How to Write the Perfect First Page: Part II

by Monica M. Clark | 82 comments

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Recently I attended a workshop called “American Author” inspired by American Idol. People anonymously submitted the first pages of their novels, which were read aloud to a panel of editors and agents.  The panel then provided their immediate, brutally honest feedback for all to hear.

Given my past post on how to write the perfect first page, I thought it was important to add to it by sharing what I learned from hearing the perspective of people who have read hundreds, if not thousands, of first pages.

Warning: tips are easier said than done.


Photo by Guudmorning! (Creative Commons)

The First Page Really Does Matter

The first thing I learned was that the rumors are true–the first page really does matter.  I found this a bit unnerving—but it makes sense.  I think one of the panelists said she gets an average of 600 unsolicited manuscripts a week?!  If that’s the case, then some works are going to receive a snap judgment whether we think it’s fair or not.

After the workshop ended, I asked two of the panelists if they really would stop reading if they weren’t wooed by the first page.   One said she would give it a few more pages.  The other said she wouldn’t.  The takeaway—workshop that baby before sending it out!

The First Page Needs Action

Some of us want to start our novels describing our character’s features or the weather.  The agents and editors want us to begin with action.  Something needs to happen or to be happening when we were first meet a character.  Setting and introspection unfortunately is not enough.

Avoid Complaining

Apparently complaining about your horrible day or your horrible life does not qualify as action.  Or if it does, it’s not compelling.  The first time the panel said this, I made a note.  The fifth time a first page consisted of a series of complaints, I started to feel their pain.

I think it’s easy to start a manuscript with a bunch of complaints because obviously something major must have occurred to trigger the story.  But having your protagonist complain about all of the resulting trials and tribulations right off the bat is just another way of telling instead of showing. It may not be fatal, but it’s also not likely to impress.

There was a one first page submission that the panel liked.  In it, a woman was being interviewed in jail to determine whether her sentence should be shortened for good behavior.  The woman had plenty to complain about, but rather than simply tell the reader “Cindy is in jail and it sucks,” the author drew a scene for us to experience.  She gave us something to watch.  Try doing that instead.

Avoid Clichés

Is it cliché to tell you to avoid clichés?

Clichés include:

  • Starting the novel with a declaration (e.g., “Damnit!”).
  • Describing the breeze in the second paragraph.
  • A character stomping around the world slamming doors because someone screwed her over.

Those are the ones I remember the panel pointing out.  Don’t feel bad, I described a breeze in my manuscript too.  Just know that your prospective agent has seen that a million times already.

Try Not to Overwrite

Of all the comments, I think the panel said this the most.  They criticized authors’ language for being too heady, flowery, and over-written.

I remember when I first workshopped the first three chapters of my novel, people said the language mostly flowed—except for the first few pages.  The phrase they used was “too writerly,” but it’s basically the same thing.  I was in my head when writing those initial words, and it showed—in a bad way.

Because of all the pressure I put on you to write the perfect first page, you too may be tempted to over focus on language to the detriment of your story.  All I can say is don’t.  Just tell your story.


We’ve done this before, let’s do it again!  A first page is only 250-300 words.  Take fifteen minutes to write the first page of a story—share with us below!

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Monica is a lawyer trying to knock out her first novel. She lives in D.C. but is still a New Yorker. You can follow her on her blog or on Twitter (@monicamclark).


  1. Dawn Atkin

    With my current WIP (first draft completed), I can’t decide whether to offer the first couple of pages as a prologue or to include them as the First Chapter. My reason for this is these pages begin with a bunch of school friends planning a trip but the novel is really about how that trip impacted their life choices for the next 10 years.

    So… My question is “What do I offer as the first pages of my novel?”

    Any suggestions you wonderful Write Practice community?

    Ok off to do my practise now.

    • themagicviolinist

      The book I’m querying has a prologue, and that’s always been the first chapter I’ve queried. If you think the reader is going to be confused by the first chapter without the prologue, you should start with the prologue. But if you think you can offer the first chapter without any confusion, go with that (and chances are, if that’s the case, you don’t need the prologue at all).

    • Joe Bunting

      Hey Dawn! I’d say just make it the first chapter. Some agents/editors HATE prologues, and while others think they’re fine, unless it’s necessary for the plot, I’d avoid it.

    • Dawn Atkin

      Thanks Joe.
      I’ll take the plunge and include them as a chapter.

  2. High Wire Girl

    I believe in my heart that I was destined to become a drug-addicted alcoholic. It isn’t necessary that I recognize whether I was genetically predisposed or biologically vulnerable to this condition. I just wonder if my environment had anything to do with it. Probably.

    On the day I was born, I was one of many infants in the nursery, I’m sure. If the doctor had suggested to my mother, “This one’s gonna be a junkie. You still want her?” Big Mare would not have hesitated. “I don’t care. Give me my baby.” I would have said the same thing. Children are loved before they are known to anyone. My folks bought diapers and formula, and they took me home from the hospital. Aunts and uncles came over to admire me, and everyone went up to the roof to drink Rheingolds.

    My sister, Judy and I were raised on the jagged edges of my parents’ rocky relationship. I wish I could say that I carefully watched the way my father behaved, but he wasn’t around enough for me to do much evaluating. Gene Dall worked, and us girls were Big Mare’s responsibility.

    Every six to ten days, however, Dad got so blind drunk that he couldn’t find his way home from wherever he was. The telephone rang, and Mom would try to establish his whereabouts based on his hazy descriptions of buildings and cross streets. She didn’t drive, but she’d do her best to secure him a ride. Some nights, there were no phone calls at all. Eventually, he’d just bounce down the subway stairs and wobble toward the house.

    Big Mare fed and showered my father and put him into bed. She stationed us kids at the bottom of the landing, in case he wandered toward the bathroom and fell down the stairs. If we heard the floorboards creak, we’d call to her and she’d fly up the steps. Judy and I took turns; she read books, and I drew pictures. We listened carefully for the snoring to start. Then, we could go back to watching TV. My mother spent the rest of the night calling back everyone she’d contacted earlier in the evening, wondering if they’d seen him. “The bastard’s home,” she’d say. “I’m disgusted.”

    During our household’s hangover period which could last anywhere between 12 and 36 hours, Dad went back to work and returned home for meals and sleep, as usual. Mom berated him mercilessly, to which he responded with stony silence. For several days after that, she pretended to ignore him which is a ridiculous approach to use on someone who prefers to not communicate. Eventually she just gave up and things returned to the way they were.

    It was clear that Big Mare was in charge. She was the one I watched and examined closely. I studied her reactions to the way my father carried himself. She was mad and frustrated and frightened and angry. I’m not sure if I mentioned how mad she was. She was very, very mad.

    As a little girl, I sought my mother’s approval constantly. I wished that I could make her happy. Nothing worked. She was so focused on my father, and he was her sorrow. She had decided that no matter what she did, he would never love her enough to change. This must have been a terrible disappointment. I’m certain that he had no idea what she was going through. She could not explain herself, and it wouldn’t have mattered to him anyway.

    For as long as I can recall, it seemed like a necessary component was missing in my life. I don’t know what that something was, but it created a black and cavernous hole, deep within me. I filled the emptiness with drugs and alcohol. Unfortunately, that was the only reliable idea I had, and it did make me feel better for a very long time.

    When I reflect on portions of my life, it feels like I have been two people. Of course, I realize there is only one Mary. I am She, and we are the same Her. I enjoy thinking about my experiences, even the rough stuff. It is true that the darkest side of human behavior is dangerously illuminating territory. Therefore, I celebrate my memories. It’s only because I am sober that I’m able to understand how purposeful each moment was in creating who I am. I’m okay with everything because I’m okay.

    Big Mare used to ask me, “Why do you go to these meetings and shoot your mouth off? You tell everybody your goddamn business. They don’t need to know who you were and what you did.” She wanted to forget, and I understood why.
    “Mom, I’ve gotta be honest,” I’d say to her. “I can’t pretend I’m not a junkie. I don’t ever want to go back to the way it was.”
    “Listen, I understand the drink, but not the drugs,” she’d boast. This blanket statement was meant to highlight her selective open-mindedness. We had plenty of heavy drinkers in our family, but none of them were alcoholics. They said so themselves, and they would know, right?

    I appreciate that I remember so many things, ugly things that suggest a different kind of life than the one I have. I love to talk about all the stuff I’m figuring out as I continue to evolve. I think it’s important to say what I feel. At times, the trick is trying to establish what it is that I’m actually feeling. I am not even marginally qualified to give advice, but I can share my experience, strength and hope. I enjoy listening when other folks explore their own emotional journeys. We have lots in common, and sharing is the key. It is possible to recover from childhood and choices and addiction and be returned gently to the world. It is not easy, but it can be done. Why wouldn’t I want to talk about that?

    “Someday, I’ll write a book,” I’d tell my mother. “And I’m gonna dedicate it to you.”
    “Do me a favor,” she’d offer. “Wait until after I’m dead, so I don’t die of embarrassment.”

    • themagicviolinist

      I like the way you ended it. 🙂 The last line makes me want to keep reading.

      I think you’re off to a good start with this. Your voice in this piece is very clear, and you definitely have plenty of material to work with. My only criticisms would be that you give a lot of information at once, which can overload the reader. Slow your pace a little, give yourself room to breathe. If you cram as much as you can into that first page, chances are your readers are going to forget half of it and end up being confused later on. Spread everything out a little bit, and you’ll be okay. 🙂

    • High Wire Girl

      I’m always anxious when I start to read something new. I tend to try and memorize the details, which is impossible. Thanks for the advice. It is solid.

    • Heather Marsten

      I agree with the magic violinist about too much backstory at first – might want to spread it out over many chapters. You have a great use of words – Love the line raised on the jagged edge … That says so much with few words.

    • High Wire Girl

      I appreciate your kind comments. I do work on letting things breathe. I try to remind myself that it’s not the last cheeseburger I’m ever gonna eat. 🙂

    • gianna serex

      Normally a lot of backstory is in fact overwhelming, but I thought it was great here. In this situation, she’s showing how she is where she is right now. I don’t know where the rest of the story is going, but at this point I’m glad to know that information. It flowed very nicely, and I loved the character’s voice. You have some excellent lines in here, too: “My sister, Judy and I were raised on the jagged edges of my parents’ rocky relationship.” “It’s only because I am sober that I’m able to understand how purposeful each moment was in creating who I am.”, etc. Really great work.

    • High Wire Girl

      Gosh, I really appreciate the feedback. When I started writing, the vague grasp of how many little episodes there are really hung me up. I just had to start somewhere. So I did. 🙂 I tried to include interesting feelings that keep repeating in my heart. Those are the bones of my story.

  3. AnnieP

    I want to post my “first page” here for comments, but I have a question first. I write best (I think) in first person. Is it true that most publishers stop reading more quickly if it’s first person? Some of my critiques have told me to rewrite it in 3rd person and it’s more likely to get picked up. True or false?

    • themagicviolinist

      I’ve never heard that before, but I suppose it’s possible. But if you think you write best in first person, write in first person. You need to do what’s best for you in your writing, not adapt to everyone else’s personal preferences.

    • Heather Marsten

      I’m writing in first person for my memoir. For a rough draft, get the story out in whatever “person” it is. You can adjust later if first person doesn’t work. What is hard with first person is making sure you don’t know more than you would know from observation. You can’t know what another person is thinking, but you can assume what they might be thinking based on facial expressions, actions, etc.

  4. Eli Smith

    First pages of young adult/new adult:

    Late May,
    Montoya, California

    Chapter One

    I wasn’t worried about the blood oozing down my leg, spilling out of the maxiest of maxi pads I got at the clinic. I wasn’t worried about Sean Patrick, my boyfriend of three years, and whether he would soon discover my treachery. I was worried about the red moleskin notebook that arrived in the mail from Celia.

    The card read: Sorry I couldn’t be there for you. I know you don’t have $ for a therapist so I thought this might help.

    I wasn’t exactly surprised my best friend thought I needed a shrink. She believed there was something wrong with me that I’d lied so thoroughly to Sean Patrick.

    She was right, of course. But I wasn’t sure I wanted to know what exactly.

    I drifted out my childhood bedroom, still littered with the Montoya High School crap from before I left for college nine months ago. Just nine months. In the bathroom, I searched for maxi pads even though I knew I wouldn’t

    find any. I didn’t use maxi pads. Neither did Mom. In addition to being partnerless, her fertility expired the year Dad left.

    I looked anyway. Ever do that?

    The only thing in the cupboard was Super! Chlorine-Free! tampons from before I went to college, which the nurse said I couldn’t use. Nothing in my V for two weeks. At least until I healed from the surgery.

    Sean Patrick was going to love that.

    They estimated the baby was thirteen weeks old when I ended the pregnancy. Terminated it. Aborted it.

    Killed it.

    It had fingers and toes and definitely a beating heart. I could have had the abortion before finals. But I couldn’t think about it while I was studying — studying my ass off, mind you — to transfer to Notre Dame so Sean Patrick and I could be together for our sophomore year.

    Would Sean Patrick even want me at Notre Dame if he knew: (a) I’d had an abortion which was against everything his Irish Catholic family believed; and (2) that it wasn’t even his?

    Wasn’t his.

    Not only did I have sex with someone else. Bad. But I was stupid enough to get pregnant. Stupid, stupid, stupid.

    I knew it took two to tango or twerk or whatever it was Brayden and I did. But during spring semester at Pearson College, my judgment was absent. Instead of going to Planned Parenthood before we had sex and getting, hello, at least some condoms, I went after. Not after sex once. Not after sex twice. But after months of good — okay, great — sex.

    When I found out Celia couldn’t come with me to the clinic, I considered telling Mom. She believed abortion was A. Woman’s. Right. At least that was the party line she’d told me over and over. But I also knew she would be disappointed – and she didn’t need another disappointment. She didn’t need another person in her life fucking up.

    By the time I finished looking for the pads, I’d made mess and not just on my thighs. Sean Patrick texted twice asking where I was. As I sat on the toilet and let the blood that was a baby twenty-four hours ago drip into the bowl, I texted my boyfriend who was not the father of this blood bath. Be there in a few.

    • themagicviolinist

      This is definitely intriguing. 🙂 I honestly don’t have anything to say about the first page. Great job!

      I do think from looking at the first page that this leans more NA than it does YA. How old is your protagonist? I’ve heard that a good rule of thumb is that (generally) if your protagonist is 18-25 years old, it’s NA.

    • Heather Marsten

      Intriguing opening, sad situation. Not sure Celia was that great of a friend – the red notebook, but am curious how the MC will reconcile her actions, her relationship, and moral thoughts. I agree that this may not be Young Adult – guess it depends on how the topic is handled and how graphic the details are.

    • gianna serex

      I agree with Heather. Definitely very intriguing and very sad. I want to know more about the circumstances behind this all. But I like the inner conflict she’s already having—her real boyfriend, how he will handle to abortion as a Catholic, how her mom would handle her “fucking up”, etc. Great start.

  5. themagicviolinist

    First pages are generally the easiest for me to write, but hard for me to edit. I love beginnings, but I can’t stand rewriting them. Anyway, here’s the rough draft of my first page:

    Five dollars and twenty-five cents. That’s all that’s in my pocket. That and some
    fuzz. I stared at the frozen foods section for a long time before deciding that
    Mom would prefer to not use the microwave anyway. Microwaves give off
    radiation, you know. And Lord knows we could do without any extra hospital

    Finally landing on a slightly dented box of instant Mac and Cheese (“Add hot water and enjoy!”) and a package of strawberry Pop Tarts, I proceeded to the checkout line.

    The line was fairly long, especially for a self-checkout line, so I picked up an over-priced tabloid and flipped through the glossy pages to see what other see-through fabric Miley Cyrus had passed off as clothing.

    “You a fan?”

    I jumped and blinked up at the teenage boy standing next to me, wearing an argyle sweater. He grinned from ear to ear, blinding me with his pearly-whites.


    He gestured to the tabloid. “Miley Cyrus. Are you a fan?”

    I blinked a couple more times. Small talk made me nervous.

    “Oh! No. No, I’m not a fan.” I replaced the magazine on the rack. “Just trying to—pass the time.”

    The boy nodded wisely. “Time passes too quickly, if you know what I mean. Glad you’re not a fan. I can’t stand people who like her, and you seem like likeable material. Friend potential, even. You know what they put in those? You’re up, by the way.”

    My head spun as I stepped up to the checkout counter. He spoke so fast.

    “Put in what?” I asked, once I was able to keep my thoughts straight.

    “That.” The boy pointed to the box of Pop Tarts. “Disgusting food, if it even counts as food. The glands of a beaver’s backside are used as flavoring for the strawberry ones, and who knows what else? Who’s to say whoever came up with the ludicrous idea didn’t say, ‘What the hell, how about we inject the S’mores ones with the anal substance,
    too?’ I’m Harry, by the way. Harry Potter.”

    He extended his hand. I took it.

    “You’re kidding.”

    “Totally. My parents aren’t that mean. No, I’m Lane.”

    “Kya. Kya Williams.”

    • Heather Marsten

      Loved the decision making that Kya did over the food – and the hint of mystery about the microwaves and her mom’s being in the hospital. Not sure about the dialogue with Harry – but if she listens, it certainly will make her food selection difficult. I would read on to find out about mom and hospital

    • themagicviolinist

      Thanks! 🙂 I’m glad you liked it.

    • Karoline Kingley

      I honestly loved this first page! Everything about it intrigued me. The funny descriptions and clever dialogue already gave me full-fleshed vision of your characters even though I scarcely know them. Great job!

    • themagicviolinist

      Thank you! 🙂 That’s what I was going for, so I’m glad it worked!

    • gianna serex

      This was very good! Especially with him pretending to be Harry Potter. Looks like a good start to a good friendship. On another front, I find it interesting that you easily write first pages yet can’t stand to edit them; it’s the total opposite for me. Good work!

    • themagicviolinist

      Thank you! Ha ha, that’s usually the case. I guess I’m weird that way. 😉

  6. Heather Marsten

    I think not only first pages, but the first few paragraphs of each chapter are important. Here’s the first page of my memoir – I’m introducing myself as seven years old – not getting into the brunt of the abuse first, but rather showing that I had spunk. If you went another few pages you would see the “game” my father played with me to groom me for his incestuous attacks.

    Tell Me What He Did by Heather Marsten

    Chapter 1 – Boys’ Games

    I hate boys’ games.

    “Run!” I yell to Pam. “They’re right behind you.”

    She dodges the boys, races past Mommy’s vegetable garden, and heads toward the maple tree in her backyard. If she touches the trunk, we win, and the boys will finally have to keep their promise to play house with us.

    I kneel behind the shrub. My side aches with each deep breath. Using the hem of my shirt, I wipe sweat off my forehead.

    Steve sneaks behind Pam and drops the hula-hoop lasso over her head. She kicks and
    screams as her brother drags her to the cave, the cinderblock barbeque pit in my backyard, and rolls a pretend stone in front of the cave door.

    Pam beats on the rock. “I can’t escape. They’re going to eat me.”

    Hula-hoop in hand, Steve turns toward my hiding place. “I’m coming to get you.”

    “No!” I race toward the tree. Bobby’s guarding it, hands spread wide to grab me. Maybe
    I can circle around back.

    Looking over my shoulder to see where Steve is, I trip on a root, and fall. A piece of
    gravel jabs deep into my knee.

    I’m lassoed.

    “Wait a minute,” I say. “Let me see if I’m bleeding.”

    They stop dragging me, but don’t remove their lassos. I pull the pebble out. Good, no blood. The boys roughly lead me to the cave and shove me in with Pam.

    Rubbing my throbbing side, I glare at them.

    “Can we escape?” Pam asks.

    The cavemen laugh. “Never.”

    Pam and I pretend to be afraid. We tremble and huddle together.

    Steve pinches my arm. “Ugh, good meat.”

    “Owww.” I slap his hand away and bite back tears. He didn’t have to pinch so hard.

    Bobby rubs two twigs together to light a pretend cooking fire while Steve jumps
    around in a wild, caveman victory dance.

    Ice cream truck music rings out from down the block. Our game’s forgotten. We race
    home to beg for money.

    I quietly close the back door, tiptoe to the living room, and peek in. If she’s sleeping I won’t be able to get ice cream. She’d be mad if I wake her.

    Good. She’s sitting in her green armchair watching her favorite show, As the World Turns. Cigarette in mouth, she takes a curler out of her hair and tosses it into the basket with the

    “Mommy, can I please, please, please have a nickel for an ice cream?”

    She shakes her pointer finger at me. “Money doesn’t grow on trees.” Her cigarette moves up and down as she talks and some ashes fall on her lap.

    I want to roll my eyes, but don’t. Putting my hands together in a begging position, I say, “Please, Mommy. Everyone else is getting one.”

    She sighs. “Hand me my purse.”

    I want to tell her to hurry up, but bite the inside of my mouth and quietly wait while she slowly puts her cigarette down, takes a sip of her special orange juice, and digs through her change to fish out a nickel.

    “Thanks.” I take it from her hand and run outside, barely making the curb before the ice
    cream truck pulls up.

    Why such a big deal over a nickel?

    The boys race off after they get their ice creams. Pam and I sit under the maple tree in my backyard. I slowly nibble the chocolate coating off my ice cream bar, trying to make it last as long as possible. A drop of ice cream dribbles on my hand and I suck it off.

    Pam pokes a straw into her cherry sno-cone, “I don’t want summer to end.”

    “Me neither.” Not true. School’s safer than home.

    • gianna serex

      Already I can tell this is going to be a very interesting story. And I love it. You had me hooked the whole way through. You started with some good action and hinted at family problems that will likely come up later. If I had more to read I definitely would. Keep up the good work!

    • Abeer Elgamal

      I like your piece. The way the children move and speak is amazing, just like my kids. Keep it up.

  7. Abeer Elgamal

    Here is the first page of my first novel in progress. I appreciate your criticism.

    “All you need is some privacy and a
    couple of hours every day. C’mon Lolla, you have done this before and you were
    then pregnant and over—exhausted and… stressed. You finished your M. A. in less
    than a year! And you can finish the PhD
    through all this”, Hala murmured to herself as she moved nervously from
    one room to another. She had developed the habit of talking to herself when she
    was alone, discussing her plans and reminding herself of the chores she had to
    finish. She looked like a monk going
    studiously through some sacred rituals, though she was only cleaning up after
    breakfast, stuffing the white laundry into the washing machine and opening the
    windows to let the morning air and the sun into the apartment. Salem’s words kept
    resounding in her mind all morning, every morning. Especially when she had
    driven the children to school and went back home instead of going to the
    university, the words rattled like an army of mosquitoes buzzing around in her
    skull. “any man can jump from the street and be with you if you open the
    balcony and leave it unattended”. She never imagined that living on the
    ground floor could be such a frightful experience. Mother was right about this too! She thought
    as she closed the shutters in the children’s room and opened the balcony in the
    living room. Salem somehow managed to
    keep her on the alert all the time, even when he was not around. Her mind and
    body were always tuned to the fight or flight mode; there were always reasons
    to worry about and things to fret over.

    The image of her family’s fifth- floor big
    apartment with the high ceilings and huge windows left open till sunset kept
    jumping into her mind. She missed every inch: her room, which she shared with
    Ahmed until she was twelve, her father’s big office with the garden view and
    the book shelves stuffed with his medical books and his students’
    dissertations. Yellow and tangerine hues
    colored flashes of memory kept presenting her favorite objects and people: the big swing in the balcony where she sat on
    her uncle’s lap to read books every Friday, the sunny kitchen where she and
    Ahmed joined Daada um Bahgat on the multi colorful cloth rug and watched her
    peeling potatoes and preparing vegetables for lunch, and her father’s desk
    which she was allowed to use in Thanawya Amma. Even the aroma of the
    cakes her mother baked jogged in colorful ribbons from the kitchen to her nose.

    • Karoline Kingley

      I like that you have already introduced a concept and looming dilemma, it gave me a reason to keep reading. But perhaps it would flow more smoothly if you were to immediately talk about living on the fifth floor, and how she missed her apartment, rather than beginning with the inner dialogue. Were you to begin with a problem rather than a character we don’t know yet, when you were to introduce character, we would already know something about them. Just a thought! It was lovely, overall. 🙂

    • Abeer Elgamal

      I was actually thinking about that and you gave me just the push I needed. I want to make clear that the ground floor apartment is where she lives with her husband in Cairo, Egypt and the other one is her parent’s.
      Thank you Karoline.

  8. Brianna Worlds

    “What is it?” the voice asked, crackling sketchily through the converter. It had been hastily made, this contraption that allowed discrete communication between the human world and that of the Beasts, and still harboured a few stubborn flaws.

    The Beast on the other end swung her large, wedge shaped head towards it, flattening her ears and looking down into her window. At the moment, it was focused on the form of a woman, her shoulders shaking with grief, curled defensively around herself on the bed, keeping the world out.

    “One of the Finals is dead,” she said slowly, her mouth carefully enunciating the human tongue the man on the other end could understand.

    “Impossible,” the man rebuked immediately, “we were so careful, did so many experiments… How could it fail at this stage in the game?”

    “You are a scientist,” the Beast hissed, “do not tell me it is impossible. It has happened, and now there are only three. Tell me, human, how can one divide three equally? I need two for my task, as do you.”

    “That is true,” the voice said, considering. “Unfortunately, one can’t split a human in half as they would a dollar. I need these two, the fate of my world depends on it.”

    “As does mine.”

    “Not in the same way.”

    “Have it your way, human. I will have my two, or even three if I can manage it. The gap is widening. I never thought I’d be one to take advantage of it.”

    • gianna serex

      Ooh, the suspense. Very interesting so far. I want to learn more about the relationship between the beast and humans, who the Finals are, why they are so important. Great work!

    • Brianna Worlds

      Thank you! 😀 Glad to know it had the desired effect 😛

    • Monica

      Definitely some action going on here! I’m just not sure who (or what as the case may be) this story is about. Is novel going to be about the Beast? Or is it about the speaker? I think a little more orientation would be really helpful!

    • Brianna Worlds

      Alright, thanks for the feedback 🙂 I’m just afraid of an information dump, since I tend to do that a lot… The backstory is more than a little complicated

    • Marilyn Ostermiller

      I am intrigued by the line, “one can’t split a human in half as they would a dollar.”

    • Brianna Worlds

      That’s Casimir for you… He think of everything in a very abstract way 😛 Thank you!

  9. Karoline Kingley

    Here is the first chapter of my novel:

    It has been nearly a decade since the last eligible bachelor worth mentioning came to Summerton. Of course, available young men have passed through before, yet none of them captured my fancy. Not that I had their heads turning; when it comes
    to the game of man-catching, I certainly have my work cut out for me. For example last spring, a well-to-do fellow happened to settle in Summerton and
    Cecilia Carmichael had him in her clutches in less than a fortnight.
    Don’t ask me how.
    The fact that Cecilia’s face could have been carved by angels might have had
    something to do with it, yet I prefer to think he saw something more in her
    than a pretty face. Her dowry, held in envy by all, could also have been what induced him to propose. For the next three months nothing was spoken of but the cancelled wedding. The money-grubbing bachelor whom shall remain nameless met and proposed to Cecilia within a week’s time. Naturally,everyone suspected; everyone, except Cecilia who couldn’t be prevailed upon to go one hour without showing off the gaudy ring and giggling about her “gorgeous
    Her mother managed to assemble the wedding ceremony of the century
    even on short notice, and the local church was so swallowed up in decorations
    that you could scarcely find the front door. Though my attendance was a strict
    formality I was eager to see if everything would go according to plan. I had to
    stop myself from smiling when my predictions came true, and the infamous fiancé
    made no appearance at the altar, except to publicly proclaim that he had made a
    mistake. Gasps resonated through our little church and I scrutinized the scene
    with sharp eyes, that the sadly hysterical moment would never fade from my
    memory. That man fled the church and was never seen or heard from again, and he narrowly escaped a hiding from the witnessing elders.
    The ultimate crown to the moment however, was when one of his black coat tails closed with the door on his way out, and you saw it suddenly vanish through the crack as he screamed in terror. Miss Carmichael crumpled up into a sad little heap on the altar steps and I might have felt more sorry for her were it not for the all the lace and frills surrounding her sobbing, trembling face. To a certain extent she resembled an over-glorified baby, whose temperamental countenance shamed the extravagant bonnet on its head. She snapped at any who feigned to lend comfort, so I took my leave after snagging a slice of wedding cake.
    Such a delicately assembled masterpiece as that cake deserved some recognition, and I was only too happy to do my part. Cecilia mourned like a proper widow for days,
    however a leisurely spell in London restored her even faster than the
    engagement had been made.

    • gianna serex

      This was really excellent writing. Already I feel like I know the character, as she has a unique voice that comes through. And her personality already is very funny. “Such a delicately assembled masterpiece as that cake deserved some recognition, and I was only too happy to do my part.” Really great work. There was some punctuational and grammatical problems up there in the beginning, but aside from that this was excellent.

    • Monica

      You managed to get an entire story on a single page! I like it. You learn about the speaker, the town, poor Cecilia. I would definitely want to know about the latest eligible bachelor.

    • Marilyn Ostermiller

      I would definitely read on. I can totally picture this thwarted wedding.

    • themagicviolinist

      I loved this! 🙂 I would definitely read more. The only thing I’d suggest is to maybe include a little dialogue, just to balance out the description. That, or vary the lengths of the paragraphs more so they’re pleasing to the eye.

  10. Susan Chambers

    I’ve rewritten my first paragraph at least a dozen times at this point. I deleted pages of what really amounted to no more the prologue and backstory that’s better left to be figured out than told.
    That said, when I went back with these rules in mind, the first thing I noticed was overwriting. I had received feedback from a friend that the beginning wasn’t emotionally impactful enough, and my “fix” was to overwrite. My writing background is poet before novelist, which is very helpful sometimes, and extremely detrimental other times. Luckily for me, I came across your post here and gave it another look. My first page is definitely improved! Thank you for passing along this advice!

    • Monica

      It’s hard! I had a similar experience. I’ve rewritten my first page so many times. I’m good at not being too self-conscious when writing generally, but getting that first page right is a toughy!

  11. gianna serex

    I couldn’t have read this post at a better time! Thanks Monica.


    I have played volleyball for five good years of my life. I’ve had experience under coaches so strict that they will run you for every point you give up in a match, or for every serve the team misses over the course of a weekend tournament. But I’m confident that I’ve never run as long and as hard as this. For a warm-up, Nick has each girl run a mile around the track, then individually sprint the 100m five times. Then we start practice. Every serve out means a suicide sprint. Let a ball drop? Another suicide. Each time one of the hitters goes in the net, we all run. Five girls hobble outside to throw up. But Nick insists on perfection. “More,” he says. So we keep playing. With fifteen minutes left, we finally get a break. But that’s only because my sister collapses on her last sprint.

    I can hear the thump of her body hitting the hardwood from across the gym. Ari herself doesn’t make a sound—she’s already out. “Shit. Shit.” The coaches rush over and push us all back. “Team room,” Rachel insists. Slowly, we move out.

    “Her head,” someone gasps. “Did she hit her head?”

    “Her hands were up. It looked like she caught herself.”

    “What about her knee?”

    “The one she sprained?”

    “I don’t think her knee was the problem. We all wanted to fall over.”

    We file inside the team room and close the door. Once we’re seated, no one really has much else to say. Some girls chug down water or collapse into beanbag chairs. Others undo their shoes and ankle braces. The air is thick and tense. Then Ainsley finally says, “Oh my God, Gia, are you okay?”

    Gia. Oh. “Me?” I blink. Eleven pairs of eyes stare back at me. “Yeah. Of course I am. Why?”

    “But Ari…”

    “I’m not the one who went down.”

    “She’s your sister.”

    “She’s gonna be okay,” I say, perplexed.

    • Monica

      I would reorder a bit like below. The body hitting the floor is a pretty clear image, and makes me want to know more. Let’s start right with the action! What do you think?

      I can hear the thump of her body hitting the hardwood from across the gym. Ari herself doesn’t make a sound—she’s already out. “Shit. Shit.” The coaches rush over and push us all back. “Team room,” Rachel insists. Slowly, we move out.

      “Her head,” someone gasps. “Did she hit her head?”

      “Her hands were up. It looked like she caught herself.”

      “What about her knee?”

      “The one she sprained?”

      “I don’t think her knee was the problem. We all wanted to fall over.”

      She’s right. I have played volleyball for five good years of my life. I’ve had experience under coaches so strict that they will run you for every point you give up in a match, or for every serve the team misses over the course of a weekend tournament. But I’m confident that I’ve never run as long and as hard as this. For a warm-up, Nick has each girl run a mile around the track, then individually sprint the 100m five times. Then we start practice. Every serve out means a suicide sprint. Let a ball drop? Another suicide. Each time one of the hitters goes in the net, we all run. Five girls hobble outside to throw up. But Nick insists on perfection. “More,” he says. So we keep playing. With fifteen minutes left, we finally get a break. But that’s only because my sister collapses on her last sprint.

      We file inside the team room and close the door. Once we’re seated, no one really has much else to say. Some girls chug down water or collapse into beanbag chairs. Others undo their shoes and ankle braces. The air is thick and tense. Then Ainsley finally says, “Oh my God, Gia, are you okay?”

      Gia. Oh. “Me?” I blink. Eleven pairs of eyes stare back at me. “Yeah. Of course I am. Why?”

      “But Ari…”

      “I’m not the one who went down.”

      “She’s your sister.”

      “She’s gonna be okay,” I say, perplexed

    • gianna serex

      That makes sense. thank you!

    • gianna serex

      I’ve started rewriting and ordering it like you suggested definitely makes it a whole let better. Thanks again!

    • themagicviolinist

      I want to read more! This was a great start. I wish I could turn the page and see what happens to Ari.

  12. Chloee

    I stared at my reflection in the mirror. My long curly red hair shaped my pale skin making my freckles pop out. My green eyes darted across the mirror to the sink where the full rusty razor laid. I picked it up shacking my fingers barley able to keep still. I started to drag it across my arm silently crying in pain as the blood dripped down and splashed onto the sink staining it. When I almost reaches the main vein I stopped.

    I breathed a sigh of relief and threw the razor away wrapping my arm up. Why should I suffer anymore pain then I have? I don’t want to die! I have to leave. I grabbed my suitcase and began packing. The clock struck midnight as I closed my bedroom door and qiuetly walked downstairs passing my drunk mom and dad passed out on the couch pills and bottles were flung across the table. I froze barley breathing when my mom groaned but stayed asleep.

    I walked out the door the cool air reaching my face. I hopped on my bike and speeded off. My new life awaited me but what would I do? Never mind that! All the years of abuse were gone! I no longer needed to hide in fear of a broken bottle being thrown at my head. Or going to school with a broken arm. Or a black eye waking me up at night. Streams of tears flew from my face as I dashed down the road. The night sky silence was a comfort for the first time. I crossed the road.

    Suddenly a car came barreling on top of me sending me flying thirty feet. My body lay in a broken heap my head gushing blood. A man came out and ran over to me. “Oh what have I done!” He yelled. He shook me but I just stayed quiet. Finally a ambulance came. The medic looked at me slowly shaking his head. ” She’s a goner. “

    • csarp

      Exciting beginning! I’m hooked

    • Chloee

      Thanks alot!

    • Monica

      I love that you dive right into the action. That’s definitely something the agents/editors on the panel emphasized. I would maybe even start with the third sentence and really get right into it. Also, I hate to say it but the “cool air” that’s basically a breeze! I don’t mind it, but watch out for that because it seems like it’s a pretty common thing to do on page one. The hook is really great here though, good luck!

    • Chloee

      Thanks so much! Yeah I need to stop using the breeze so much. It’s a habit.

  13. csarp

    This is really less of a novel and more of a memoir I’m working on about my Mom.

    My grandparents would surely have been classified as poor, though that definition didn’t mean anything in the small Texas towns where Mom grew up. “Everyone” was poor. They had to make their own way in life, “God helps those who help themselves.” My mother, Charlene Langley Brown, was born to two very young parents in 1932. Nanny was 17 and Granddad was 19.

    Mom and Nanny grew up together. Mom told about how she and Nanny would lay on the bed when the Sears Catalog came out and dream. She said that they spent hours on winter nights imagining what it would be like to buy the things they wanted.

    The pictures of Mom as a child show a skinny, sickly kid with a head full of unruly black hair and large eyes that seemed to take over her face. Studying those black and

    white pictures now, everyone looks old and tired. The 30’s were tough times.

    Not owning a car, Granddad would hitchhike back and forth to work. At times from distances as far as 250 miles, the trek from Comanche to Odessa where he worked one

    winter. Nanny and Granddad worked as a team taking whatever jobs were available. Raising dairy cows, roofing, taking in ironing anything to make ends meet.

    My grandparents weren’t carpenters or electricians but somehow managed to build their own house with help from family and friends. It probably never occurred to them to get professional help, they couldn’t afford it so why even consider. The house is not only still standing, but we are renting it to Granddad’s nephew.

    The 40’s brought better times. The pictures of this time show a teenaged Mom. Soft smiles replaced the hardness in the photographs, even Nanny and Granddad smiled. Mom was a beauty, her jet-black hair, slim figure and engaging laugh made her popular. She told thrilling tales of dates and dances. In her cedar chest were beautiful dresses and evening gowns that dazzled a pre-adolescent me.

    • Monica

      I can tell you have a lot of good stories to tell about your parents and grandparents, and you can feel the love, which is great. But two things–first, it’s hard to tell who’s story it’s going to be. Even if it’s about everyone mentioned here, I think the first page should focus on one person. Second–show don’t tell! If if you’re remembering what your Mom told you, that’s still “telling.” Try simply describing your mother lying on the bed with the Sears Catalog. What was the bedspread like? The smell? The furniture? What music was playing. Even if you don’t know exactly, you’re allowed a little creative license in memoirs. 😉 Thanks for sharing!

    • csarp

      Thank you so much for your suggestions. I’m having trouble gaining in perspective on something so personal. Your ideas are very helpful!

  14. Marilyn Ostermiller

    I rewrote the first page based on previous comments by this group and it changed the tone of the entire book. This is a Middle Grade chapter book set in the Midwest in August 1928.

    “Psst! Wake up, Lilly,” Dorsey whispered to her little sister. “It’s moving day.”

    “I’m sleeping. Leave me alone,” Lilly mumbled, curling into a little ball in the tiny bed they share in Grandma’s attic.

    “How can you sleep? I’ve got butterflies in my tummy. Big ones. It feels like they are going to fly right out my mouth.”

    “You’re funny,” Lilly giggled, “but, it’s still dark out.”

    Mama is busy with the younger children so Dorsey must get Lilly dressed and brush the tangles out of her soft brown curls. Seven-year-old Lilly follows her big sister everywhere so Dorsey knows she will crawl out of bed in a few minutes.

    “I feel happy and excited and scared, all at the same time,” Dorsey said. Jumping up, she fastens her blonde hair in two quick braids, and dresses in her pink and white checked blouse and faded blue pants.

    She bursts into the kitchen like a sudden breeze. Mama looks up from her cup of coffee. “You’re up early. I guess you’re excited. Would you like some porridge?”

    “I AM hungry. And, please may I have coffee, too,” Dorsey asked. She knows that nine-year-old girls don’t get to drink coffee except for very special occasions. She crosses her fingers, hoping Mama considers moving day special.

    “I’ll pour a little in your milk,” Mama said.

    Papa walks into the kitchen and asks Dorsey the question she has been dreading. “Which toy do you want to take to Minnesota?”

    Tears fill Dorsey’s hazel eyes. She doesn’t want to leave any toys at Grandma’s house. She only has a few and each one is special to her.

    “I would like to take my teddy bear tea set. And, I would like to bring Miss Susanna, my dolly,” Dorsey said.

    “Well, pick one,” Papa said firmly, patting her on the head.

    • Monica

      I think I remember the original! I think the main comment was that the little girl had a bit too grown up language, right? If so, it definitely looks like you fixed that here. Nice!

    • Marilyn Ostermiller

      Thanks for the encouragement, Monica. You have a good memory. Someone also suggested that I cut the first five paragraphs of scene setting and get to it.

    • EvelynKrieger

      I suggest moving faster into the story. Ask yourself: what do I want my reader to feel at this point? It’s okay to tell us that Dorsey is excited and scared. Just get to the action sooner. Also, see if you can convey the character’s personality through the dialogue. I get the feeling that you’re trying harder to load information. Keep writing!

    • Marilyn Ostermiller

      I appreciate your insightful suggestion. It makes sense. I will rework it to front load with more action.

  15. abuggslife

    “Hurry up, man we’re gonna be late!” Chris slapped me on the back trying to rouse me off the couch. “I mean, at least put pants on, that’ll be an impressive first step.”

    “I’m in no rush. Two minutes left in the game, i’ve got half a beer, and you’re rushing me out the door. Priorities man, priorities. Besides, you’re always late, that’s your defining characteristic. You actively try to be late to things to cultivate this air of excitement, I don’t like this role reversal.” He was only excited because he was finally seeing Kate in a non-work setting. The fact that I knew zero people going to this party hadn’t stopped Chris from forcing me to tag along for support. He could make me go, but he couldn’t rush me.

    “How’s this look? Good, right? Whatdya think of the shirt?” Chris’s eyebrows were raised in eager anticipation. He was practically begging for positive reinforcement.

    “Brand new shirt for a classy work party, how can you go wrong?”

    “Exactly! Yeah, i knew it looked good.” He turned to the mirror and adjusted the collar for the thirtieth time before running back into his room to look for shoes. He may be in a rush but he still needed to look perfect. His wave of energy filled the apartment and I was just a surfer paddling frantically against the pull. “Still no pants?” He asked coming out of his room juggling 4 mismatched shoes.

    “Yeah, yeah i’m going. I dropped the remote onto the couch and lumbered to my feet with an exaggerated sigh. “I really don’t think you’ll need me. I don’t know sales jargon, my jokes are mediocre at best, and honestly, i’ll probably hit on your bosses wife by accident and get you fired. Do you really want that liability hanging over your head?”

    “Ha!” Chris exclaimed, “If you get within a whiff of a girl I’ll be impressed. I’ve been dragging you to bars for months to get you to talk to girls but you just sit at the end of the bar looking like your dog just died.”

    “No, it’s more like hiding, who has fun at those bars?” Ultra hip discoteques playing hypnotic beats you didn’t so much as hear as felt inside your brain. As if your head didn’t hurt enough already, trying to scan the crowd and decipher which Bro had already staked a claim on which girl so you didn’t get your ass kicked by casually saying hi, which, who would actually want to anyway because god forbid you got stuck in a conversation with one of these 20 somethings. Feigning interest in a conversation about Valleen and Shauna who like, drank way too many shots of vodka, and now, like, are being total skanks out there but, like, whatever, this girl is just about having fun and like, doesn’t deal with that drama, ya know? Yep, this brave new world was fantastic.

    “By the way, none of that tonight.” Chris said, “I know it’s mainly about me but you need this. Even if you don’t know it yet. I will drag you, Nate, kicking and screaming into happiness if I have to.”

    “Bleeeehhhhhhh, fine. I will go, but I do not have to have a good time.” I pushed past him as he stood at the mirror meticulously checking his hair. Ah hope, I remember what that felt like, poor bastard.

  16. Lisa

    I was speeding on the highway weaving in and
    out of traffic like a crazy person. I had to make it into the city. My whole
    body was shaking as I was driving. Holding in my urge to vomit, and cry I raced
    through the streets of Toronto to make it to this appointment. I was terrified
    that I wasn’t going to make it because I felt so sick. I had to make it there, I
    wouldn’t be able to live another week feeling like this. When I reached
    downtown I looked for the closest parking lot, parked my car, opened the door
    and threw up on the pavement. It was embarrassing and humiliating. I felt like
    a low life. I found some napkins, wiped my mouth and headed towards the drab grey
    colored building. I pushed the buzzer. After a brief moment, a women’s voice
    with a strong nasal pitch came through on the tiny intercom. ‘Name?’ asked the
    voice. My head was pounding which made
    the sound of her voice ring through my ears like nails on a chalkboard.

    While gagging back the
    overpowering urge to deliver the remainder of my stomach contents onto the
    ground I managed to reply, “Lily Monroe.” Instantly I heard the loud noise of a buzzer all
    around me. This institution was just as hard to get into as a maximum-security

  17. Lisa

    What if I don’t make it? Pull it together Lily, I said to myself. I can’t afford to miss this, I can’t risk being pulled over. I was speeding on the highway weaving in and
    out of traffic like a crazy person. I had to make it into the city. My whole
    body was shaking as I was driving. Holding in my urge to vomit, and cry I raced
    through the city streets of Toronto to make it to this appointment. I was terrified
    that I wasn’t going to make it because I felt so sick, I could barely focus on the road. Thank god it was fall and I didn’t have a snow storm to contend with. I had to be there, I wouldn’t be able to live another week feeling like this. When I reached
    downtown I looked for the closest parking lot, parked my car, flung open the door
    and threw up on the pavement. It was embarrassing and humiliating. I felt like
    a low life. I found some napkins in my glove box, courtesy of Starbucks, wiped my mouth and headed towards the drab grey colored building. I pushed the buzzer. After a brief moment, a women’s voice with a strong nasal pitch came through on the tiny intercom. ‘Name?’ asked the voice. My head was pounding which made the sound of her voice ring through my ears like nails on a chalkboard.

    While gagging back the overpowering urge to deliver the remainder of my stomach contents onto the ground I managed to reply, “Lily Monroe.” Instantly I heard the loud noise of a buzzer all around me. This institution was just as hard to get into as a maximum-security

  18. motorcop

    I’m going to die. I’ve always wondered if, when a person’s time was near, they could somehow sense it. Don’t get me wrong, I haven’t seen a seven-foot tall man clad in oversized black robes with extraordinarily bony hands clutching a scythe. It isn’t as esoteric as all that.

    I have that feeling though. Call it a sixth sense. Call it premonition. Call it what you will. Cops call it that hinky feeling. When you walk into a situation and something just feels “off”. I’ve had that feeling more times than I can remember. It comes when you walk into that domestic call. It comes when you walk up to that car. Cops can smell trouble a mile away. Forewarned is forearmed, they say. At least we have a sense of it before we stumble blindly into it.

    This car stop is like that. I can see his jittery eyes in the rearview before I even get off my motor. It took him longer to stop his car than most. Just enough to get my hackles up. Something in my psyche tells me not to stop this car. It’s too late, though. My ego and my training over-rule the voice of warning in my head.

    I reach across my body with my left hand and grab the right handlebar. I support my weight on my right foot and kick my left over the motorcycle seat and put it down on the ground. My body is angled toward the car I stopped for speeding. I’ve made this stop thousands of times. I don’t even think about the mechanics of it anymore. It’s so second nature that it’s nearly first.

    “Two-Mary One, Eleven Ninety-five,” I relay my traffic stop to my radio dispatcher.

    “Two-Mary One, go ahead,” she parrots back.

    “Six Lincoln Charles Four Seven Two Eight. I’m at Mine and Teak.” I’ve lost count of the number of plates I’ve run and the locations of my traffic stops. I used to wait until dispatch came back to me with the registration info for the car, but when you make hundreds of traffic stops each month, you get impatient. Not to mention, dispatchers get busy. They handle a ton of units at any given time. Hell, sometimes they simply forget.

    I still have that hinky feeling as I’m walking up to the driver’s side window. I rock the first level of retention on my holster forward. My thumb is on the second level release and I apply just a touch of downward pressure in guarded anticipation of having to draw my gun. That may sound paranoid…and I don’t disagree, but I do it subconsciously as the voice in my head grows steadily from a whisper to a scream.

    I’m just about to the driver’s side window when two things happen.

    First, dispatch comes over the air with, “Two-Mary One, copy Ten Thirty-six.” Ten code for confidential information. This code is commonly used when there is either a warrant associated with the car or the car is stolen. As I reach with my left hand to grab my lapel mic to acknowledge dispatch, I stop walking. I’m caught in no-man’s land between my bike and the car I’ve stopped.

    Then, the second thing happens. The driver throws his door open and time slows down. The driver, a white kid in his early 20’s, puts both feet on the ground outside the car. He’s wearing a Golden State Warriors ball cap cocked sideways on his greasy, brown hair. I can see the gold sticker listing the size of his hat still on the bill of the cap. Seems his head is a solid 7 3/8”. His left hand grabs the armrest of the driver’s door to help him pull his 200 pound frame out of the driver’s seat. He wears no ring on his left hand, but I can see a silver watch. I can see his face. He’s got the stubble of a man who wishes he could grow facial hair, but will forever fall short. His mouth is turned sideways into a sneer.

    He crouches forward to use his legs to push his body up and out of his car. He begins to turn counter-clockwise toward me. I see his right hand. He’s holding a pistol similar to mine. I see the muzzle turn to get its bearing on me as I pull my own pistol.

    Shots ring out.

    I’m going to die.

  19. Barmy_Bex

    OK, this is something I wrote ages ago. But now looking at this post I think I’ve done nearly everything they say you shouldn’t. Need to do some edits on it so this may be the push I need. Part of a YA novel.

    The remains of the Krazhog lay at her feet, its blood seeping into the ground and staining it a dark blue. The beast’s eyes stared vacantly at the trees and patches of a sky
    it could no longer see.

    Lucinda turned slowly and tried to control her breathing. She scanned the forest for signs of movement, but the air was still and silent. When she was sure everything was clear she knelt and wiped her sword on the undergrowth, turning her nose up at the smell as she did.

    The battle had been fierce and there were bodies lying all around, most of them belonging to the Krazhogs that had been chasing her. Lucinda felt the colour drain from her face as she realised just how many had attacked her and how close she had been to losing. She shook her head, thoughts like that could ruin her.

    “Hold it together Lucinda,” she whispered to herself. “You’ve been through worse than
    this and survived. None can beat you now.” She took three deep breaths, counting in and out slowly, trying to slow her racing heart.

    “Evangelista, come to me,” Lucinda called and followed it with a short sharp whistle, knowing this would bring her friend to her, the sound piercing the silence of the woods. She leant against a tree while she was waiting, trying not to look at the bodies around her. After a few minutes a breeze stirred the air, causing her hair to blow in her face. She pushed it out of her eyes as a sparkling circle of silver light appeared between the trees.

  20. Saunved Mutalik

    The first rays of the sun show an enormous battle-field, still crimson and wet. Bodies lie strewn all around and somewhere an enemy soldier can be seen crawling back to base camp, preferring his life over putting up a last fight.

    I stand still, gazing into the distance, at the bluish mountains, where the sun can be seen rising up – a huge ball of flame, lighting up the darkness of the previous night.

    I could cry right now, but I don’t have enough energy. My forefinger is broken, nearly cut off from the hand. The blood around it has dried, but it throbs painfully when I move my hand.
    I sit down on a dark grey rock and stare into the cold, dead eyes of my brother.

    “I had told you to stay in the castle,” I whisper as I hear a small crunch behind me. Swerving around, I pick up a sword lying on the ground and stand up as quickly as my body can allow.
    She faces me, still as stone.

    “I’m s- sorry Gerrard,” she mutters. Her face is pale, almost as if she has seen a ghost. Tiny dark circles under her eyes reveal the restless and terrible past few days, while her eyes, deep, dark, show only pain.

    I throw the sword aside.
    “Let’s go back to the castle,” I mutter as she begins to stumble.
    “What about…him?” she asks, as a teardrop rolls down her cheeks.
    “Let him lie upon his land for some more time. Look into his eyes! They are dead and blank but you can see the sky in them. Let him fly. Look at his bloodied hands. I held them when he was little. I held those hands in mine right since the day he was born. And I never let go…until….t-today.”
    “Gerrard…” she mutters and she realizes that it is futile.
    I fall down upon my trembling knees and rest my head upon my brother’s chest.
    Could there be peace in death? Was my father right? Or was he just lying about death being a journey?
    And if it really was peaceful…then why did others suffer because of it?
    A small thud, apparently somewhere in the depths of my brother’s heart makes me jump.

    A few seconds later, I realize I’ve been shot clean through the heart. The arrow-head, a sharp, metallic tip can be seen protruding from my chest.

    • Eliese

      The first sentence captured me. This almost feels like the last page of a book. I would be interested to see where the rest of the story goes.

    • Saunved Mutalik

      Thank you! I just wrote that for fun….don’t even have a story in mind! Let’s see if the story comes to me! 🙂

  21. Emily Vanderhaul

    Hello. This is just something I wrote to distract myself when I was a little depressed. Please comment.

    She got out of the cab and paid the fare. Walking a few
    yards, she stopped in front of the beautiful Victorian house. She stared at it
    for a minute, gave a deep sigh, and walked towards the door. She reached for
    the doorbell but before she could ring it, the door was opened and she was
    greeted by a man in his fifties who smiled at her like a child would smile on
    getting free candy. The man said,
    “welcome Miss Schwimmer! My name is Anthony Jones. I am the butler here. Mrs.
    Tresback has been waiting for you. If you’d be kind enough to follow me, I’ll
    show you to her room.”

    Surprised by the butler’s sudden appearance, Katelyn said, “How
    did you…” but Tony cut her off, let out a laugh and said, “I heard the cab!
    It’s not like we haven’t been expecting you!” Katelyn relaxed and smiled for
    the first time. She stepped into the house and the butler took her coat and bag
    and led her through the corridor into the drawing room. The drawing room was magnificent with a plush
    carpet, beige coloured walls and decorated with coffee and gold coloured
    couches. The French window on the north side of the room overlooked the
    backyard while the one on the east offered a gorgeous vista of the green plains
    stretching away for miles. In between the windows was a chair back settee which
    emphasised the Victorian appearance of the house. The butler led Katelyn up a
    flight of stairs next to the eastern window. Many paintings adorned the walls
    of the corridor. Stopping at the very last door, the butler knocked and said
    loudly, “Miss Schwimmer has arrived and without waiting for a reply, pushed the
    door open. Ushering Katelyn into the room, the butler disappeared up the
    corridor. Zoe Tresback got up from the bed and gave
    Katelyn a bear hug. Zoe said, “Kate, I am so glad you came! “ Kate said,” I am
    so sorry I couldn’t attend the funeral. It was a big day for me, you know, the
    grand opening of my very own restaurant. And I couldn’t have made it here at
    such short notice. I’m really sorry about that Zee!” Zoe gave a sad but genuine
    smile and said,” but you’re here now. I know you came as soon as you could. “

    Even though both were 33, Katelyn Schwimmer and Zoe Tresback
    were completely different personalities. Kate was beautiful, thin and had soft,
    straight, dark brown hair which fell to her shoulders. On the other hand, Zoe
    had an athlete figure, with long, wavy blonde hair. Not beautiful in the
    conventional way, Zoe had a certain attractiveness and confidence in her looks
    which appealed to men. Kate was from New
    York whereas Zoe was a Texan but had moved to London after marrying an English
    guy. Kate and Zoe, then Zoe Hannigan, had met in a restaurant in New York when
    they both had the same complaints about the food and services and had stormed
    out together. They had become good friends after that. Kate became a chef and
    Zoe an artist. One day, Zoe met Mike Tresback in an art convention, fell in
    love with him, got married and moved to London. That was the last time Kate and
    Zoe had met. They had drifted apart after that and hadn’t seen each other, had
    only corresponded on email. That was 7 years ago.

    Now sitting in her bedroom with her old friend, Zoe looked
    at Kate with teary eyes. The butler returned with a jar of water, glasses and
    two cups of coffee, set it on the table in the corner and left. After a long
    moment of silence, Kate finally spoke in a low voice, holding back her own
    tears,” Grandpa Tresback’s death was a shock to me, even though you had
    mentioned that he was sick. Two months ago you said he was making an
    astonishing recovery. I couldn’t believe it when you called to tell me the bad
    news! What happened? “

    Zoe shrugged and said
    in a hollow voice, “He was getting well everyday but on the night of 17th
    around 2pm, Tony woke Mike and me and said that Grandpa wanted to talk urgently
    to us. We hurried into his room. At first sight, everything looked normal but
    there was some eerie feeling I could not understand. Grandpa talked very slowly
    and said that the time had come for him to leave us and that he just knew it.
    We thought he was talking crazy or maybe he’d had a nightmare and everything
    would be fine in the morning, but he handed Mike a piece of paper and said that
    it was his new will. We thought Grandpa had lost it but something about his
    behaviour bothered us all. And sure enough, in half an hour Grandpa passed
    away.” Kate, who had been listening
    intently, poured water in a glass and handed it to Zoe. “Zee I’m really sorry
    about Grandpa. I know it must me very hard on all of you. I’ll stay and help
    you get through this, don’t worry.”

    Zoe looked thoughtful for a moment then said, “Kate you
    never mentioned that you knew Grandpa.”

    Kate was taken aback. “Well, you did tell me a lot about
    him, didn’t you? How could I not know him?”

    “No, I mean before I told you about him, or before I even
    married Mike. You did know Grandpa, right?”

    “Of course not, where would I have met him? Why do you ask?”

    “Because Grandpa left you something in his new will. It’s
    right here, let me show you.” Zoe fumbled around in the bedside drawers and
    brought out a leather drawstring pouch and handed it to Kate. Kate took it and
    studied it for a moment. It was small but rather thick. She opened it and
    pulled out a small square box about 2 inches long and wide. She opened it very
    cautiously and gasped. In the box was a fat gold ring which looked very much
    like a thumb ring. The whole ring was completely studded with diamonds and on
    the inner side was some kind of inscription consisting of shapes, geometrical
    figures and letters. It did not make any sense, none of it made any sense.

    Kate was extremely confused. She looked at the ring, and
    then looked at Zoe and said, “I don’t know Zee; I think you have the wrong

  22. TheCody

    I’m a couple days late but wanted to post the first page of a WIP:

    Taking us to the library every week was Mom’s way of making me and my little sister, Molly, more cultured or something. Personally, I thought it was kinda dumb – everyone the universe had Internet – and normally drifted to old Nancy Drew or Hardy Boy books. That is, until I realized the library had a sexuality section. Suddenly, fiction (that was probably too young for me, anyway) wasn’t that appealing, and I found myself sucked into the new area. No, I wasn’t looking for anything dirty, geez. I was only thirteen, and just wanted to view something like me, something gay.

    See, there was a book – with a blue hardcover and fancy gold type – called Homosexuals in History that I was dying to read, to flip to one page, to just skim. Every time I walked past it, my arm instinctively stuck out, like a weird magnet. But taking action was impossible – the books weren’t in a secluded part of the library. And I was so not ready to come out yet; my parents said enough crappy things about gay people that I knew exactly where they stood.

    But it never stopped me from trying to sneak a peek.

    Every week, I’d pretend to be fascinated with the self-help manuals, which were right next to the sexuality section. Then, trembling, I’d inch my way over, until the good books were right in front of me. The problem was, they were on the bottom shelf. So I couldn’t casually walk by, knock one off, and say, “Oops! Silly me, this is opened to page 32. I’d better read a paragraph then put it back.”

    That particular day, though, I had an idea. When I reached the books, heart racing, I stepped on my shoelace, untying it with the other foot. Sure, I could have just pretended it was untied, but realism was essential. Then, taking a huge breath to calm myself, I bent down, grabbed my shoe, and looked over.

  23. Luther

    have a little bit of a problem and confession; I sometimes tease other people
    and other animals. My earliest memory of
    this behavior was when I was about 6 years old and I would pretend to take away
    the food bowl of my dog, Andy by using a long stick to push the food bowl away
    from him. He would menacingly growl, look at me as if to say, “Don’t even think
    about it”, then resume eating once I removed the stick. To him, I am sure, I
    was a reoccurring nightmare, as I enjoyed the little game that we played. Andy,
    watching me and giving a low growl if I moved toward him or his bowl, then me
    moving away as if I did not care and on and on and on. I realized too much fun
    out of this activity and I am certain that Andy did not enjoy my game, but
    rather tolerated me, the son of his favorite human.

  24. LZ Clotho

    Not sure about this but…

    The salt air whipped at Allison’s face as she held her son’s hand. They had left the wooden walk and she let Taylor pull his feet from his tiny sandals. He strained against her hold trying to run at the water rolling in tiny eddies onto the beach. They weren’t dressed for swimming and she thought now that had been short-sighted on her part. She had only wanted to get out of the apartment after spending most of the last three days unpacking and figuring out where everything needed to go.

    Spotting a bench, she steered her son toward it with a promise of dipping his toes in the water “in a minute.”

    She looked back to the street and was just able to see the corner of their building beyond the 7-Eleven, the ubiquitous corner stores that seemed to be everywhere down here. She definitely needed a new landmark if she was going to get comfortable. She searched the area, spotting a peach awning painted with pale blue trim over a picnic table and grill mounted on a thick wood post.

    Brushing Taylor’s dusty blond hair from his face became a repetitive action with the wind blowing it. Taylor decided it was peekaboo and giggled, trying to cover her eyes with his tiny hands. “Momma, boo!”

    She smiled at her son’s antics, but her heart wasn’t in it. Yeah, momma boo, Allison thought, looking around. She had needed a fresh start. Getting nearly fourteen hundred miles away from Chicago was definitely that. She thought of the temporary assignment she had landed — three months — with a bit of anxiety. With luck, it would lead to something else and she could stay longer. In a bid toward self-actualization, she had signed a full year lease.

  25. Donalie Beltran


    “911 – What is your emergency?”

    “This is Pastor Tom Stanton, of the Trinity Pentecostal Church. I need to report a dead body in my church.”


    When Wichita Homicide Detective, Donna Decker, showed up at the south side church, the place was already alive with flashing squad lights, and two way radios blaring.

    ksssssh…foot prints…kssssh..…Copy that…kssshhhh…Will….. ksssshh…Say again?.. …ksssssh…

    It had been a slow night. Thursdays generally are. The chaos seems to slow down from Monday to Thursday, only to pick up speed for the weekend. Give human beings their weekly paycheck and some time off, you can bet there is going to be mayhem. Some things just never change.

    Tonight, however, seemed an odd time for a church to be open, but who was she to say. Her church, the East Wichita Pentecostal Church, was often open odd days for some special event or another. The almost empty parking lot, however, made it clear this was not a night to visit this House of God.

    Already 8 P.M., the sun had departed taking with it any sign of natural light, but street lamps were vying for a weak second. Every light in the church was ablaze making it appear a mini sun had stepped inside leaving all of the rest of us to run toward it, gravitating from the dim to the dazzling. Light does that to you. No one really likes the dark. Criminals use the dark to hide, but Donna won’t believe anyone really likes it.

  26. Amanda E

    You were the life oYou were the life of
    the party, Eli repeats his mantra to himself as he heads towards the door
    of the party. But those days seem like a distant memory. Those days refer to
    when he could dance until the sun came up, and when girls would swoon when he
    walked in the door. When he could get
    everyone’s attention in one word. Back when he was the star wide receiver at
    the University, with NFL scouts waiting to see if he was going to declare for the
    draft after his junior year. All before his life came to a screeching halt on
    those snowy Utah roads.

    Two years later Eli wasn’t sure he was ready for his first
    trip into the party scene again. He had changed a lot in those two years. From
    the football field to the boardroom, and from a party all night guy, to in bed
    by 11pm sharp. Did he miss the old parties? Sure, but as soon as his first foot
    crossed the threshold of the door, he knew that he was suddenly too changed for
    this party.

    Walking around the outskirts of the main dance floor until
    he found the drink table, Eli now was a people watcher. He chuckled when the
    new young stud jumped up on the stage to show off the latest line dance moves. That’s right, drink in the attention now; you never know how long it is going to last he thought. Just as he spotted an empty chair and made a beeline for it so no one could claim it he felt an arm link into his own. “Eli, I am so glad you made it!” Becca announced his
    presence like it was the first time she had seen him in months. As she gently
    pulled his arm away from the empty chair, and onto the dance floor he let her
    lead the way. How is she able to do this
    to me?

  27. Faye Wallace

    Okay. So I was just told that there was too much action on my first page by an agent during a practice pitch. She wanted some introspection from the protagonist that would connect the reader to her character before the drama ensued. This after being told to change it in my writers’ group and having my changes validated by beta readers and the Novel 101 workshop I took an hour before! Confused. I don’t know weather to dismiss her comments as my being the last practice of the day and her being overwhelmed and unable to focus or if I should revise my book back to the original version’s first page as thus changing the entire flow of the novel.

    • Sandra D

      Yes that does sound confusing.

    • Faye

      I sat it to the side and am going to read my novel myself next week. I am also going to send it to other agents. She’s a great agent and I was glad to meet her though!

  28. Traci Kenworth

    Smart tips!!

  29. Jamie

    I can’t remember anything before the explosion. Its like I was born from the flames of the burning car, from the police sirens screaming towards us, and the smell of charred flesh. Everyone said I was lucky to be alive, that it was a miracle. Honestly though, I probably would have died that day if it hadn’t been for the stranger in the cornfield, watching me. He was barely a shadow in the mist, amid the screams and leaping flames, but I saw him. He saved my life.

    Of course, being typical adults, no one believed me. Said it was ‘obviously caused my trauma’ and dismissed it. They blamed the fact that I couldn’t remember my parent’s names on a concussion, and my lack of tears on bravery. Maybe I would’ve shed some tears if I could remember who these strangers they called my parents are.



  1. How to Write the Perfect First Page: Part II | jack & Liz - […] See on […]
  2. Three People Read 20 Pages of My MS and the Result was Weird | illegalwriting - […] to me about my posts—so I guess I better write them, huh? (Btw, I have still been blogging at The…

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