First Page of a Book: 4 Page-Turning Tips to Start Your Story

by Monica M. Clark | 124 comments

I’ve changed the first page of my novel a lot. I can’t even tell you how many times. It happened because as I was writing, I followed a lot of writing blogs, attended a lot of author talks, and browsed a lot of guides that had a lot to say about how to write the first page of a book.

first page of a book

The thinking is that readers thumbing through books in the bookstore and agents alike make snap decisions based on those initial words.

And while it's essential that the entire book is great, the reality is that the first page of your book sets the tone and expectation for the quality of writing for the rest of the book.

You need to make it good! Something that can uphold the excitement of your book idea and that would impress a publishing company.

4 Tips to Write the Perfect First Page

Below are some of the rules I've discovered for crafting the perfect first page of a book.

First, though, if you want to learn more about plot and how to structure your story, check out my new book, The Write Structure. It helps writers like you make their plot better and write bestselling, award winning books readers love. Click to get the book.

1. Skip the Prologue

Your first page should probably actually begin your story rather than consist of a prologue.

I admit a prologue is tempting. It allows us to start the book with our favorite part of the story or to tell the reader our character’s back story rather than bother with interweaving it into the text.

Unfortunately, almost everything I’ve read says agents hate prologues. in most cases, prologues suggest laziness or weakness in the writer—or confusion on the best place to start the beautiful book.

I used to have a prologue to my novel that I thought was good; however, at some point I realized the agents were right, it was really lazy. I was trying to tell the reader my character’s motivation instead of letting her figure it out herself. I deleted it.

That all said, I do enjoy reading prologues, and there are books that work better with a prologue than without one.

So my advice is this: if you are a new author considering the use of a prologue, seriously think about why you chose to include it. Does it add to the story or is it just enabling you to do less work?

Another question to ask yourself is: is the prologue really the best place to start the book, or is it trying to explain things instead of let the reader dive into the story?

In her book The Writer's Guide to Beginnings, literary agent and author Paula Munier suggest that writers turn to page fifty in their books and that's probably the best place to start the book. If you jump to page fifty in your book, is this a more exciting place to start instead of your prologue?

2. Create Tension

On the first page. A professional book doesn't make a reader wait a long time before getting to the tension. A character should be placed in a situation rattled with tension from the first page of a book.

Writer Unboxed has this thing called “Flog a Pro” where they invite people to read first pages of books written by famous authors and then comment on whether they were moved to continue. Many times people say they were not. Reasons include too much detail about the setting or not interested in the characters, but usually the reason was simple—no tension.

In my opinion, this exercise isn’t completely fair because established authors don’t need to hook you on the first page—their fans already know what they are getting. However, new authors like me don’t have that luxury.

When writing my book, I took another look at my own first page. The only question I left the reader asking was whether two sisters would take a walk in the cold or go back inside. Sigh. That subject matter didn't even move me. I changed it.

3. Reveal the Core of Your Character (and Your Book)

In terms of revealing the core of your character, this applies to the first page as well as every time you introduce someone new. When the reader meets a character for the first time, it must be in a context that somehow reflects a vital aspect of his or her identity.

Is he overly ambitious? Then we probably meet him at work or ditching someone for work. Is she head of household or a protector? They we probably see her in the midst of providing. Is he a rebel? Then the first thing we see him doing is probably some crazy stunt he pulled.

Why? Because you never have a second chance to make a first impression. And the average reader makes up their mind in seconds.

Along those lines, the first page should also on some level raise, point to, or set up the overall question your novel is answering.

This is partly because (hopefully) the last page will speak to the answer to that question. It also sets up expectations for the book structure formula and story type—even if the reader doesn't know that they're acquiring those expectations.

These rules were by far the hardest, but I appreciated them the most because they gave me some direction on how to start. I ended up writing an entire new scene completely, but it felt more deliberate and purposeful than what I had before.

Instead of just getting words on the page, I felt like I was beginning a story.

4. Ground Your Reader

This is a tip often given, but it’s worth sharing again. The reader should have a solid idea about the setting right away. Where are the characters? What’s the time period? Which season are we in?

Your audience should never struggle with these basic questions, which means you’ll have to provide the answers pretty quickly—like on page one.

Off to a Strong Start

The perfect first page will draw your readers in from the very start and compel them to read on. This is your chance to hook your readers and get them excited for your book, so take the time to get it right. It's not easy to nail, but it's so worth it.

The Write StructureNeed more book writing help? After you practice writing your first page in the exercise below, check out my new book The Write Structure which helps writers make their plot better and write books readers love. Low price for a limited time!

Get The Write Structure – $9.99 $5.99 »

What do you think makes the first page of a book stand out? Let us know in the comments.

PRACTICE

The first page of a novel really isn’t that long—probably no more than three hundred words.

For the next fifteen minutes, take a stab at writing page one of a novel using one or more of these rules. When you’re finished, share your work in the Pro Practice Workshop here (and if you’re not a member yet, you can join here).

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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).

124 Comments

  1. Ron Estrada

    Okay, here’s mine from my current WIP (Camp Dogs). Please be brutally honest.

    Back in the day, he’d been told, the windows overlooking Wall St. opened to allow the air to flow in or a man to flow out, should he choose that particular course of action. TJ Coolidge pressed his palms against the glass, twenty-seven floors above a protesting mob, and gave it a little shove. No give. The glass cooled his forehead as he stared down at his fellow New Yorkers, most of who would gladly kill him, serve his remains at a Saturday block party, and use his press photos to line their bird cages.
    “TJ.” Destiny’s voice drilled into the back of his skull. “Are you listening?”
    He let out a “Hmmm” which fogged the glass at his lips.
    “It’s possible we may all go to jail.”
    TJ pulled his head from the glass. He didn’t turn. Didn’t need to. He could see her reflection. Even the grey-blue eyes that haunted any room in which she stood. “Possible?” He chuckled. “I’d say our cells already have our names engraved in the walls.”
    “This isn’t funny.”
    “Who said it was?” He tried to pick out the individual signs of the protestors. Too high to read them. But he’d seen them enough as he walked into the building each day. Where’s my Bailout? and Will Work for a Job may as well have been street names. “I think that one says ‘Corporate Lifeline.'” He squinted. “Got a noose hanging from the bottom. Must be new.”
    An exasperated huff shot from behind him. “Can you be serious?”
    “I am. We should offer that guy a job in marketing.” He gave the glass a final shove, just to be sure.

    Reply
    • Maure

      The situation is certainly immediate and intriguing – if not for a couple of awkward sentences, I’d definitely be tempted to read on, and it doesn’t even look like my usual reading material.

    • Ron Estrada

      Thanks, Maure. Some of the awkwardness may be because my italics didn’t come over from the cut ‘n paste. But now that you’ve said it, I shouldn’t rely on italics or other gimmicks to make it readable. Thanks for the input.

    • Maure

      Agh, I hate it when italics don’t cross over.

    • Christine

      It’s an interesting story; one wonders what he did to inspire such anger. The first phrase “Back in the day..” confused me. I’ve never heard it. Like, “Years ago” or “When the building was first built”? And I’d prefer the more honest, “air to flow in or a man to jump out…”
      If he could see her reflection, then the lights were one inside and it was darker outside. But the next sentence is fuzzy. “eyes that haunted any room in which she stood.” Are you saying she stood out in any crowd or that her eyes constantly wandered back and forth over every room she was ever in?

    • Emily Faithe

      I totally agree. The first sentence would be a bit punchier if it read, “Someone once said that the windows overlooking Wall Street opened for air to flow in or a man to jump out.

      And this particular line could use some reworking: “TJ pulled his head from the glass. He didn’t turn. Didn’t need to. He could see her reflection. Even the grey-blue eyes that haunted any room in which she stood.”
      Maybe something like, “TJ pulled his head away from the glass and could see her reflection. Her grey-blue eyes haunted the room.”

      Just simpler and more clear.

      Aside from those two comments, I really like the way you write. It’s almost dark humor in this case and I think it adds to the emotion of the setting. Great start!

  2. Maure

    Here’s a stab at a new first page for one of my old projects. I don’t usually write in first person, but I figured I’d experiment.

    Back before the Kisho project existed, we would have had to climb Mt. Washington with freezing winds beating us around the heads, frost trying to bite through any cracks in our clothing. Our guide reminds us of this about ten times as we climb, with sideways glances at the weather-gift accompanying us.

    I’m grateful for the sunshine on the snow, but I wish he’d shut up. The weather-gift doesn’t look like she’s interested in being sucked up to — besides, I’d heard rumors about how much the state government had paid her to come down here. She ought to be satisfied with being paid more money than I’d see after working for three years, I thought, but I still ducked my head when she looked my way. They say they can read your mind, and although it’s probably just rumors I’m not taking any chances.

    And even I have to admit she’s impressive after we’ve all filed into the building at the top. The guide looks at her, smiling nervously, and her bored expression vanishes for a moment, replaced by a tiny smile. Not for us, though — she reaches into thin air, closes her eyes and draws her hand in toward her chest, and the snow and wind crashes into the building again so hard that the floor shakes under our feet.

    “And that’s what the weather’s like when we don’t have Miss Galloway here to help out!” the guide announces. I go to the window with everyone else, looking out at the driving white. It’s terrifying to imagine being out in weather like that, and my eyes go to the weather-gift with grudging admiration. A bit of jealousy too, I guess. It didn’t seem fair that a girl only a couple years older than me had so much power.

    Reply
    • Ron Estrada

      Intriguing. I like the concept. However, I think we need to know that the “weather-gift” is a girl in the opening paragraph. You may want to put more into dialogue as well, break up some of those paragraphs. I’d certainly like to know more about the Kisho project and the weather-gift. You’ve got a good idea there.

    • Monica

      I like the voice in this story and that it seems like the protagonist is about to embark on an interesting adventure. Thanks for sharing!!

  3. PJ Reece

    Monica… great post! This is getting to the heart of the matter. Lots of good stuff to consider, especially the tip about revealing “character” upon first encountering a new cast member. I’ve worked hard at the first line of my latest (as-yet-unpublished) novel, and it goes like this: “He drives her home through streets strewn with autumn leaves so tinder dry it’s a wonder the entire city hasn’t exploded.” Reflecting on your post, I guess I’ve covered off the “season” and also created some “tension.” Cheers.

    Reply
    • Monica

      Thanks! The first line/paragraph/page is tough–I personally, enjoyed having some direction. Good luck with your novel!!

  4. Lina

    Long time lurker, first time posting. I don’t profess to be a good writer so any criticism is welcomed! 🙂

    “So you’re leaving then?”

    The question, stated more than asked, dangled out in the cold winter air. Much like our breaths, exhaled into the vast darkness, it hung with an opaqueness that anyone but us could not have seen through. Nearby, cars honked, engines started, doors opened and closed. The aroma of cheese and tomato sauce wafted to the parking lot where we stood. I traced my foot on the yellow line in front of me and waited for an answer.

    The two year old facing me tugged on his mother’s pantleg. “Mommy, cold! Hurry!”

    In the darkness, she stooped slightly. “I know, Michael, hang on just one minute. Mommy’s saying bye-bye to her friend.” She grinned up at me and shrugged. “It’s cold!”

    I could feel the lump in my throat start to form. It was a dumb question. Of course we were leaving each other. Leaving Shady Oaks. Leaving everything we had worked so hard for. Leaving because we couldn’t do anything more. Leaving because we were done. But we aren’t done. I don’t think we’ll ever be finished. “It was good pizza.”

    My eyes could just trace the outline of her face. The corners of her lips turned upward, almost into a smile. “Yeah. Hey, call me when you get home. Really. Do it.” I knew the words that came next, but this time she didn’t voice them. She didn’t need to.

    Embracing, I could feel her slight frame tense up in my arms. Or was it me who tensed? Her bones didn’t feel so sharp anymore. Or were they mine? “I will.” came my whisper.

    I pulled back and looked long and hard at her. “Will it really make a difference? Everything we did this year, will it really make things better? Did we really change at all?”

    She winced. “I honestly don’t know.”

    Reply
    • Ron Estrada

      You are humble to a fault. This is great writing. I got to the end and am dying to know what happened. Why are they at this place of departure? What happened that may or may not have changed them? The only thing I could see is that you could tighten up some sentences. My rule of thumb is to remove everything between two commas and see if it has a better punch (I’ve been told I write one sentence paragraphs from time to time). You’ll also hear a “rule” that you should never begin with dialogue. It’s a stupid rule. If you wanted to be safe you could drop in a one-line narrative to open. Really, though, love your writing. Now you can never start out with “I don’t profess to be a good writer.” Now we know better and will secretly detest you for your talent.

    • Christine

      I’ve never heard that rule. Good thing, too, as I begin most of my stories with dialogue!

    • Maure

      I’m seriously curious about what they’re referencing! Also, it’s very in-the-moment – you have a lot of good little details that make it seem real.

    • Victoria

      Wow, this beginning is one huge question mark that BEGS to keep reading. It definitely grabbed my attention 🙂 You depicted the setting so well in the first paragraph. Although I like this sentence, you may not need it: “Much like our breaths, exhaled into the vast darkness, it hung with an opaqueness that anyone but us could not have seen through.” It seems to break up the flow. When I was reading, my eyes wanted to skim past it to see what was happening. Of course, that could just be me being impatient 😉 – but just giving you my honest opinion.

      I’m wondering whether “I” is a man or a woman. That might be something you want to make clear pretty early on.

      No matter what the “rules” say, I like the dialogue opening 🙂

    • Lina

      Not sure where to reply to all of the comments, haha
      @ Maure –thanks! I’m huge about little details. No pun intended. 😉
      @ Ron –you are awesome. 🙂 Thanks for the great tips and encouragement. The reason I *say* I’m not a great writer is because honestly I don’t know ANY of the rules. haha Any wisdom imparted to me in those areas is a bonus!
      @ Victoria –YES. To all. I liked the sentence so I wanted to keep it in. But I agree, looking back, it might be kind of “disruptive” to the flow or redundant. I honestly didn’t know how to make “I” come alive as a gender either. “I” is a she.

      I’d tell all but the question mark of what is happening is a bit too personal. (Isn’t all writing like that though?) I’ll leave it to y’all to come up with a great “before/after” scenario in your heads. 🙂

    • Monica

      This was nice–I enjoyed the writing style and definitely wanted to read more. The only thing is, I can’t figure out who said the first quote–was it the little boy or the speaker??

    • Lina

      Oof. I was hoping the “I traced my foot on the yellow line in front of me and waited for an answer.” part would take care of that, but I guess not. 🙂 It was the speaker. . .but yeah. Thanks for pointing that out! I guess it wasn’t as obvious as I would have liked.

    • SK

      Good job, very interested in what it is all about! Loved the description of the restaurant from the smells to the cars coming and going

    • Christine

      I didn’t get it, either, who asked the initial question. I thought it was the unidentified friend asking the narrator. Maybe “Sue’s question hung on the air….” would tell us one person’s name.

      I’m also trying to figure out if the narrator is male or female. “Of course we were leaving each other ” sounds like a couple splitting. But then are they BOTH leaving Shady Oaks? I think if this narrator is a woman and she and her husband are leaving S.O., it would be good to clarify that, like “Mike and I were leaving everything we’d worked so hard for…”

      Though I suppose a lot of this would be taken care of in the blurb on the book cover.

  5. KJH

    Julia was cold and and she was hungry again when the bus finally pulled up. The hiss of the air brakes mingled with the hiss of the sleet outside and as the passengers straggled to their feet and the door started opening and closing the smell of diesel exhaust and sodden humanity went straight to her stomach. Hunger disappeared to be relaced by nausea. The coke and hot dogs she had eaten a few hours before rebelled and she swallowed hard as she shuffled closer to the door of her ticket out of town.

    Finally settled in her seat,she was relieved when the woman that sat down next to her smiled silently, pulled out a paperback and began to read. Her stomach began to feel better and she became hungry again so she pulled out her supplies for the journey and began taking inventory. Two peanut butter sandwiches, two bottles of water, a bananna and incongruently a chocolate Santa missing one foot. Carefully breaking the Santa into three pieces, she restored two parts of Santa to the plastic bag, and started to eat a sandwich alternating with sips of water and bites of the Head Elf himself.

    “Where are you headed, my dear?” asked the woman seated next to her. Julia started and turned slightly to look at the woman before answering “My ticket says Hope, Nebraska.” Then she looked out the window at the darkness, silently willing the woman to go back to her paperback.

    “Are you visiting family for Christmas?” Apparently silent willing was not effective so with a sigh she turned and looked at the woman and replied, “no, I’m just traveling through.” Then she turned back to the window with an air of finality. When she next glanced over the woman was leaned back with her eyes closed.

    Julia fell asleep herself and when she woke it was with an urgent need to go to the bathroom, a really dry mouth and a stiff neck. Peeking at her seatmate she saw with relief that the woman was asleep. Getting out of the window seat without waking up the woman next to her was achieved with some contortion and Julia slowly made her way back in the lurching bus to the toilet.

    As she returned to her seat she looked at the people occupying the bus and wondered why and how all these different people happened to be traveling with her through the night. Most were asleep but a few were awake, reading, watching tiny and externally silent movies or just listening to their devices with earbuds. She wished she had a device of any kind.

    Reply
    • Monica

      I would turn the page! I want to know why she is leaving and what her situation is–thanks for sharing!

    • SK

      Good job, you really captured the atmosphere of a bus station and a bus. I really like the “..slowly made her way back in the lurching bus..” I could feel that motion

    • Christine

      Good beginning! You chose a good name for the place, too. “Hope, NB” It adds to the feeling that she feels totally the opposite right now.

    • Rebel

      Great use of the five senses!

    • Sandra D

      really liked this piece.

  6. Victoria

    I definitely agree on all the points you made, Monica. There are books I set aside because that first page doesn’t intrigue me. Thanks for the reminders. I’ll be using this post as a reference as I start editing my WIP next month!

    Reply
    • Monica

      Good luck and congrats on finishing the draft!

  7. Marilyn Ostermiller

    From my WIP, the beginning lines from a children’s book for nine to 12-year-olds

    Dorsey’s eyes popped wide open that morning, even before the sun peeked around the edges of her bedroom curtain. She had butterflies in her tummy. Big ones. It felt like they were fluttering.

    In a blink, she knew why. This was moving day. The effervescent ten-year-old felt excited, scared and sad all at the same time. Usually she was quick to smile, but today she didn’t know whether to laugh or cry.

    The whole family, including her brother and sister and Momma and Daddy, were moving. Today they would leave Grandma’s house in Kansas, where they had been living. They would leave it far behind to travel hundreds of miles to northern Minnesota to live with Daddy’s sister and her family.

    How Dorsey will miss waking up to the sound of Grandma singing as she cooked breakfast. Her tummy will miss the skillet-toasted slabs of Grandma’s homemade bread. She especially likes them slathered with jam made from strawberries she helped pick.

    From her bedroom, she hears Momma and Daddy clattering in the kitchen and smells coffee brewing on the wood stove. Sometimes Momma pours a little of that morning coffee into a cup of milk. Dorsey likes how it warms her tummy on cool mornings. It makes her feel kind of grownup.

    “Wake-up, Lilly,” she whispered, prodding her younger sister lying beside her. “Wake-up! We’re moving today!”

    “Mmmffttt,” Lilly said. “I’m sleeping. Leave me alone.”

    Glancing across the room, Dorsey can tell that big brother Fred is already up. There is no Fred-sized lump under the blanket.

    “Well, you can stay in bed if you want to, but I’m getting up,” Dorsey said. “This is moving day and I don’t want to miss a thing.”

    Reply
    • The Cody

      This really sounds like it’s coming from a child’s perspective and I like it.

      I notice the tense shifts from past to present and then back. Is this intentional?

    • Marilyn Ostermiller

      Thanks, Cody. The tense is my big problem. I want to draw the reader in with immediacy, but then I slip into past tense. Any suggestions appreciated.

    • Christine

      This is a good setting, children will relate. But you are doing a lot of author narration at first, telling us what Dorsey is feeling and thinking. I’d suggest you cut the first five paragraphs and start with her waking up her sibling. There you have her tell us, “We’re moving.” That’s better.

      Let her tell us the story. Things like “I wonder what Dad’s sister will be like?” (If she doesn’t already know.) “I wonder if we’ll like living there?” and “I’m sure going to miss hearing Grandma singing when we wake up.”

    • Marilyn Ostermiller

      Christine, That’s a really good idea. Thanks for telling me I was “burying the lead,” as we say in news reporting.

    • Christine

      With children’s stories word count is such a big issue, I’m told. You can’t “afford” those first five paragraphs or to repeat the same facts twice. If she says she’s moving, that’s enough.

    • Monica

      Thanks for sharing! I loved the voice and I think children will love it too. Sometimes I think she uses words and descriptions that are little sophisticated like “effervescent,” but generally I think the topic is a great one. You left the reader wanting to know why are they moving in with all of these people and how will Dorsey do in Minnesota. Good luck with your WIP!

    • Sandra D

      I really like the homey feeling of this. It feels warm and delightful.

  8. Birgitte Rasine

    Enjoyed this post Monica. The first page is a killer — in a good sense. Gotta nail it.

    Here’s the first page from my novella “Verse in Arabic,” would love to know what the community thinks. (I put “italics” where the word is supposed to be formatted as such, since Disqus doesn’t allow me to format)

    I didn’t notice the rays of the rising sun slipping through the wet branches of the tall nameless trees we passed by; I didn’t see the emptiness of the streets we drove through; I cared nothing for the worries all those people flitting past my rain-strewn window carried deep inside. I didn’t feel the cobblestones rumbling beneath the wheels: all I could think about was him (italics).

    My driver was happily expounding upon the joys of his night before, but I wasn’t listening. I grunted politely now and then to slip him a quiver of apparent interest, but all I could think about was him (italics).

    I was certain he would terrify me. He had become a legend, a dark legend by force of his complete absence from the public eye. Everyone knew about him: elders invoked his name whenever something inexplicable occurred in their neighborhood; mothers kept their daughters at home after dark; children scared each other senseless in the streets before going home to dinner. I thought about what he looked like, what his voice sounded like, what he would say or not say, whether he would look at me or mutter incomprehensibilities the way many introverted criminals do. Yet somehow I could not reconcile the notion of this man as a criminal—he was a medical doctor.

    My journalistic pride bubbled up from my gut. Doctor or no doctor, he murdered her, in her own house. Over-worked physician murders patient in cold blood, I thought. But I just couldn’t make myself believe it.

    Reply
    • Christine

      This sounds intriguing, but I’d say take out most of the adjectives and adverbs. I.e.: “My driver was expounding… I grunted now and then..” etc.
      “Slip him a quiver…”? Like for arrows?

    • Birgitte Rasine

      No, “quiver” as in “a slight trembling movement or sound, esp. one caused by a sudden emotion.”

    • Monica

      Thanks for posting Birgitte! Yes, I found this very intriguing as well. Is the protagonist going to become obsessed with this doctor? Develop some twisted crush on him? Did she know him? You definitely left me wanting to know more.

    • Birgitte Rasine

      My pleasure Monica, really enjoyed your blog post. The protagonist is a male journalist — I wonder if you thought it was a female journalist because I’m a woman or because it sounded female?

      This is a story about a doctor convicted of murder who tells his story to an American journalist twenty years later — it takes place in Spain during the reign of General Franco. Here’s a short synopsis:

      http://www.birgitterasine.com/works/books/verse-arabic

    • Sandra D

      interesting.

  9. Carole Dixon

    The water gleamed and light refracted into Ona’s eyes. She was mesmerized, stepped off the path, plunged down the hillside and knelt beside the stream. The earth was soggy beneath her feet. She thrust her hands into the cool water. Squatting, she remained for a long moment before letting her hands explore. This was clay, red clay – the clay the nearby mound consisted of – buckets and buckets of clay to make it the highest view point in this area.

    Ona doodled with the clay; held it, squished it and made pinch pots. She disappeared into time where her hands and the clay talked their own language. She closed her eyes. When she opened them again in the dappled sunlight; she was surrounded by other women, some in the stream and one kneeling beside her working the clay.

    Ona leapt to her feet, looking all around her. Nothing was the same. The trees loomed too large, the air – what, clean? The sky, an impossible blue.

    The woman who knelt beside her, Senoa, stood more slowly with an unbroken gaze trained at Ona. How did Ona know her name? Senoa was afraid too, she could tell. And she heard a voice, clear as a bell, inside her head. “What has happened? What has happened to the trees and the water?”

    Ona looked back around and saw the woods again; scraggly, gray, sad and small. The sky was more gray than blue and the stream was a sluggish puddle compared to the babbling brook she’d just seen.

    Senoa looked at her still and her puzzlement turned to primal fear and anger. Her lips curled, a snarl came from her and she turned, as if to flee, but vanished instead.

    Ona found herself gasping, sputtering and afraid as well. She broke into a run, fleeing past the great temple mound, up the path towards the earth lodge and ultimately to the Visitor’s Center. When she reached her car, she looked in her grasped hand at a small, still soft clay pregnant female figurine.

    Reply
    • SK

      Nice, it has drawn me in and my curiosity is up! Where is she?

    • Marilyn Ostermiller

      Oh yes, I’m hooked. Can you give us a hint of the story line?

    • Carole Dixon

      This is a story that has been percolating for a long time. I’ve never been sure how to tell it. What I want to tell is a story about someone living in this time period who has a relationship with one of the original inhabitants of the area she lives in. They both live at the cusp of radical changes of the social fabric of their times. The problems with telling the story is how to ever really get the worldview of a culture so radically different than our own.

      I began following the Mayan calendar and after a couple of years of observing time out of our ordinary way, I kept thinking I was ready to start the story. Just this week, I have been accused of cultural theft with my adoption of the Mayan Tzlokin. So this was my attempt to keep Senoa totally as a projection of Ona’s consciousness because can I ever really do justice to the story of those who came before?

    • Monica

      Really interesting, thanks for sharing your story with us!

  10. Story Paige

    I just stumbled onto his site and am absorbing all the great advice/writing samples in the comments. I hope this is not going to sound completely stupid, but what is WIP?

    Reply
    • Duuna Desir

      It means “Work In Progress”

    • Story Paige

      Thanks Duuna…I’m still getting used to the shorthand of this new social media era.

    • Monica

      Welcome! If you follow enough blogs you’ll get all the acronyms like MS (manuscript), POV (point of view) and many others. I hope to see you in the comments section again in the future! 🙂

    • Story Paige

      I’m beginning to catch on…and yes hopefully I’ll also have my own WIP to share soon. Happy Holidays!

  11. SK

    She sat quietly looking at the TV but not watching it. She had already learned to be silent, invisible. Mom was angry again, and again she couldn’t understand why. “Please just sit and watch TV” she was told. The cleaning of the house was underway as it always was. Her mother was sweeping, dusting, wiping the counters down. Even to her at 6 years old it seemed like a lot of cleaning to do. The house was immaculate. Not an item out of place, not a dust bunny blowing around. But Mom always was moving, never enough time to sit and play. Sprout was on PBS and that meant Dad should be home soon. Excited to see him, to tell him about her day at school and hoping her parents wouldn’t yell at each other tonight. “That didn’t seem like a whole lot of fun, didn’t they love each other?”, she quietly thought. Mom rushing around, she seemed to be racing.

    Walking up to the door he could feel his blood pressure rise, his ears were getting warm. The closer to home, the warmer his ears got. “Shouldn’t work be more stressful than home?” he thought to himself. He reached for the worn brass door handle, gripped it, he heard the click as his thumb pushed down to gain entry to other side. Pushing the solid wood door inwards he stepped into the unknown.

    She always came running, 6 years of smiles had passed and nothing gave him a bigger joy than seeing that smile, crooked baby teeth and all. Her red curly hair all over the place with the afternoon frizzes as he would say. As he sat in the brown leather recliner with her in his arms, foam showing through the chair arms that had been long worn out before it was given to them, his wife ordered “you two need to start making out thank you cards from Sara’s birthday party”

    “Sure, no problem, do you have the list?” cordially and accommodatingly he replied. Hopeful this would not be like most nights. He assumed he was being set up for an argument. “There is no list”, was the response.

    Dam it, he thought, she had to be into a second bottle by now. Where to go with this? There was no way out of a fight, now he had to answer one way or the other and she would have an angry response either way. She wanted a fight and she was going to get one, this was his routine just as much as hers now.

    “How can I write thank you cards if I don’t know who gave her what gifts?”

    “That’s your problem”, she responded.

    Sarah looking at him, pleading with her sad blue eyes not to go there but he couldn’t help himself, he was always drawn in.

    “I wasn’t even here for the party; I don’t even know who was here. Remember?” here came his knife to cut deep and give her a reason to fight, “you always choose to have her party while I am working”.

    “She can help you”, pointing an accusatory finger at Sarah, it was after all her fault she turned six.

    Reply
    • Christine

      The poor girl! Your story starts off in an interesting way, but I couldn’t handle a story with such cruel marital conflict thrown at me on Page One. I hate severe friction between spouses, either actual or in printed form. I’d have to read something on the back cover blurb to tell me Sarah girl put this behind her and moved on successfully before I’d even consider reading this.

      You are into Sarah’s head and into her dad’s head, so you should be telling her mom’s thoughts, too, for an omniscient viewpoint. Otherwise pick Sarah as your main character and stick with her perspective on things.

    • Sk

      Thank you for the input. That will be a huge help regarding from who’s perspective to write from. I am new to writing but this story is Knawing at me to get out. Page two, para 1 would shed a little more light on the girls path. Did the writing capture the drama well enough? Thanks again!

    • Christine

      I think so. I had a friend caught in such a situation; she was a constant “bone of contention” between her dad and mom.
      If Sarah is your MC, how about relating her mother’s sharp command to sit, then Sarah’s puzzling over why why her mother was angry. Then you could eliminate “telling” the reader “Mom was angry again…”

    • SK

      Awesome advice! Thank you so much for the feedback.

    • Christine

      Another writer once said that we need to do a doc search for all the forms of “IS” (are, was, were) and verify that we’re not using them to “tell” or in passive voice. (Object first, verb, subject last: She was invited by her friend.)

    • Sabrina F

      Very useful! I hadn’t thought to Ctrl +F for that! Thanks for that!

    • Monica

      Thanks for sharing! If this is a story that has been knawing at you, then you have to write it. Just get it out without restraint and worry technique, what others might think, etc. later. Good luck!

    • SK

      Thanks! I am.

    • Ashley Hampton

      Excellent start! It drew me in immediately. So many people deal with this at home and no one knows. Addiction is horrible thing to witness but makes for a great story. Keep writing. I really think you have something here.

  12. Alyssa Phillips

    West Texas weather is an unpredictable and ruthless master, as any rancher or farmer can tell you. The land is so flat and vacant that a dust storm could carry on for miles without stopping. So of course that is where my father decided to settle. He picked a landscape that matched his personality.

    Hank Henry was definitely a hard man to love he had been wild, cold, and believed in beating any slight form of rebellion, whether real or imaginary, out of his children. My older brother Jeff easily stepped in line, but the youngest, Matthew, had his nose broken more then once. Being the lone female in the bunch since Momma left, I lucked out and only got the belt or a slap.

    The old man finally decided to pass away after one last night of drinking himself into a stooper. We all figured it would happen one day, there is only so much liquor a man can take in a lifetime, and Hank never seemed to let a night pass without getting his fill. The best nights were those when he would pass out, otherwise we all had to step lightly and try to not get a face full of whiskey or glass. Trust me when I say picking glass out of your ear by candle light isn’t the best way to spend an evening.

    No one cried, not a single tear. We had all learned long ago the more you cried the more beatings you would get. Crying was a sign of weakness and that wasn’t tolerated, even in a woman. After the funeral I found myself sitting out on the front porch swing. The breeze that drifted by brought the scent of honeysuckle and summer with it. There was a strange feeling lingering. That of emptiness and relief. It was a relief to not hear the clink of a bottle at the table, to not have to cower in one’s own home, to say what came to mind without fear. But what replaced it was silence and the thought that we were alone, no parent to answer to and no relative to consult. The only ones that were left lived hundreds of miles away.

    Reply
    • Christine

      This does draw me into the story, sad though it be. I’d like to hear more about how her life went on from there.

      For me the line that clunks a bit is “He picked a landscape that matched his personality.” This sounds like an author aside; it seems too mature for the girl narrating.

      How about “He picked a land he thought he could beat/defy, of a land that would test his mettle. Something portraying his reasoning, his wanting a challenge.

    • McDarlaj

      ummmmm…. I really disagree with this advice. I think it is a great line. test his mettle is very cliché and picking a landscape that matched his personality is a great example of a show and don’t tell

    • Emily Faithe

      Also, we don’t really know how old the girl is as the narrator. I think this line is perfect. It was actually the line the stood out the most to me! (In a good way!!)

    • nancy

      Well done! I’m going to tell my good friend, Hank Henry, to check it out. (He’s nicer in real life!)

    • Monica

      Great voice! I would definitely keep reading.

    • Rebel

      I live in West Texas and your description is perfect and to the point. I, personally, like the line “He picked a landscape that matched his personality.” I wanted to read more.

    • Alyssa Phillips

      Thank you, I’m a Texan too for a while lived in Wichita Falls. Driving from there to Oklahoma just the openness of the land is amazing to see. It gave me a sense of freedom but also made me realize how independent people had to have been if they lived in between towns, especially before phones and cars.

    • McDarlaj

      I was searching for advice on writing a first page. I, too, am a West Texan by birth and currently writing a novel set in West Texas, so this is a great coincidence ! Fabulous first page. I’d keep reading and I too loved the line about his personality and landscape. Good writing !! thanks for posting

    • Alyssa Phillips

      Thank you I pictured her as an old woman looking back on her life. I keep writing about Texas even when I don’t intend to. Her perspective of the land changes as she comes out of her dark world and finds herself. I want the location to be a character in it’s own right.

    • McDarlaj

      I think to be a succesful writer with a strong geographical influence in your story, you have to make the location its own character. for sure Texas is. Good luck with your writing. Post here when you are published.

    • Emily Faithe

      Oh this is a fantastic idea!

    • McDarlaj

      I was searching for advice on writing a first page. I, too, am a West Texan by birth and currently writing a novel set in West Texas, so this is a great coincidence ! Fabulous first page. I’d keep reading and I too loved the line about his personality and landscape. Good writing !!

    • Lisa Monks

      Very interesting. I definitely want to read more

    • Emily Faithe

      This is great! The only comment I have is that I don’t really know where the story is going. I don’t necessarily feel compelled to keep reading after this section, though the section is VERY well done. I just think it’s missing the tension I’d need to dive in to the rest of the story.

  13. nancy

    Even the mosquitoes were killers, a silent threat that hunted the innocent
    in the dimmest of light and attacked when no one was looking. Sharp,
    imperceptible needles pierced the skin and bent and probed in search
    of blood, and then injected malaria parasites in exchange for the
    delicious red nectar that flowed up into greedy mouths. One, two, three minutes went by, and no one suspected a thing. When the gluttons were sated, they flew off to rest, leaving the poor hosts for dead.

    Fortunately there were pills for protection. Pills with multiple, insidious side
    effects, but protection—so to speak. The team took those pills every Friday, starting two weeks before the trip to Zaire and continuing a month after their return. Had there been pills to protect them from the people—the dishonest, the desperate, the despicable—they would have swallowed those, too.

    Before the mosquitoes even awoke, Jonas Brynne paced the white marble
    lobby of the Kinshasa Intercontinental Hotel, his brief case in hand.
    The Reception counter was vacant. In the dim light he watched a lone gardener
    roam the seating areas dousing plants from a green plastic watering can.

    Where was his team? It was almost dawn.

    Jonas changed course and walked toward the portico to make sure the American Embassy driver had arrived. In the reflection of the door, he adjusted his yellow tie to make sure there was a perfect dimple below his double
    Windsor knot. Like the doctor whose Cadillac speaks volumes about his
    competence, Jonas Brynne expressed proficiency through meticulous
    business attire. Or at least that’s what he hoped.

    As he pushed the door open, he noticed his wedding ring, which he’d
    meant to leave in the safe. Just because Zaire was rich in gold
    didn’t mean the impoverished ninety-eight percent had their share.

    Jonas stepped outside, to the turf between the luxury hotel and the beggars
    beyond the front gate. In the darkness his face lifted toward the starless sky and sniffed for rain. The air was certainly thick enough and damp—it stuck to his face—but it didn’t smell of rain; it reeked of poverty and urine.

    Reply
    • Monica

      The setting is great–I’ve never been to Zaire, but I have gone places where I had to take malaria pills-ha! But what really got me wanting to turn the page was this line: “Had there been pills to protect them from the people—the dishonest, the desperate, the despicable—they would have swallowed those, too.” Can’t wait to read about the drama!

    • Rebel

      I agree with Monica, but I would condense the first paragraph to get to the meat of the story quicker.

  14. JC

    Terrific post, Monica. I’m reading more than I’m writing currently, and your post put the “light on” as I’m understanding what is drawing me into a good read.

    Reply
    • Monica

      That’s great to hear! It’s amazing the things that you notice in books you read while writing fiction. I like to apply techniques I like right away because I’m worried that otherwise I’ll forget. 🙂

  15. wilma worthy

    Sara Ann was in a big hurry to get home. “Hurry up , Lily,” she scolded her younger sister as she scuttled along as fast as she could with her book bag banging against her legs, clutching an arm full of old magazines to her chest. “I’m trying”, whined Lilly into the wind as it whipped her hair across her face and resisted her moving forward as if it were some unseen participant in those things that always annoyed Sara Ann. It just was not good to annoy Sara Ann. No one ever knew just what she might do next to get rid of the annoyances. And Lily never wanted to find out. Sara Ann stopped abruptly and Lilly banged into her, glad for the opportunity to finally catch up but now wary of what Sara Ann might be thinking or about to do. “Why did you stop”? ” Look there” Sara Ann pointed. Lily’s breath caught in her throat as she looked in the direction of Sara Ann’s pointing. “What are you going to do, Sara Ann? Let’s just go on home”, Lily begged. Sara Ann just stood calmly and quietly gazed ahead. Not moving an inch even though the wind was blowing even harder since they began there long trek home. “Let’s go, please.” Lily could feel the magazines beginning to slip. If she dropped them that would be another annoyance to deal with, but for right now Sara Ann was so absorbed in the scene ahead she paid Lilly no attention and didn’t even seem to mind the wind as it whipped itself into a frenzy. Slowly Sara Ann moved forward. “What are you doing here?” she asked evenly between clenched teeth.

    Reply
    • Monica

      What/who did she see?? I want to know! 🙂

    • Rebel

      This made me want to read more, but I think you could omit the first line. It isn’t necessary since you show that they’re in a hurry.

  16. Nada

    A tentative first page:

    The problem, Noor thought, with society, the world at large, in fact, was white people. Look at what the white man had done to Africa, to India, and now the white man’s influence had pervaded her own home. She spared a distasteful glance at the glossy magazine cut outs of boy bands stuck haphazardly to the walls with sello tape. Once again she wondered, not for the first time, as she surveyed the small room with the crumpled pink bed covers on the floor and the heart stickers vandalising the walls, also pink, whether she had made the right decision back when she herself had been little more than a child.

    “Ow! You’re hurting me!”

    Distracted from her thoughts by the squeal, she looked down at her daughter who was currently glaring sullenly at her. She clicked her tongue in annoyance and plucked the safety pin she had been holding between her teeth and fastened the white head scarf securely below her daughter’s chin, making sure not a strand of hair could be seen.

    “There. That wasn’t so hard, was it?” She stood up, gathering her sewing kit and started clearing up the disastrous room. “No,” she answered her own question, “All that fuss over nothing.”

    “But Mummy – “

    “How many times have I told you to call me Amma?”

    “Mummy! I don’t want to wear it. All the kids will laugh at me. They will think I’m bald, or worse! I have nits! Yasmin wore a headscarf because she had nits and then her mum chopped all her hair off and then she had to wear a head scarf anyway because she couldn’t come to school with a bald head…”

    Noor tuned out this tirade. This had been an on-going battle in her house for the whole of the summer holidays since her announcement that Salma, almost having reached the ripe age of 12, should start wearing the head scarf. Perhaps she should have waited until a week before the school semester started; the element of surprise might have made her daughter more agreeable. Better yet, she should have enforced the hijab on her from the age of 9 when it becomes compulsory in every Muslim girl’s life. She was fully aware of the murmurs that followed her at the local mosque, the looks of barely disguised disapproval mixed with smug satisfaction thrown her way as she stepped off the bus with her daughter in tow. Noor avoided the ladies as they stepped out of their flashy cars, dismissing their husbands and gathering their ever-expanding brood while cutting in front of her to get to the shoe rack first. She allowed all this, these small victories to the mosque ladies who both admired and despised her independence; she was a bad example: an absentee husband and an unruly daughter. Noor threatened their shariah approved lifestyle by still having stuck around, by learning how to top up the gas and electricity meter at the corner shop and setting up direct debits while working minimum wage at Tesco supermarket. Noor had defied them all, hadn’t run away back to the comfort of her village life twelve years ago. She hadn’t crumbled then and she wasn’t about to start now.

    “Mummy? Amma?” She looked down at Salma chewing her lip nervously. A habit she had tried to smack out of the girl, she will chew her lips to nothing one of these days, Noor constantly threatened her. “I don’t want to wear it.” Salma’s chin trembled as she blinked away the tears flooding her eyes.

    Noor heaved a sigh and bent down, gathering her daughter in her arms, tucking her head against her neck. “Now, shhh. Big girls don’t cry. Aren’t you a big girl?” A shaky nod, more warm wetness against her neck. “Acha, come on now. You will be late for school.”

    Reply
    • Monica

      This is great–loved the first line, very provacative. I definitely foresee a conflict moving forward traditions v. assismilation. Can’t wait to read more!

    • Rebel

      The first line put me off a bit, but I like the rest.

    • Shelina Valmond

      The first line pulled me in. Struck a chord that forced me to keep reading. Looks to be a very interesting story.

    • Rebel

      After rereading it. I’ve changed my mind. I think I was in a peculiar mood that day, feeling overly sensitive. I agree the first line is compelling and draws the reader in. But it just goes to show that the reader’s mood affects how they perceive our words.

    • McDarlaj

      Great first line !

    • Emily Faithe

      I have a hard time getting through many of your sentences. You put so many thoughts into one sentence. Your first sentence for instance: “The problem was white people.”
      Personally I feel that is a MUCH more compelling first sentence. It’s controversial and punchy. I’d go back and look at your sentences and cut every word that does’t make your sentence a clear thought.

      I hope that makes sense! I love where the story is going <3

    • LilianGardner

      Nada, I appreciate your post because it tells me things I did not know about the compulsory wearing of the head scarf for Muslim girls, and which Salma does not want to wear because she knows her class mates will pull fun at her.
      Between the lines, I can discern how you feel about this custom. You relate how Salma calls her mother, Mummy, but her mother insists on being called Amma.
      You have integrated these two important facts well in your post of mother/daughter relationship.
      Thanks for sharing.

  17. Rebel

    This is the first page of my YA novel Daughter of the Bride. I just recently rewrote the beginning. Any comments would be helpfu

    Ellen ran barefoot into the parlor, her white cotton gown dragging the floor behind her. Her mother’s sobs had awakened her and sent her
    scurrying from her canopied bed.

    “Your father is missing.” Her mother sat on the plush floral settee. She still wore her pink, silk dressing gown. Her knees were tucked beneath her chin and her long brown hair hung down her back. She looked up. Her face was red and streaked with tears.

    Not fully awake, Ellen blinked in the lamplight, unsure if she understood. “What?”

    Lenore took the crumpled handkerchief from her lap and dabbed at her
    eyes. She untangled her bare feet from her gown and positioned them on the
    floor, sitting straighter. She patted a space beside her. “Come sit by me.”

    Ellen did. Her mother touched her knee. “Your father never came home last night. I’ve sent Ada to fetch the sheriff.”

    So it was early morning, not nighttime as Ellen had first thought. Every weekday, their housekeeper Ada Janowski arrived, waking Ellen with the
    smell of coffee and the clanging of pots while the woman prepared the Moore’s
    breakfast.

    “Are you certain Daddy didn’t go to the bank earlier than normal
    this morning?” Her father often worked late into the evenings, but she’d never
    known him to leave for the bank before kissing them goodbye.

    “No, I dozed while waiting for him. When he hadn’t arrived by ten
    o’clock, I couldn’t sit still. I’ve been up ever since.” Lenore’s lips twitched
    as she sniffed back more tears. She squeezed Ellen’s shoulder. “We better get
    dressed before Ada returns with Sheriff Hutton.”

    Reply
  18. Janey Egerton

    Thank you so much for this post! It is indeed a very relevant aspect that I haven’t thought about before. Why should your reader feel compelled to read on if you don’t give her the motivation to do so? This means I’m going to have to make some serious adjustments in my WIP, but I’m happy that you pointed it out in time.

    If I may bring in my two cents, the first page of Gabriel García Márquez’s One Hundred Years of Solitude must be the greatest first page of all times. It is amazing! The very first paragraph (yes, a rather long one, but the first paragraph) introduces four main characters, not just mentioning their names, but providing a rather good introduction to their personality, and the town in which the story takes place, along with revealing parts of the town’s history and of the magic laws that govern the novel’s law. One paragraph. It’s hard to do it better.

    ——- One Hundred Years of Solitude, Paragraph 1 ——-

    Many years later, as he faced the firing squad, Colonel Aureliano Buendía was to remember that distant afternoon when his father took him to discover ice. At that time Macondo was a village of twenty adobe houses, built on the bank of a river of clear water that ran along a bed of polished stones, which were white and enormous, like prehistoric eggs. The world was so recent that many things lacked names, and in order to indicate them it was necessary to point. Every year during the month of March a family of ragged gypsies would set up their tents near the village, and with a great uproar of pipes and kettledrums they would display new inventions. First they brought the magnet. A heavy gypsy with an untamed beard and sparrow hands, who introduced himself as Melquíades, put on a bold public demonstration of what he himself called the eighth wonder of the learned alchemists of Macedonia. He went from house to house dragging two metal ingots and everybody was amazed to see pots, pans, tongs, and braziers tumble down from their places and beams creak from the desperation of nails and screws trying to emerge, and even objects that had been lost for a long time appeared from where they had been searched for most and went dragging along in turbulent confusion behind Melquíades’s magical irons. “Things have a life of their own,” the gypsy proclaimed with a harsh accent. “It’s simply a matter of waking up their souls.” José Arcadio Buendía, whose unbridled imagination always went beyond the genius of nature and even beyond miracles and magic, thought that it would be possible to make use of that useless invention to extract gold from the bowels of the earth. Melquíades, who was an honest man, warned him: “It won’t work for that.” But José Arcadio Buendía at that time did not believe in the honesty of gypsies, so he traded his mule and a pair of goats for the two magnetized ingots. Úrsula Iguarán, his wife, who relied on those animals to increase their poor domestic holdings, was unable to dissuade him. “Very soon we’ll have gold enough and more to pave the floors of the house,” her husband replied. For several months he worked hard to demonstrate the truth of his idea. He explored every inch of the region, even the riverbed, dragging the two iron ingots along and reciting Melquíades’s incantation aloud. The only thing he succeeded in doing was to unearth a suit of fifteenth-century armour which had all of its pieces soldered together with rust and inside of which there was the hollow resonance of an enormous stone-filled gourd. When José Arcadio Buendía and the four men of his expedition managed to take the armour apart, they found inside a calcified skeleton with a copper locket containing a woman’s hair around its neck.

    ——- citation end ——-

    Reply
    • Birgitte Rasine

      Janey—having been to Colombia numerous times, I can confirm the magic realism García Marquez wrote about is real. It’s a stunning country and culture.

  19. Andre Cruz

    I agree with leaving out the prologue. Readers have less patience than in the past and want the story to be interesting quickly.

    http://www.andrecruz.net

    Reply
  20. JillSF1959

    I agree that tension and revealing a core characteristic should be right up front. I don’t think that grounding is as essential, because readers will read on to get grounded if you hook them on the first page.

    Reply
  21. Sarah Somewhere

    So helpful, thank you! I think I achieve these things in the first chapter, but will definitely focus more on the first page to see if it lives up.

    Reply
  22. 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.

    Reply
  23. Lisa Monks

    THE Players,

    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
    prison.

    Reply
  24. Louise Findlay

    I use the prologue to add suspense and mystery before starting the beginning with character introduction.

    Reply
  25. Lisa Monks

    THE PLAYERS

    What if I don’t make it, pull it together Lilly, I said to myself. I can’t afford to miss this. And I can’t risk being pulled over. I can’t believe I slept in, I never sleep through my alarm.

    I was speeding down the highway out of control, weaving in and out of traffic. I had
    to make it into the city. My whole body was shaking as I was driving. I tried
    to dig through my purse for some Tylenol, but gave up when I almost swerved
    into the next lane. Fuck why is everything so difficult. I looked up and
    noticed it was my exit, reeled my car over into the far right lane and pulled
    onto the Allen Rd. Expressway south bound ramp, there was no time to stop. 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 was going to be late and
    miss it. I felt so sick I could barely focus on the road.

    Thank God, it was spring and I didn’t have a snow storm to contend with. I had to make it there, I couldn’t stand to live another week feeling like this. Do other grown women
    get themselves in this predicament, or was I a special kind of fuck up.

    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,
    even without a single soul in sight. I felt like a low life. I rummaged through
    my glove box emptying most of its contents onto the floor, finally found some
    napkins, courtesy of Starbucks, wiped my mouth then quickly 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 remaining bile in my stomach, and fighting the overpowering urge to vomit yet again, 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
    prison.

    Once inside I tried my best to maintain eye contact with the floor to hide my feelings of shame.

    Reply
  26. Lisa Enqvist

    The Chinese New Year had begun. The passengers on board the S.S. Taiping were restless. They would never get home in time to celebrate the New Year with their families. Anna’s son, Sam, five and a half, had watched a man smoking a cigarette. The man seemed upset. He threw a half-smoked cigarette down on the lower deck and then lit another one. The lower deck was stacked with large bamboo piles.

    Anna sat in the small cabin trying to find warm clothes for her five children. It was freezing outside. Large blocks of ice floated around the ship. The engines had been shut down since the pilot would hardly come for days. He had already left work to celebrate with his family.

    Anna’s husband, Toimi, had come to Shanghai from Manchuria to meet his family, who arrived on the S.S..Marine Falcon from Seattle a few days earlier. They had continued their journey to Tangku, the Tianjin port on the cargo ship, S.S. Taiping. Toimi’s father had been one of several pilots on the South Eastern coast of Finland. As a boy Toimi had sometimes been allowed to board large ships together with his father, Edward Yrjola. Toimi was discussing the ship’s situation with the captain, and had just heard what the ship was carrying. The cargo was bombs and petrol for the Chinese Army fighting against Mao Tse Tung’s Red Army.

    Suddenly Anna heard screaming outside. From the cabin porthole she saw great flames rise up from the bamboo cargo. It looked terrible. There was only one thing she could do, the one thing she had learned to do since she was a small child: Pray. “God help us”! Even in the midst of her prayer the thought of what might happen engulfed her. Why had she brought her children to China at such a perilous time?

    Reply
  27. Willie Gail Riddles-Rotzoll

    In days of need, Great Winged Guardians, residents of ‘Cloud-Cuckoo-Land’ who were Eagles of Legend , waited and responded swiftly to our petitions aimed in the direction of the Sky Gods and delivered my people from famine. We, nomadic wanderers traveling North to South and often back again along the trail known as ‘The Long Look’ in the lands of desolation among the Southwest Canyon Lands. The walls inundated by countless rock shelters, covered by hand-painted pictographs featuring cultural details of Paleo-Indian’s everyday life.
    “Gathered together, clouds of wind, steps of true human beings whose pathways diverge in patterns of eccentricity beyond the scope of ordinary understanding unless they would give up relative knowledge for the reality of dreams”, cackled the wrinkled old hag.
    “Yes,,,, come, sit you by my side and listen, so that you too follow the steps of my people and of me, Char’nur, a woman of many names and lifetimes who became the irascible ‘Will-of-the Wisp’, recounting this story as only I am able because I lived it with my like-sister, Yahni’. Born as brown skinned Magnolia Babies, we spent our first years entwined together, appearing as a two-headed, four-armed, four-legged creature sent by evil spirits from uncharted territory of the over-lapping world within a world. We would become sacrificial offerings to appease angry Gods, prompting them to unleash torrents of rain.
    Should you be so inclined to ask, “Yes, indeed, I promised Yahni’ we would always be together in the Spirit World as we were in life. Never to be separated was my pledge to her to soothe her heart and chaotic thoughts during our darkest hours preceding the ordeal of the Buffalo Jump. We both jumped, only one survived.
    But, there were others who stepped over the bounds of Shamanic Law in defiance, taking matters regarding our fate into their own hard-worked, crippled hands and said no to a supreme injustice. First were our parents, refusing to expose us to the elements of nature.
    Secondly, the Old Women of our tribe, possessed the courage to act with honorable maternal instinct to save their progeny from extinction. Because it is the simple methods that produce marvelous results of magical proportions; the Old in exchange for the Young occurred right under the long-nosed tyrannical Old Shaman and his busy-body Elders. Strutting about discounting the inevitable intrusion into mankind’s affairs by acts of providence.
    Fate being no respecter of persons guaranteed my survival and provided a means for living my recycled lives. I am and was Happy, but next time, it will be better.

    Reply
  28. Sabrina

    Here’s the first page for my new novel, still in development: Final Fortress.

    Alyssa was ten years old when she first looked into the starry sky, and decided then and there that she would become a space engineer.

    Now, you would have thought that a ‘space engineer’ was meant for those working in space stations, wearing space suits, in a space craft, doing space things. That, ladies and gentlemen, would be the job for an astronaut, not a space engineer. Such persons, in Proto-Terra, were meant to build new worlds – habitable worlds – to sustain life.

    First rule for the survival of humanity: find a planet suitable enough that could inhabit millions of lives. Every human, every citizen in Proto-Terra have revised that rule, remembered it by heart, and had set themselves for such a task. Others would have to wait and follow when the time was right.

    One that had prepared for such a task, was Alyssa herself.

    “Lyssa!”

    The underground garage was, as usual, cramped with rusted metal and humid with iron air, that it was a surprise to see anyone survive living in here at all. There was the gentle hum of a machine when Cad opened the hidden door on the ground, descended inside, and was met with the view of parts of a humongous space ship – twice the size of a terrace house – being assembled and screwed together in place. Behind the control area, a brunette with ocean eyes was observing the whole thing, a small remote in her hand, which she fiddled with.

    “Lyssa!”

    Amid the loud banging and screw-driving, it was impossible for Alyssa to hear Cad’s voice through all that ear-shaking sounds. But she had caught a hand waving back to her, and Cad knew she had gotten the brunette’s attention.

    “You’d end up here, of all places,” she commented, by the time the left wing of the ship was screwed neatly into place. “Now I’m wondering if I should bet with Vic and Gunner about you staying in here for five whole nights. Is this the ship?”

    “The one and only,” Alyssa said, shimmying to the edge of the control area to peek on the right wing; one screw had come loose. She sighed, picked up a screw pulser at her feet, and jumped onto the right wing; it shook feebly and Alyssa balanced herself by holding onto the railing above her head. Then she inserted the pulser into the loose nail and the device started humming softly. “I’m still in the dark about what to name it, though. I’ve listed down a few but I doubt they’d make it into the book.”

    Cad giggled. “Vic had listed down a few himself,” she said, peering at the edge of the area, watching as her friend placed a few thumps onto the now neatly screwed wing with her fists. “Though I doubt you’d like the names he’d come out with: who would want to name their ship with something like ‘Green Acorn’ or ‘Metal Bruiser’? That would look nasty on our plates.”

    Alyssa snorted, looking up to Cad with a wide grin on her face. “Tell him to give up his list. Bran could come out with better ones.”

    Cad kicked down a short flight of stairs at Alyssa’s path; the latter jumped onto it and was at her friend’s side in a matter of seconds. For a moment, they stared at the unfinished vehicle, basking in the piercing bangs and whirrs of machines and metal, feeling a sense of intimacy and union against the odd loudness of it. It was a feeling neither Cad nor Alyssa could describe.

    “One more week and we’re off,” Cad said, casting a sideways glance at Alyssa’s way.

    The latter smiled, tweaking another control in the remote; the tail wing was neatly screwed into place. “One more week, my friend. One more week.”

    Reply
  29. Colby Davidson

    It has come to my attention that the ceiling in my bedroom of the home of Andrew Maplewood had, and has, exactly 399 square linoleum tiles on it. Each can occur in one of a wide variety of colors, but when taken all together they formed, and form, no detectable pattern at all. I like to go back to that room sometimes. I like to lie in my old bed and just smell the fascinating odors of the bygone era contained within the six faces of that cubic living space. I like to reminisce about the adventures that fourteenth and fifteenth and sixteenth and seventeenth and eighteenth me all had on days that started in that room. There’s an ancient Twinkie on my old spruce desk. Unwrapped. I wanted to see if what they say is true, fourteenth me did when I had just moved into the room, about Twinkies being able to last forever. Sometimes I go over to my old spruce desk and pick up the small yellow cake. I think about biting it, but I always decide to continue on in the experiment of immortality.

    It seems to me, and any man or woman who feels the need to cast his or her rebuttal upon this statement may do so, that immortality is not a blessing. It is a curse. Like, the sun will swallow the earth—and you’d have to live through it. The black hole at the center of our galaxy will swallow that sun—and you would survive your own spaghettification. And finally, at the point farthest off in the timeline of the Universe, all the black holes will have evaporated into meaningless, random dust, and you would be there, alive, freezing, alone, forever. So if I lowered my life-expectancy in the material universe by means of some or all of the actions taken in my sixteenth, seventeenth, or eighteenth self’s excursions with Eris Lakewater, take comfort in knowing that I do not give a single flying shit on the matter. Quality over quantity, you know, is one of the only of the “old sayings” that remains forever intact.

    Reply
    • Emily Faithe

      First, I love the tone you write with, but your sentences are a bit overloaded. It’s hard to get right to the point when reading. Try to go back and whittle down your sentences to their main points.

      A couple of specifics:
      1. I would leave your first line like this: “It has come to my attention that the ceiling in my bedroom has exactly 399 square linoleum tiles.”
      Add the fact that it’s the brother’s house with the sentence “I like to lie in my old bed [at my brother’s house]…”
      2. I am not sure if these asides are in there on purpose, but it seems that you don’t need “they formed, and form”. Since it’s a memory “they formed” seems sufficient.
      3. And one last thing, it would be clearer as a reader if your capitalized Fourteenth-Me etc. I didn’t understand exactly what was going on there at first glance 🙂

  30. drjeane

    I was an old schoolhouse, built in the late 19th century, in the rural countryside of Missouri. A few years ago I finally collapsed and my “bones” were gathered up. The schoolyard is now empty except for the weeds that have taken over. How will I be remembered if all the physical remnants of me are gone? I’m now just a shadow of what was, but there is hope.
    Sometimes I get the feeling that there are former students out there thinking about me – maybe one of them will “remember” for me and write down the words that will allow me to live again. Not only for those who actually remember, but for all who are curious about a time when children walked to school, sometimes miles, in all kinds of weather; when some even came without shoes, except in the coldest weather; when they spent recess time in what would be considered today unsafe activities, like riding their sleds down the steep hill just to the south of me, narrowly missing¬ – sometimes not missing – the trees.
    It was a marvelous time, although confusing sometimes scary. They played games like Old Black Sambo and didn’t understand the implications for those human beings with dark skins. They even did a play one year about Aunt Jemima, using blackface for the characters who were dark-skinned. I didn’t understand then why they seemed to dislike or ridicule people with dark skins. There certainly weren’t many dark-skinned people around and none were students within my walls. Maybe it made them feel better about themselves to think there were other human beings who were of lesser value.
    I was abandoned years ago, after serving as a community building for a few years past the time when it was deemed no longer acceptable to have one school room for all of the elementary school grades; children from age five or so (they weren’t so particular about when one’s birthday was then) to students beginning their teen years.
    Sometimes former students would drive by and walk around a bit, but they didn’t come in as my roof was collapsing. That was nice, but it happened less and less as the years went by.
    What I really want is to be remembered, and to have the wonderful students and the teachers who served them remembered for all of their quirks, their cruelty and their kindness. I’ve been feeling, since being reduced to rubble and beginning the return to the earth, that someone out there is calling to me to wait – there are stories to be shared and we must begin soon, before my spirit fades along with my physical remains.

    Reply
  31. drjeane

    I was an old schoolhouse, built in the late 19th century, in the rural countryside of Missouri. A few years ago I finally collapsed and my “bones” were gathered up. The schoolyard is now empty except for the weeds that have taken over. How will I be remembered if all the physical remnants of me are gone? I’m now just a spirit of what was, but there is hope.

    Sometimes I get the feeling that there are former students out there thinking about me – maybe one of them will “remember” for me and write down the words that will allow me to live again. Not only for those who actually remember, but for all who are curious about a time when children walked to school, sometimes miles, in all kinds of weather; when some even came without shoes, except in the coldest weather; when they spent recess time in what would be considered today unsafe activities, like riding their sleds down the steep hill just to the south of me, narrowly missing¬ – sometimes not missing – the trees.

    It was a marvelous time and a scary time. They played games like Old Black Sambo and didn’t understand the implications for those human beings with dark skins. They even did a play one year about Aunt Jemima, using blackface for the characters who were dark-skinned. I didn’t understand then why they seemed to dislike or ridicule people with dark skins. There certainly weren’t many dark-skinned people around and none were students within my walls. Maybe it made them feel better about themselves to think there were other human beings who were of lesser value.

    I was abandoned years ago after serving as a community building for a few years past the time when it was deemed no longer acceptable to have one school room for all of the elementary school grades; children from age five or so (they weren’t so particular about when one’s birthday was then) to students beginning their teen years.

    Occasionally, through the years, former students would drive by and walk around a bit, but they didn’t come in as my roof was collapsing. That was nice, but it happened less and less as the years went by.

    What I really want is to be remembered, and to have the wonderful students and the teachers who served them remembered for all of their quirks, their cruelty and their kindness. I’ve been feeling, since being reduced to rubble and beginning the return to the earth, that someone out there is calling to me to wait – there are stories to be shared and we must begin soon, before my spirit fades along with my physical remain

    Reply
  32. Annie

    She had never hated anything more than she did in that split second. Her eyes scoured the room to see if anyone else had heard the insolent comment, only to find that she was the sole person disturbed by the phrase “what are you, mental?” In the midst of casual chatter, she got up from her seat and walked towards the front of the room.

    “May I please be excused to use the restroom?” she asked.

    “Take the hall pass,” her teacher answered, barely looking up from his grading.

    She snatched the hall pass from his desk and shoved her way through the door. Her mind was spinning out of control, nothing she wasn’t used to, but the utter hatred was more prominent than usual. Thoughts of “not good enough” and “you don’t belong here” blared inside of her and she struggled to not collapse into tears.

    It had always been like this. A struggle to ignore the comments. A struggle to make it through the day without breaking. A struggle to remember why she was living. She tried to take deep breaths as she stepped into the mercifully empty bathroom, but the harder she tried the more it felt like she was choking.

    She locked the stall door, tears forming in her grey and stormy eyes. She pulled out the pocket knife she always carried with her and began to carve constellations into her skin.

    It had always been like this.

    Reply
  33. Annie

    She had never hated anything more than she did in that split second. Her eyes scoured the room to see if anyone else had heard the insolent comment, only to find that she was the sole person disturbed by the phrase “what are you, mental?” In the midst of casual chatter, she got up from her seat and walked towards the front of the room.

    “May I please be excused to use the restroom?” she asked.

    “Take the hall pass,” her teacher answered, barely looking up from his grading.

    She snatched the hall pass from his desk and shoved her way through the door. Her mind was spinning out of control, nothing she wasn’t used to, but the utter hatred was more prominent than usual. Thoughts of “not good enough” and “you don’t belong here” blared inside her and she struggled to not collapse into tears.

    It had always been like this. A struggle to ignore the comments. A struggle to make it through the day without breaking. A struggle to remember why she was living. She tried to take deep breaths as she stepped into the mercifully empty bathroom, but the harder she tried the more it felt like she was choking.

    She locked the stall door, tears forming in her grey and stormy eyes. She pulled out the pocket knife she always carried with her and began to carve constellations into her skin.

    It had always been like this.

    Reply
  34. gemma feltovich

    Mara shivered, pulling her ratty, practically obsolete sweater closer around her torso. Tevrah was cold this time of year. And drizzly. A drop of rain landed on her nose, freezing and unexpected. She wished she had warm pants instead of her school dress and her mother’s cardigan.
    Her younger brother, Deo, tugged on her hand and pulled her off-course toward a stand selling jewelry. A young woman was standing behind the tables, smiling benevolently at her customers. She eyed Mara and Deo. “We don’t have long,” Mara warned him in their language, trying to smile innocently at the shopkeeper. It wasn’t as if they were going to steal something, but they certainly had the stink of poverty around them, accentuated especially by their thin, dark features. Deo’s hair was sticking up all over the place, his face the only inch of cleanliness on his body. Their mother was quite persistent about the need for washing your face twice a day, even if nothing else was clean. “It is important to make a good impression,” she had warned. Mara could only imagine what the people of this town thought of her and Deo, sure she looked just the same as her six-year-old brother. She wished she hadn’t disregarded the necessity of neatness that morning. Every sort of person on earth could be observed in this market. The rich, the seedy, the fine, the poor, the gaudy, the drab. And Mara and Deo looked like beggars.
    She still had a few coins left in the pockets of her sweater. Her bag was filled with day-old bread, bruised apples, and several rolls of bandages. They still hadn’t found someplace selling sponges for cheap, which was unfortunate since the younger kids cried when you scrubbed them with the rougher brush. And that was Mara’s job. She would have taken a used oil cloth by now to avoid Skya Menyon’s sharp glance whenever she heard the wail of her toddler, who was the whiniest child Mara had ever met.
    It had been her job back at the village, at least three hundred kilometers from Tevrah’s town of North Market. They were three hundred kilometers from the place Mara had never left in her life– until now. The people were different here, even not so far away. The area was drizzly and brown and green, filled with grays. The people here had lighter hair, while the skin on Mara’s arm was dark as a macadamia nut’s shell. Her village was all but disappeared, nothing but ashes on the gods’ gentle breeze.
    The day after the fires, the women of the village had shorn their hair to shoulder length, Mara included since her fifteenth birthday had passed two weeks prior. She wasn’t used to it. She liked to twirl strands of her hair, mindlessly twist them together as a nervous habit, and with it so short it was hard to wrap her black locks around her index finger. She kept reaching up only for her hand to stop short and sink back down to her side.
    Deo was gawking at a gold necklace. The shopkeeper’s hawk eyes stayed locked on him, drawn as a moth to a flame. She was clearly suspicious. “Deo,” Mara hissed. He barely looked up.
    “What?” he muttered.
    “Stop it.”
    “Huh?”
    Mara tugged him a few feet away from the necklace, the shopkeeper still watching them. “Stop looking at that like you’re going to grab it.”
    “I wasn’t going–”
    “She doesn’t know that!” Mara protested. Deo frowned, looking at his grubby hands curiously.
    “Is it time for lunch yet?”
    “Deo!” she chastised. The woman had begun to emerge from behind the booth. Mara turned toward her, widening her eyes. “Yes?” she inquired politely, switching to Tevranian for the shopkeeper’s sake.
    “You kids like my jewelry?” she demanded.
    Mara smiled shakily. “I apologize, miss, but my brother, he is not so smart,” she said, patting Deo’s hair and shushing his protests with a hand over his mouth. She tried to adjust the bag on her hip so the woman could peer into it and see there was nothing out of the ordinary inside.
    “Oh?” the woman said, raising an eyebrow.
    “He does not know how much the necklace does cost, you see?”
    She grunted again.
    “The cost is too much for us, anyway, because you see–” Mara saw something out of the corner of her eye. A glint of silver. A flash of crimson red. She stopped short, aware of the shopkeeper’s eyes trained on her dubiously. A girl had slipped in behind the stand, wearing vibrant red pants and a gray shirt, hair that must have been white as ivory when it was clean hanging in strands down her back.
    “Yes?” the woman prompted.
    “Yes…” Mara forced herself to look away. “I, um, we were not taking the necklace.” The fair-haired girl’s hand danced out of her pocket and hooked the bracelet onto a finger. She stuffed it into her overcoat.
    Mara stared for a second before coming to her senses. “Hey!”
    The shopkeeper whirled around. “What–”
    The girl’s green eyes darted up to meet her accuser’s, and then she nimbly slipped into the crowd, that white hair a blur behind her. Mara began to run after her, leaving Deo and the shopkeeper behind, but stumbled over a man’s shoe. He sneered at her. “S-sorry,” she stammered. “Sir.”
    A warm, dry hand grasped Mara’s hand tightly in its grip. She looked down to see Deo staring up at her, his hair wet from the rain. “Deo,” she said distractedly, trying to see over the crowd’s heads, “go… go find Thyme and Yuri.” She shoved the basket of goods into his hands.
    He began to whine, but Mara was already gone. She darted around a fruit cart, a few berries falling to the ground as she bumped it. The boy selling the fruits cursed at her in a language she didn’t understand. Mara kept going. Where had that girl gone? And why hadn’t she just yelled “Thief!” and left other people to take care of it?
    She was an idiot, Mara reminded herself, that’s why.
    She tripped over her own shoes, a size and a half too large, not once but twice. Her gray dress was small on her, barely modest as it ended a few inches above her knees. The only reason Mara could get away with it was because she didn’t look her age. She’d kept a bit of baby fat, and she hadn’t shot up like a bamboo stalk. At least, not yet.
    Ah. Under that bridge over there, through the not-so-dried-up riverbed. (She was sure it had been dry a week or so ago, but certainly not now.) Mara saw a flash of blonde hair and those strange red pants the girl was wearing before she took off again. By now, the rain was coming down hard, clumping Mara’s dark eyelashes together and blurring her vision. She stumbled over the muddy ground just beyond the market, the sounds of the city disappearing from her ears, and ducked under the cover of the old bridge.
    It was quiet but for the sound of rain pattering the stone above.
    “Hello?” Mara called out softly. There were no footprints in the mud leading off into the forest on the other side of the tunnel, but she couldn’t see where else the girl could possibly have gone. Perhaps she’d disappeared, like in the Yabaa’s stories back home. “Hello?” Mara said again, louder.
    “It’s not worth that much.”
    Mara startled, whirling around. No one. “What?”
    “The bracelet,” the voice explained. “Didn’t cost as much as that lady was selling it for.”
    “Ay.” Mara didn’t know what to say to an invisible person, so she said nothing at all. The distant sounds of shouting salesman just barely reached her ears.
    “You can leave and pretend this never happened.”
    Mara seethed. “No.”
    “Why not?” she challenged.
    “You took it!”
    “I stole something deserving of a halved coin.”
    “What in ny anaran’Andriamanitra is a half coin?” Mara retorted. She wrung the rainwater out of her hair, and it splattered on her already-soaked dress. She wasn’t sure where to look, as she couldn’t see the person she was talking to.
    “Oh, you know.” Mara didn’t. “A copper. Not even a single silver. She was marking it three times its worth.” They didn’t have much of silver where Mara was from.
    “Who are you,” Mara said, “to judge?”
    “And who are you?” the voice echoed.
    “I–” Mara started, then cut herself off. “You are a criminal.”
    “Hm.” The girl’s body dropped from the top of the bridge, and she landed perfectly balanced, wearing a red sweater and gray, unfitted pants. She stumbled back, surprised at the girl’s entrance, and almost tripped over a rock behind her. “I disagree,” the girl said.
    “Y-you–”
    “Are quite good at climbing things,” the girl said. She stared at Mara unblinkingly, her green eyes startlingly bright against the gray of the day. A gust of wind picked up her wispy blonde hair on its wings. “I’ll tell you what. You let me go, I’ll give you this bracelet.”
    “That is not a deal!” Mara spluttered. “You take it! Here is the idea: give it back and I will not… tell. Tell the police.”
    The girl chuckled, flashing a crooked smile, dimples appearing at the corners of her mouth. “Let me guess. You aren’t from around here?”

    Reply
  35. TerriblyTerrific

    This was an interesting article. I see now that the “Prologue” is keeping the reader from enjoying the book. It can tell too much of the story. Am I correct?

    Reply
  36. Hindra Saputra

    As always, every posts in here is really helpful. I threw away my prologue and write down the opening scene. English is not my native language so pardon me for grammatical errors. This is just a piece of my opening page.


    Wiseman says that you can run but you can’t hide.

    I don’t really understand the meaning of the old sayings untill I frozed in the front of cheap pink and blue neon lights that carved the name of this place, The Lighthouse Bar. Fred, my cousin, and his girlfriend, Mare walks few steps ahead of me and turned their head when they reached the front door and realized that I’m not at their tail.

    Alex seemed to telling Mare something before he approached me and I simply shot him with my trademark sinister looks. ” A bar ! ” I exclaimed, ” And how could I completely forgot about my cousin’s reputation when he he said that we’re going to ‘pick up someone’ ? ”

    ” Look Rome, ” Alex raised his finger then pressed it again my chest repeatedly. ” I know what you’re thinking and we’re not going to do that again, okay ? We’re here to pick up Mare’s sister and that is exactly what we’re going to do. ”

    ” Yeah, ” I retorded. ” And you think that I’m stupid enough to just swallowed it right away. ”

    ” Hey, you listen to me, buddy. Nobody told you to come in, okay ? ” Alex dig into his faded, blue jeans pocket and handed me his car key. ” Just sit tight and wait for us. We’ll be back in ten minutes. ”

    ” Now you treated me like I’m a parking attendants, Perfect, ” I snorted then lit my cigar. The thick smoke faded as I blow it along with my good mood. So much for my saturday night.

    ” What the heck is wrong with you, man ? ” Alex brows furrowed as he throw his hands. ” You doesn’t want to come in, FINE ! Then stop acting like an ass and just wait in the car ! ”

    ” I told you what the heck is wrong with me ! ” I slammed my cigar to the cheap-tiled floor then kicked it away. ” Why don’t you tell me that you’re taking me to a BAR ! Yes, B-A-R !! Instead dropping me off then you can fuck off wherever you wanted !! You know why I hate this kind of place !! ”

    ” Geez, Rome. We just picking up Mare’s sister ! That’s it. ” Alex stepping back as I feel some heat waves began to crept up from my neck.

    ” Whatever. “, I shaked my head and snapped the key from Alex palm then turned to the entrance. ” Ten minutes then I’m leaving. ”

    Soft breeze from the last autumn’s wind greeted my cheeks once I stepping out from this damned place. I take my rosary beads out from my sling bag and began to twist it as I sailed through parking lot, silently asking forgiveness for what I’ve done.

    I know that I’m overreacting back then but still, I can’t find any reason why I should apologized to Alex. He clearly knew that I crossed thousand miles away from Kahima not to ended up in a place of where you could find booze and booty in the same time and the same place then doing the same old stuff.

    NO.

    Pryley exactly like what I wanted and I’m not gonna ruined my second chance.

    Here, no one knows about me, or they think that they know me.

    Just an illusion of what I wanted them to see; a freak who wearing thick-rimmed glasses and marked most of his left body parts with blaxk tribal flame tattoo.

    So, what do you think ? Feel free tk criticize and thank you for this wonderful post.

    Reply
  37. Sandra D

    The teacher turned around to write an equation on the board and a spit ball whirls and hits him on the head. Spreading out and leaving a wet warmth on the back there. He grabs it and throws it in the trash, and turns, staring accusingly at all the students, looking for some leak of information. But the students became silent as the dead, hands folded on their desks and looking up blankly. He turns around again, but the sound of snickers reach his ear , and he whips back again, but no spit balls this time. The class is all laughing again.
    She indulges in a laugh too, looking around the room for someone to make eye contact with. But then she sees Stacy staring icily at her, and she stops. He assigns a page more of homework to everyone in the class, causing the laughter to switch to groans.

    She has her math book opened up and but her fingers trace a carved heart on the desk with sets of initials in it instead. Round and round, feeling the warmth under her finger tips. Then a few minutes later she taps her pencil knowing the bell is about to ring. When it did she saw the kids pushing to get out at once, like a stampede, outside they quickly formed into their groups. She had waited a bit, but she was in a hurry to get out of there today, so she made her way out right after the others, pushing at the people in front of her to hurry up. There were people in front of the door, talking in the halls. In fact the hall was so noisy to her that it became just voices blended together. Without thinking, her foot got wedged in front of the door jam and she spilled into the hallway, and fell right into Thomas Slink, the ‘popular guy.’ He nearly to lose his balance. He was wearing a read and white jacket. He scowled for a moment and then stopped. Her face went red. She looked up at him her brows in a upward apologetic arc, as she droned “I’m sorry,’ over and over to no one.
    He didn’t say anything, and his face was smoothed with calm. Then he moved his arms, and with a breath intake, shoved her off of him.. The kids had become a ring around them, and they backed up. She skids backwards, her but sliding down the cold tile before settling. She looked up at faces, and looking big and horrible.. Her skirt is spread like a parachute in all directions. He turns and leaves quiet and without a care. The other kids lingering, their mouths split into grins, teeth showing and breathy laughs escaping, but guiltily tucked back in a moment after. She pulls herself up with the garbage can. She brushes the dirt off of her. Making her way through the left over crowd. She saw from the corner of her eye, a teacher standing at the corner and staring, but now turning away and walking his head down.
    Later that evening her mother walks in the door. She had been waiting to see her all night. One lonely light above the kitchen table as she had waited up for her. Her mother opened, letting the porch light in and a couple wayward moths. Pulling off her black boots by the door. So as soon as she entered, the daughter get out from the table, and starts speaking rapid mumbled words, words without direction. But her mom puts her hand up, and is walking towards the kitchen, and cutting her off with a hiss, “Not now.” As she attempts to get out of the room as fast as possible.
    “But mom, I really need someone to talk to right now,” she said, her voice up and pleading, she twisted her hair with her finger, an automatic habit of hers, again without thinking.
    “Sorry but there is more going on then just you. And would you stop that?”
    “What?”
    “Twisting your hair like that. It’s bad for your hair.” her mom said. The girl doesn’t know how to react, so her mom without thinking grabs her hand and pulls it away from the girls hair and shoves it to the girls side. The girl pouts and swings her arm and stomps her foot in a sort of slow motion way, that could not be mixed up with the angry sort of stomp and more the whiny stomp. But does so silently without further dissent. As the mother this time quickly slips out of the girls reach. And she is left alone at the table.
    ~

    Reply
  38. gemma feltovich

    Mara shivered, pulling her ratty, practically obsolete sweater closer around her torso. Tevrah was cold this time of year. And drizzly. A drop of rain landed on her nose, freezing and unexpected. She wished she had warm pants instead of her school dress and her mother’s cardigan.

    Her younger brother, Deo, tugged on her hand and pulled her off-course toward a stand selling jewelry. A young woman was standing behind the tables, smiling benevolently at her customers. She eyed Mara and Deo. “We don’t have long,” Mara warned him in their language, trying to smile innocently at the shopkeeper. It wasn’t as if they were going to steal something, but they certainly had the stink of poverty around them, accentuated especially by their thin, dark features. Deo’s hair was sticking up all over the place, his face the only inch of cleanliness on his body. Their mother was quite persistent about the need for washing your face twice a day, even if nothing else was clean. “It is important to make a good impression,” she had warned. Mara could only imagine what the people of this town thought of her and Deo, as she surely looked just the same as her six-year-old brother. She wished she hadn’t disregarded the necessity of neatness that morning. Every sort of person on earth could be observed in this market. The rich, the seedy, the fine, the poor, the gaudy, the drab. And Mara and Deo looked like beggars.

    She still had a few coins left in the pockets of her sweater. Her bag was filled with day-old bread, bruised apples, and several rolls of bandages. They still hadn’t found someplace selling sponges for cheap, which was unfortunate since the younger kids cried when you scrubbed them with the rougher brush. And that was Mara’s job. She would have taken a used oil cloth by now to avoid Skya Menyon’s sharp glance whenever she heard the wail of her toddler, who was the whiniest child Mara had ever met.

    It had been her job back at the village, at least three hundred kilometers from Tevrah’s town of North Market. They were three hundred kilometers from the place Mara had never left in her life– until now. The people were different here, even not so far away. The area was drizzly and brown and green, filled with grays. The people here had lighter hair, while the skin on Mara’s arm was dark as a macadamia nut’s shell. Her village was all but disappeared, nothing but ashes on the gods’ gentle breeze.

    The day after the fires, the women of the village had shorn their hair to shoulder length, Mara included since her fifteenth birthday had passed two weeks prior. She wasn’t used to it. She liked to twirl strands of her hair, mindlessly twist them together as a nervous habit, and with it so short it was hard to wrap her black locks around her index finger. She kept reaching up only for her hand to stop short and sink back down to her side.

    Deo was gawking at a gold necklace. The shopkeeper’s hawk eyes stayed locked on him, drawn as a moth to a flame. She was clearly suspicious. “Deo,” Mara hissed. He barely looked up.

    “What?” he muttered.
    “Stop it.”

    “Huh?”

    Mara tugged him a few feet away from the necklace, the shopkeeper still watching them. “Stop looking at that like you’re going to grab it.”

    “I wasn’t going–”
    “She doesn’t know that!” Mara protested. Deo frowned, looking at his grubby hands curiously.

    “Is it time for lunch yet?”

    “Deo!” she chastised. The woman had begun to emerge from behind the booth. Mara turned toward her, widening her eyes. “Yes?” she inquired politely, switching to Tevranian for the shopkeeper’s sake.

    “You kids like my jewelry?” she demanded.

    Mara smiled shakily. “I apologize, miss, but my brother, he is not so smart,” she said, patting Deo’s hair and shushing his protests with a hand over his mouth. She tried to adjust the bag on her hip so the woman could peer into it and see there was nothing out of the ordinary inside.

    “Oh?” the woman said, raising an eyebrow.

    “He does not know how much the necklace does cost, you see?”

    She grunted again.

    “The cost is too much for us, anyway, because you see–” Mara saw something out of the corner of her eye. A glint of silver. A flash of crimson red. She stopped short, aware of the shopkeeper’s eyes trained on her dubiously. A girl had slipped in behind the stand, wearing vibrant red pants and a gray shirt, hair that must have been white as ivory when it was clean hanging in strands down her back.

    “Yes?” the woman prompted.

    “Yes…” Mara forced herself to look away. “I, um, we were not taking the necklace.” The fair-haired girl’s hand danced out of her pocket and hooked the bracelet onto a finger. She stuffed it into her overcoat.

    Mara stared for a second before coming to her senses. “Hey!”

    The shopkeeper whirled around. “What–”

    The girl’s green eyes darted up to meet her accuser’s, and then she nimbly slipped into the crowd, that white hair a blur behind her. Mara began to run after her, leaving Deo and the shopkeeper behind, but stumbled over a man’s shoe. He sneered at her. “S-sorry,” she stammered. “Sir.”

    A warm, dry hand grasped Mara’s hand in its grip. She looked down to see Deo staring up at her, his hair wet from the rain. “Deo,” she said , trying to see over the crowd’s heads, “go… go find Thyme and Yuri.” She shoved the basket of goods into his hands.

    He began to whine, but Mara was already gone. She darted around a fruit cart, a few berries falling to the ground as she bumped it. The boy selling the fruits cursed at her in a language she didn’t understand. Mara kept going. Where had that girl gone? And why hadn’t she yelled “Thief!” and left other people to take care of it?

    She was an idiot, Mara reminded herself, that’s why.

    She tripped over her own shoes, a size and a half too large, not once but twice. Her gray dress was small on her, barely modest as it ended a few inches above her knees. The only reason Mara could get away with it was because she didn’t look her age. She’d kept a bit of baby fat, and she hadn’t shot up like a bamboo stalk. At least, not yet.

    Ah. Under that bridge over there, stretching across the rushing river below, its banks mossy and wet. Mara saw a flash of blonde hair and those strange red pants the girl was wearing before she took off again. By now, the rain was coming down hard, clumping Mara’s dark eyelashes together and blurring her vision. She stumbled over the muddy ground beyond the market, the sounds of the city disappearing from her ears, and ducked under the cover of the old bridge.

    It was quiet but for the sound of rain pattering the stone above.

    “Hello?” Mara called out softly. There were no footprints in the mud leading off into the forest on the other side of the tunnel, but she couldn’t see where else the girl could have gone. Perhaps she’d disappeared, like in the Yaba’s stories back home. “Hello?” Mara said again, louder this time. She took a tentative step forward, then froze in her tracks when a voice responded.

    “It’s not worth that much.”

    Mara startled, whirling around. No one. “What?”

    “The bracelet,” the voice explained. “Didn’t cost as much as that lady was selling it for.”

    “Ay.” Mara didn’t know what to say to an invisible person. The distant sounds of shouting salesman only just reached her ears.

    “You can leave and pretend this never happened.”

    Mara seethed. “No.”

    “Why not?” the disembodied voice challenged.

    “You took it!”

    “I stole something deserving of a halved coin.”

    “What ny anaran’Andriamanitra is a half coin?” Mara retorted. She wrung the rainwater out of her hair, and it splattered on her already-soaked dress. She wasn’t sure where to look, as she couldn’t see the person she was talking to.

    “Oh, you know.” Mara didn’t. “A copper. Not even a single silver. She was marking it three times its worth.” They didn’t have much of silver where Mara was from.

    “And who are you,” Mara said, “to judge?”

    “And who are you?” the voice echoed.

    “I–” Mara started, then cut herself off. “You are a criminal.”

    “Hm.” The girl’s body dropped from the top of the bridge, and she landed perfectly balanced, wearing that red sweater and gray, unfitted pants. Mara stumbled back, surprised at the girl’s entrance, and almost tripped over a rock behind her. “I disagree,” the girl said.

    “Y-you–”

    “Are quite good at climbing things,” the girl said. She stared at Mara unblinkingly, her green eyes startling against the gray of the day. A gust of wind picked up her wispy blonde hair on its wings. “I’ll tell you what. You let me go, I’ll give you this bracelet.”

    “That is not a deal!” Mara said, indignant. “You took it! Here is the idea: give it back and I will not… tell. Tell the police.”

    The girl chuckled, flashing a crooked smile, dimples appearing at the corners of her mouth. “Let me guess. You aren’t from around here?”

    Reply
  39. Phil Gladden

    “You know Ed, it was six years ago this month when that drunk son of a bitch slammed a dump truck into Christy’s car. No one should outlive their child, and now this going on with Sarah, it’s just about more than I can stand.” Ed puts his arm around Martha’s shoulder but can find no words of comfort.
    He glances up to watch the pizza delivery man hand the yellow boxes to the nurse at the registration desk. Ed’s stomach growls as he watches the thick slices being passed around by the nurses and security guards. Thirty plus people huddled into the emergency room waiting area at Dover Medical Center. Bodies, scattered on chairs and tables that have been rearranged and turned into makeshift beds. The room smells of fast food, pine disinfectant and body odor.
    Ed and Martha Hunter sit, waiting for word about their granddaughter while listening to a cacophony of weird buzzes, bells, coughs, sneezes, and the swishes of automatic doors. Those still awake stare zombie-like into the glow of their electronic diversions, until the batteries die sending their owners off in search of power. All of them dreaming of being someplace else, home in bed, anywhere but this depressing gateway to hell.
    “Caffeine’s not doing me much good anymore Martha, says Ed.” He takes the last sip of his fourth cup of black vending machine coffee. “I’ve had better coffee from the Circle K that was two days old than this,”. He tosses the cup to the waste basket against the wall but misses. Fatigue keeps him from retrieving and redepositing it. He looks at Martha and shrugs his shoulders dismissively.
    His eyes struggle to focus on the man in a medical coat carrying a file folder coming into the waiting area. “Finally,” Ed says. He pushes himself upright from his slumped position.
    “He looks too young to be a doctor,” Martha whispers in Ed’s ear.

    Reply
  40. Phil Gladden

    You know Ed, it was six years ago this month when that drunk son of a bitch slammed a dump truck into Christy’s car. No one should out live their child, and now this going on with Sarah, its more than I can stand. Ed Puts his arm around Martha’s shoulder but can find no words of comfort,
    He glances up to watch the pizza delivery man smiling broadly as he hands the yellow boxes to the cute nurse at the registration desk. Ed’s stomach growls as he watches the thick slices being passed around by the nurses and security guards. Thirty plus people huddled into the emergency room waiting area at Dover Medical Center. Bodies, scattered on chairs and tables that have been rearranged and turned into makeshift beds. The room smells of fast food, pine disinfectant and body odor.
    Ed and Martha Hunter sit, waiting for word about their granddaughter while listing to a cacophony of weird buzzes, bells, coughs, sneezes, and the swishes of automatic doors. Those still awake stare zombie-like into the glow of their electronic diversions, until the batteries die sending their owners off in search of power. All of them dreaming of being someplace else, home in bed, anywhere but this depressing gateway to hell.

    Reply
  41. Phil Gladden

    “You know Ed, it was six years ago this month when that drunk son of a bitch slammed a dump truck into Christy’s car. No one should outlive their child, and now this going on with Sarah, it’s just about more than I can stand.” Ed puts his arm around Martha’s shoulder but can find no words of comfort.
    He glances up to watch the pizza delivery man hand the yellow boxes to the nurse at the registration desk. Ed’s stomach growls as he watches the thick slices being passed around by the nurses and security guards. Thirty plus people huddled into the emergency room waiting area at Dover Medical Center. Bodies, scattered on chairs and tables that have been rearranged and turned into makeshift beds. The room smells of fast food, pine disinfectant and body odor.
    Ed and Martha Hunter sit, waiting for word about their granddaughter while listening to a cacophony of weird buzzes, bells, coughs, sneezes, and the swishes of automatic doors. Those still awake stare zombie-like into the glow of their electronic diversions, until the batteries die sending their owners off in search of power. All of them dreaming of being someplace else, home in bed, anywhere but this depressing gateway to hell.

    Reply
  42. Mae

    “I’m sorry” Trey said, “But you won’t put out. Besides, I have another girlfriend now.”
    Another girl dressed in a sweater crop top and tight jeans walked up beside him and he casually draped his arm around her. I realized this was her, the new girlfriend. She was a blonde but she obviously had fake boobs and a fake ass. She popped her gum and looked at me with a bored, but triumphant smile.
    “You heard him, get lost bitch”.
    She flipped her hair over her shoulder and proceeded to give him a hand-job in public. I turned away and ran across the street into the woods as fast as I could. The trees blurred past and after a while I heard the growing sound of rushing water. I tripped and fell over a fallen tree branch, and curled up and sobbed. He was supposed to love me! He said I was the one! The one who changed him! Now he’s hooked up with that bitch! As I lay there I started shivering as the sky got darker and darker. Shit, I forgot my coat at home. I stood up shakily and looked around, I must’ve run further than I thought because everything looked the same. Great.. Now i’m lost, at night, in the woods, and i’ll probably get hypothermia and die. I started to walk away from the water, Wait… what if I don’t find home? I turned around and started walking back toward the water sound. As it got closer and closer I saw a big raging river with a waterfall. Wow… Then a piercing howl cut through the woods and i tensed up. No no no.. this can’t be happening.. I remembered when dad told me to never leave the sight of the house while in the woods because it was very easy to get lost, “Remember Lillianne, never be in the woods at night. Bad things happen. Wolves come out to hunt and they’re not like in the movies sweetie, they are big and mean.” I shivered as i remembered all the self-defence classes i had with my dad, all the weapon lessons and survival lessons. But i had never done the real thing. Ok.. i’ve got this… it’s just like dad’s lessons. I went to the bank of the river and started gathering driftwood and stones the size of my fist. As i trekked around, I noticed it was now silent, no birds, no crickets, no frogs.. Nothing. Ok Lilli, this normally means there is a predator nearby DON’T PANIC. I continued walking, but went slower and i scanned the woods on either side of the river. There.. A pair of yellow eyes watched my every move from the other side of the river. They have to be 5 feet from the ground! WHAT THE HELL IS THAT BIG!? I froze and watched as the creature huffed and disappeared. On second thought… I’M BUILDING A TREEHOUSE! I scrambled to get the rest of what i would need and climbed a willow tree and decided on a branch over the water. I had braided vines together to make rope and I tied it to the branch that was about 6 feet above my branch. I took the long grass and vines I had made into a mat earlier and tied the edges to the vines that hung from the top branch

    Im still working

    Reply
  43. Manuel Borderat

    “As Gregor Samsa awoke from unsettling dreams one morning, he found himself transformed in his bed into a monstrous vermin.” These first lines of Franz Kafka’s Metamorphosis revolutionized writing in the 20th century and inspired Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Albert Camus, Faulkner, Jose Saramago, Stephen King and a hundred other iconic writers.

    Reply
  44. Aun

    So I created a first page so pls tell me if its good

    I crunched on the last of the chips hoping it would distract me. Matt was pacing around the room. Rick was gazing at the door. I continued munching on the chips. It wasn’t any good I tried playing a song in my head it wasn’t wasn’t working either it didn’t distract me I tried remembering the good times in the village but my mind drifts back to the attack. The moment when we realised that we weren’t prepared for the worst we weren’t prepared for anything.

    It all started on a normal day kids playing around grown ups working when all of a sudden we heard running sprinting we instantly knew what was coming before the watch guard could tell us. They were coming. A panic spread throughout the village kids running around grown ups sprinting to the armory we heard a crashing thud as they tried to break down the gate. Grown ups got to there position and prepared for an impending attack the snipers had already started firing however it didn’t help in fact it got them even more agitated another thud then a crack then we finally heard a crash they had broken down the gate. Me and the other kids had already started running we were halfway across the village when we heard the crash. Some kids looked back to see their parents being mauled by what used to be humans others continued running some of the kids were crying. Some kids had fallen others started gasping for air. There was a guard waiting for us at the back gate having it already opened he started firing not at us but at something behind us the horde had already caught up to us some kids got tackled down and met their untimely death. We passed the gate guard up chucked a grenade the front row of zombies fell. He closed the gate.

    It didn’t distract me. The pounding at the door was too distracting. So I grabbed my gun the others grabbed there’s we aimed at the door. It was only a matter of time before the zombies broke in.

    Reply

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