.

    “But that means. . . Could it mean that someone in the group murdered her?” I felt frozen inside from the shock.

    “I was thinking that too,” Melanie whispered again.

    Just then, a short, balding man in a wrinkled suit that could only have been the detective walked into the room. We seven gathered around him. Martha, I assumed, was around somewhere private being consoled and questioned.

    “Yes, I am Detective Stevens. I wanted to assure you all that the mansion has been thoroughly searched, and it appears you are the only ones here. I can’t share too many details except to tell you that Mrs. White is indeed dead, and we will be questioning each one of you. So please, be seated. We will be with you shortly.”

    I glanced around at all the faces in the room, and the writer in me immediately began categorizing their expressions. Frightened, shocked, ill, incredulous, horrified. . . but wait! One face was out of place. One face looked down and appeared to be avoiding us all. I couldn’t see that person’s expression, but it was a curious reaction when compared with everyone else. I wonder. . . what if?

    • Claire

      I enjoyed reading this. The pace was good and I felt like I was sitting with you while you told me about what had happened as your style is conversational. As such, I found the ‘if you know what I mean’ unnecessary for my taste. I was already with you. Keep writing

  • Claire

    25 minutes. Unedited.
    I sat there in my borrowedcocktail dress in the corner of the room, my buttocks and hamstrings tense against the unyielding, highly polished formal chair next to the dark antique mahogany table where the canapés now curled at their corners. Pulling my wrap tighter around my shoulders against the chill that now pervaded the room, despite the clement weather that evening, I let my eyes sweep around the others waiting there to be questioned by the only man in the room not in black tie.

    I hadn’t wanted to join the party for Rufus Bayton, to celebrate the launch of his new novel. I didn’t know him, and would never get to know him either given that he was now dead, apparently lying murdered just the other side of the thick wall. I was the victim of circumstance. I had agreed to join Marcus, a long time work colleague, and some of his other buyer cronies to act as his shield against embarrassing questions about his lack of a girlfriend. Sex wasn’t on the agenda, well OK maybe, but certainly there was to be no staying over and I had planned to be back alone in my cosy flat, pyjamas donned, make up removed and teeth cleaned by midnight at the latest. Now it was five minutes past and I was going nowhere fast. The balls of my feet hurt from the ridiculously high heels I pulled out for special occasions and always swore never to wear again. I had sobered up fast.

    Marcus was sitting talking to the detective on the large chesterfield that dominated the huge bay window. The dimness of the Tiffany style floor lamp to the side of them meant that even as I caught him glance across at me, I couldn’t read his face. He seemed unusually animated but we had all had quite a shock so it was no wonder really. We were all on edge and he had always been a quiet and private individual. I had been drawn to befriend him when he first joined the head office of the book retailer we worked at almost two years ago. It had made a refreshing change to be invited to talk about myself, my hopes and dreams, rather than listen over and over to the banal, self-important proclamations from the other office peacocks. He had romantic, faraway eyes that sucked me in but I knew he wasn’t looking for anything complicated.

    I scanned the others being kept there, wondering about them and feeling more than a little afraid that the killer was one of my fellow party goers. Was it the alcohol she had consumed causing the girl with the dark hair to flush or was she incredibly nervous about being caught out? The man standing with her was protesting loudly at being prevented from leaving. Did that mean something? There was a girl sitting alone on the other side of the room. What was her story? I was sitting alone too. Were they all wondering about me too?

    ‘Miss Wilson?’ I was startled from my thoughts. ‘I’ve finished talking with your boyfriend, if you could give me your statement next.’

    Boyfriend? l looked up at Marcus and he made a strange movement with his eyes while slightly nodding his head, imperceptible to the other man. Why would he continue with that silly cover story in view of what had happened? It didn’t seem right and I was finding the whole thing unnerving enough as it was.

    As I got to my feet I muttered ‘well not boyfriend exactly’ and turned with what was supposed to be a flippant laugh to smile at Marcus. But now as I looked into those unsmiling eyes, I saw a remoteness, a coldness that told me I should have played along.
    It struck me that he knew a lot about me, but that I in fact knew very little about him.

    • I’m determined

      she is soon to learn a lot more about him, it seems to me. and is it none that she wants to know?

      • Chris Mulé

        Thank you! Means a lot – to be honest, I just reread this bit for the first time in months… I think I may rewrite it, now that you’ve brought this script back into my life! 🙂

    • I’m determined

      The abrupt change with the remoteness, a coldness in his eyes that told her she should have played along is incredibly effective in sending alarm bells, and chills running down the spine. Inspired writing, a mood that stays with the reader after they’ve moved on. Well done.

  • Erin Viehmann Calvert

    When they found him, I knew who did it. I knew that she had
    finally killed the only man I truly loved, all out a spiteful vengeance and a desire
    to cut my heart to pieces. I was not even surprised, but I knew then that I
    would have my revenge. The detectives came to the room where we huddled
    together in a silent shock. John held his new wife, who was so new to the ways
    of this world she had just entered. Part of me pitied her, because she came
    from such an innocent charmed life, and seeing the innocence stolen from
    another being is always moving in a certain way. Callie paced in front of the
    fire, the light catching her sequined gown. She nibbled her fingers, a habit
    she only had when she was frightened. Marcus handed her his jacket. He was
    always trying to woo her. It made me ill. Nothing is quite so disgusting as a sycophant
    man trying to elevate himself by feigning love. What made it worse is that he
    actually believed his own broken, unrequited love story. What a sickening
    display it was to behold.

    I wrung my elbow length gloves in my hands until the fabric
    wrinkled. I waited patiently as the detectives viewed and photographed the
    room, and began to question the guests. But the perpetrator was not there. I
    knew how, and why, and I also know where, but I’d have been damned if some impotent
    police officer gets to claim victory by bringing her to justice. No, I knew
    then I wouldn’t tell them. I sat in a stony silence, and feigned shock when it
    was my turn to be questioned.

    “Mrs. Dunphreys, would anyone have wanted to hurt your son?”
    They asked me solemnly. I could see the pity in their eyes and it only fueled
    my anger. She had made a fool of me, someone to be pitied. No, I wouldn’t turn
    out to be the one they felt sorry for. I wouldn’t be victimized by a vengeful
    woman who took aim at my son in order to send me some message. She was the
    coward, the pitiful one, she was the fool.

    “No,” I answered. “My son, my Patrick was the kindest, most
    sensitive soul to walk upon God’s Earth.” I knew they wanted me to be full of
    grief, and they must have bought it. Because they left the room shaking their
    heads and muttering about the senselessness of this crime. They were wrong,
    though. This crime made perfect sense. I understood the message, but I would
    not be someone to cater to the will of fools. Soon enough, I would have the
    revenge I wanted. The message I would send them would shock the entire country.

    • I’m determined

      What happened next?

  • Prompt #3 A Night Of Murder
    By Kiki Stamatiou

    It was a night my friends and I were so excited about. We went shopping two days before the event to pick out the perfect outfits. On the evening in question, my friends and I went to a book signing for our favorite author. It was just any author, but Cyril Simpson. His book “A Night Of The Tempest Moon” was just released. I couldn’t wait to get my copy.

    Drinks and refreshments were served in the lounge to the fans while waiting for Cyril Simpson to arrive.

    I remember going over to the sushi bar. Putting a piece into my plate, I picked it up with my fingers, put it into my mouth, then spit it out into my napkin. I wasn’t used to eating raw fish. It wasn’t something I’d consider to be my favorite delicacy, let alone serve it at a gala even such as this.

    Suddenly, Louise, the hostess of the event ran into the lounge screaming. “He’s dead. Cyril Simpson has been murdered. Someone help. Call the police. Call the coroner.”

    The police arrived immediately. Dashing into the lounge area, they put the entire place on lock down, until the murder was solved.

    I thought to myself, you’ve gotta be kidding me. I can’t stay here all night. I have an early morning class to get to.

    I suspected the maitre d’ to have killed Cyril or perhaps Louise herself. She did come running out of the room where Cyril Simpson was found dead. I though it was a little too convenient.

    He was found dead at the back entrance of the building. The killer must have killed him as Cyril was entering the building.

    “How could this possibly happen? Why would someone do such a thing to a prominent man?” I asked while pulling out a tissue from my purse, dabbing the tears from my eyes.

    Cyril Simpson was my favorite author of all authors.

    “We won’t know anything until we get him back to the medical examiner’s office,” the officer responded while conducting interviews, “And you are?”

    “I’m Dominica Moore. I was standing here in the lounge with my friend and roommate, Sierra Thomas, and some of our other friends, Theresa Miller, her boyfriend Jerald, and our friend Sammy Larson, when we saw Louise, the hostess of the event, run into the lounge screaming about finding Cyril dead,” I responded while choking on my tears, and dabbing my eyes with my tissues, careful not to smear my makeup, as best I
    could.

    “No one is to leave this place, until we get statements from everyone,” he said.

    © Copyright, Kiki Stamatiou, 2015

  • KathShu

    The doors to the lounge slammed closed with a distinctive
    click. I raised my eyebrows at the habits of wealthy people: locking the French
    doors on us? An actual “lounge” and “drawing room”? I sank into an armchair
    with a sigh; better make myself comfortable, because there were a lot of
    skittish people and a lot of unknowns in this verbosely decorated house. I myself
    felt a little shaky after seeing a dead body for the first time; I hadn’t known
    the author but I wasn’t heartless, and I wondered what had caused his sudden
    death. Heart attack, perhaps? We’d have to wait here until the police finished
    their work of checking the body and scene.

    Being nearly a nobody in the midst of this crowd of noted socialites,
    I was able to avoid the spotlight and merely observe as the scene unfurled and personalities
    emerged without their carefully polished sparkle. Mrs. Bunting, an older white widow
    to a successful investment banker and philanthropist, was wiping sweating hands
    on her shawl, nervously stuttering about blood and fluids and “I had no idea.”
    Of course she felt responsible, as the hostess, for the shock everyone felt at
    the scene in the drawing room.

    Alan Leeks, famously tall, blond, and handsome, was
    comforting every woman in the room in turn, caressing their backs with
    over-involved hugs. Did the man have no shame, or had his sky-rocketing career
    on the stage genuinely convinced him he was the man of every woman’s dreams? My
    own friend Terry, a fellow painter in the growing community of black artists,
    appeared to be confused. He made a circuit of glancing at the door, Mrs.
    Bunting, then me, over and over. I was about to signal to him to come over to
    my corner and talk, when my attention was seized by a guest with the most
    peculiar response of all.

    Tiny but strong Angel Martinez, an up-and-coming figure
    skater with a legitimate shot at making the Olympics next year, was sprawled on
    the floor weeping. Her cries in alternating Spanish and English began to rise
    above the general noise level in the room, and garnered an increasing number of
    astonished looks. I felt for the girl; she was the youngest in the room, only
    just old enough to be considered an adult, and the pressure of success never
    left her. To come alone to a high-brow party where everyone was covertly scrutinizing
    her and then stumble upon a dead body—she was clearly unwinding.

    I motioned for Terry to come help me, and together we
    soothingly half-carried her to my armchair in the corner.

    “Honey, it’s gonna be ok,” I whispered while rubbing her
    back. She reminded me of my own beloved daughter, and the sudden memory spilled
    grief into my throat like acid. “Did you know him or something?”

    Amid hiccups and half-strangled sobs, Angel managed to moan,
    “No… I just… I heard him mention something earlier… about being worried that…
    someone was determined this time.”

    “Determined? Determined about what? Where did you hear all
    this?” I asked with concern.

    “We arrived here at the same time… while we waited for the
    butler to open the door… he answered a phone call. He moved away, closer to the
    gazebo… but I still heard some snatches… of the conversation. Something about ‘no
    more secrets’ and ‘you wouldn’t dare’. I thought it sounded odd, but… this isn’t
    a movie, you know? Things like this don’t happen!” With that she hunched over
    in the chair and resumed her sobbing.

    I turned to Terry, at a loss for words and unsure how to
    proceed. His wide eyes said more than
    words ever could: nothing like this had happened in our wildest imagination.
    Angel was right. We weren’t in a movie! Murder? Was it possible?

    (I changed up the prompt a little bit because my story just decided to go that way. Instead of knowing the author was murdered, the guests
    only know that he is dead, from an unknown cause.

    Also, I used more than 15 minutes to write the whole thing,
    because I got really into it and lost track of time! Sorry! I think I wrote the
    first 3 paragraphs in about 15 minutes. My husband and I just challenged one
    another to write a short story a week and help critique one another, and this
    was so fun I think I’ll expand it into this week’s story!)

  • We have been here for hours, and still the detective continues to question us individually, not once but two to three times. The detective’s people come and go collecting their evidence. The body is still in the room with us, they are prepping the body to be taken away. We are kept at one end of the room not allowed to go anywhere. At least they let us use the bathroom as long as one of the policeman accompanies us. Everyone is either standing or sitting considering at this end of the room there are not many places to sit. You can hear the whispering, sometimes a raised voice here and there. It is obvious that everyone is speculating as to why Mr. Medina was dead. At first it was thought that he had maybe had a heart attack. That was quickly ruled out by the pool of blood that seeped from under his body. Many of us will never forget Mr. Medina’s blank stare as someone called 911.
    It seemed that time stood still from that moment on until the police arrived. I wondered why he never cried out until I overheard that he was stabbed in a place I can not pronounce. There was no time for him to react, just collapse where he stood. I was not that close, across the room. I heard gasps and several call out to call 911. A woman screamed and that is when I sighted the blood, somehow a gap in the group surrounding him opened up just at that moment. I stood there shocked, not believing what I saw. It was like one of those movies you see on a Saturday afternoon.
    It felt like minutes had only passed when the first officers arrived followed by the firemen. You could hear the sirens growing louder as they approached and then instantly changing to the flashing lights. Officers herded us towards the other end of the room, reminding everyone to stay put and not leave.
    Later I realized that it had been longer than a few minutes before the police and fireman arrived. The detective soon followed and that is when the questioning began. One by one the detective requested our presence in another room to answer the usual questions. Where I was asked. Where was I in relation to where the body was? How did I know Mr. Medina? Who did I arrive with? What time? Did I speak to the deceased? How many times? How Long? What did we talk about? Endless questions repeated not twice but over and over.
    As I waited, I looked around the room wondering who could of done this and why. There were several possibilities. His agent who I overheard was not getting him the exposure for his new book that Mr. Medina felt it deserved. There was his girlfriend that seemed to avoid him at the party and flirted with several of the guests. She seemed angry at him which I witnessed the two of them exchange just a few words. His girlfriend looked more angry than Mr. Medina did considering the obvious flirting she did in front of him. Then there was the man I do not know who kept sending scowling looks at Mr. Medina as he had circulated the room. There was a well dressed woman who looked familiar but I can not place how I know her, she had raised her voice several times while conversing with Mr. Medina. At times I had thought she .was just loud, now I wondered if it was out of anger.
    A weapon has not been found and non of the police have said anything. At least not within our hearing. I know I am not the only one speculating on who could have possibly committed murder tonight. I reflect over my own conversations and how it appeared to anyone observing my conversation with Mr. Medina, brief that it was. As I was just a guest of a friend, I had jumped at my friend’s invitation because I admired Mr. Medina’s writings and have read all of his books including his newest one. Now the longer we remain, I am now wishing I was at home reading Mr. Medina’s book. Witnessing his murder and its investigation is not as exciting as you might think. I am tired and hungry.

  • kwjordy

    Of course it was raining; what kind of murder mystery would this be if it weren’t? My old Ford Fairlane dodged left and right, trying to avoid the potholes whose depths I would not know until I hit one, so I tried not to hit one. It was already hard enough to see in front of me through the broken windshield without the heavy rain clouding my vision even more. I didn’t even try to look behind me; I was used to the missing rearview mirror.

    The gate of Mrs. White’s Tudor mansion was already open when I approached, but then closed behind me when I cleared it. The claxon sound of the two metal gates closing on each other was right out of Hitchcock, and I laughed at myself for feeling off balance. This was only a writer’s group meeting, I reminded myself. But whenever it was Mrs. White’s turn to host, unusual things happened. One night a dead cat lay at Mrs. White’s double doors, the beautiful mahogany stained with the cat’s blood. Turns out one of the hounds had got hold of the poor creature and slung it at the door.

    On another night one of the group members, Melissa, choked on one of Mrs. White’s shrimps. Every person there that night said they knew the Heimlich and attempted to help, but it was Mr. White that jumped in first and helped Melissa expel the offending shrimp. But tonight was truly going to be murder.

    Joan, a woman of about 70 with blonde hair that was obviously out of a bottle, read her piece, first. It was long and personal, a lament about how she had neglected her children when they were growing up, and how it made them strong adults (One of her children became a famous movie star, for a while. I guess that made Joan feel better about the neglect.)

    After Barbara read the first chapter of her romance novel (why are writer’s groups always heavy on the female side?), we broke for cake and coffee – Mrs. White swore off serving canapés after that one, unfortunate incident I alluded to earlier. The cake was one of those fantastic lopsided, upside down creations so popular these days. It was made and brought by Terri, who apparently wrote and baked fancy cakes. I hate people with more than one skill.

    Settling back in our seats to hear from our next presenter, Mrs. White called on Caroline. Caroline was a large woman, widowed, and an endless talker. If someone hadn’t killed her, I might have, myself. (Yes, I know that’s redundant, but I’m trying to find my voice, here.)

    “Where’s Caroline?”, Mrs. White asked.

    “I think she went to the bathroom,” piped up Peter. Besides being the only other man in the group, Peter was an observer. I know, as writers we all should be, but Peter tracked everything and everyone. It was Peter who discovered how the cat died. And he got a great story out of it, as well. That really pissed me off.

    Just as Mrs. White was about to choose another presenter, a loud, long scream pierced our ears. Mrs. White turned white, I’m sorry to say, and we all ran to the bathroom.

    There was Caroline, apparently standing over Mr. White, his body draped over the open window’s sill.

    I grabbed Mrs. White to keep her from entering the bathroom, but I lost my grip and she went barreling into the room.

    Back in the living room Mrs. White was surrounded by the group, some holding her hands, others offering her a tissue as she continued to wail. She cried and wondered aloud how she was going to go on without her “little Whitey”.

    When the police arrived, we were certain we would all be there all night. But Peter ensured us we would be home and in bed by midnight.

    “Officer, if I might. I’ve been observing everyone here tonight and there can be only one murderer.”

    Peter turned to Mrs. White. “Mrs. White, your husband has a twin, is that not correct?”

    “Yes, he does”, she answered. “But how could you know that?”

    “Every month when we arrive at your house, Mr. White greets us at the door. He always stands to the right of the door to open it because he is left-handed, is that not correct?” God this guy was irritating. He sounded like a sleuth from, well, “Sleuth”. So smug. I also hate people who are always right. Not just the ones who think they are always right, but especially the ones who are always right.

    “Why, yes, he is”, answered Mrs. White.

    “The man lying in that bathroom is right handed. I could tell because his car keys are in his right pants pocket. That means that your husband, Ben White, murdered his twin brother, Bob White who was recently widowed and inherited his wife’s huge estate.”

    The police soon confirmed the hypothesis, including Peter’s presumption that Ben White had invited his brother to the house to talk business and lured him to the bathroom and the open window in an attempt to make it look as if an intruder had murdered Mr. White; Mrs. White abruptly fainted.

    Peter was right and I hated him even more. He was going to get a best-seller out of this!

    Bastard.

  • Chris Mulé

    Mrs. White’s Tudor mansion is so extravagant. The behemoth of a building gets the writer in me bewildered. Top that with the two cups of coffee I’ve had over the last two hours…. Well, needless to say, I’m a ball of energy. “Christopher, you’ve made it. Good. Joan and Terry are in the living room.”

    “Sean and Jacob here yet?” Damn this house, without it I don’t think I would’ve ever joined this group of has-been writers. The intricacies of the place, it just arouses me. Take White for example, a copycat artist at it’s finest… every word that she inks to a piece of paper is another sword to my stomach.

    “Haven’t seen Jacob yet. Sean arrived about forty minutes ago, give or take.” She paused. Damn, even the furniture. My eyes always sent me elsewhere as her jaws moved up and down. Everything is so fine and ornate. Original pieces, timeless fashions, and none of that convenience store bullshit you see in homes these days. “Went to bathroom, hasn’t shown face since. Better not have gone to the master bathroom.”

    So I may have told a little, white lie. These meetings give me a chance to make conversation with Joan… God, is she gorgeous. She’s almost as irresistible as the house, if not for the ridiculous mystery stories she insists on writing. The stubborn beauty doesn’t realize that nobody reads that shit anymore. People want fantasy. People want sci-fi and all the nooks and crannies that make television so damn exciting. Stories like hers just don’t do it anymore. “How’ve you been?” I said, nervously.

    She blushed. “Good and you?” For me, she blushed! Her eyes even curled up as she said it and her cheeks took shape. “Yeah, yeah. Great. How’s the mystery coming along?”

    “On the third rough draft now. Still struggling with some major plot holes. The protagonist just has too many moments where his decision-making is due to random events. Doesn’t sit well, you know?”

    “Sure, makes perfect sense…” Man, oh man. I’d say just about anything to rail her. “But I mean, a story as complex as this one must obviously take time to develop. I loved the draft you showed me. Willie is gritty, awe-inspiring and…”

    “Pardon my interruption.” Mrs. White looks nervous; cringe-worthy, even. Damn it, White. This better be important, you cock block. “It seems that I’ve found Jacob.” She pauses too much. The lady looks like she’s about to faint. “He’s dead.”

    The police were questioning the lot of us. Officer Cary is giving me an unwary look. It’s killing me. Got to look on the bright side, I suppose…. I’m not dead.

    Jacob was murdered in the kitchen. I feel like I’m playing Clue right now… It was Mustard in the kitchen with a knife! Okay, maybe not Mustard…. fricking board games. He was stabbed twice, though and it did happen in the kitchen.

    Sean conveniently showed up fifteen minutes after the cops arrived. He’s being questioned the most, no shocker there. God, Joan is probably eating this up. Her story could end up being a documentary, for fuck sake. “What’re you thinking Terry?”

    “Thinking? I’m thinking about when the hell I can get out of here and get back to my kids.” Terry wasn’t the type to get nervous. She showed some ferocity in her voice, in person and on paper. “These cops are pissing me off. I have a timeline. I was sitting in this freaking room the whole time. Someone else was in the living room from the moment I got here.”

    “Yeah, I know you didn’t do it. Relax.”

    All I really know is that I better find a way to get rid of the god damn knife in my back pocket. I wiped it clean, but I wasn’t expecting the cops so soon. I love you, Joan.

    • I’m determined

      Yes, of course he knew that Terry wasn’t the murderer, and she would have appreciated his confidence. Until, of course, the truth came out!
      Very well thought out. Congratulations Chris.

      • Chris Mulé

        Thanks! A congrats for what, exactly? 🙂

  • Pingback: Have You Found Your Writing Voice? - Frederick Patterson()

  • Trinity

    Some sit, some stand and others, like me, pace. The anxiety in the room is so palpable that you can almost taste it. My nails are long gone by now, I’ve bitten them all away. No one knows who did it, so best friends have been turned into enemies as the initial shock turned into distrust. No one will trust anyone else. Anyone in here could have killed him, it had to be one of us. The police are searching for evidence and pulling people in one by one to be interviewed. The women who came back in around ten minutes ago was sniffling and sobbing, but no one went to comfort her, not even her own daughter. After all, why trust her, when her ex-lover was just murdered. It was public information that he cheated on her, so there’s the motivation. His mistress was also in the room, seemingly emotionless. No one goes to comfort her either. The silence in this room is deafening.

  • I’m determined

    Curious technique. Would like to read more.

  • I’m determined

    Sorry, clicked on wrong piece and couldn’t get out of it.

  • Tahira Bruce

    Ok so I am new to this and maybe this post is way too old for me to comment but here is what I wrote in fifteen minutes.

    I glanced at my watch for the third time in two minutes. Not surprisingly the minute hand was still stuck on one. I let out a sigh and looked around the room catching Sara’s eye. She raised one perfectly arched eyebrow at me as if to say “What Now?” I shrugged in response, ‘What Now?’ indeed, what did one do in the aftermath of a murder, when the victim was one of the most prominent novelists to have ever graced the literary world and the villain was an invited guest holed up in the same room you were. I shuffled from one foot to the other, a bead of sweat trickling down my neck. The air was humid and heavy tainted with silent apprehension and accusatory stares.

    My eyes made four with Sara again and she gave a slight head nod to her left drawing my attention to the slumped figure in the corner of the room. Marshall lay half propped on the baluster, an empty glass of what once contained scotch dangling from his fingertips. He had definitely been hammered when he arrived. The blood shot eyes and uneven sway all drunkenly persons carried while they tried to walk in a straight line was a strong indicator to all of us present. Plus who could forget the argument that ensued, insults hurled back and forth between Forster and himself. The smashing of delicate cutlery, Yep he did it alright. It was only a matter of time before the police currently casing the place out marched in and placed him in handcuffs dragging him out red faced and guilty as ever!