1.3 Beginnings: Ways to Begin a Story

Based on the writing exercises of What if? by Anne Bernays and Pamela Painter. (NB: I choose not to follow all the exercises or to share only those that I found interesting).

Exercise 3 – Part 1: Experiment with different types of openings (with a generalisation, with a description of a person, with a narrative summary, with dialogue, with several characters but no dialogue, with a setting and only one character, with a reminiscent narrator, with a child narrator, by establishing point of view) for different stories until you feel comfortable with technique of each. – This is a fairly big exercise so I will only pick a three or four of the opening types for this one (the book gives example for each).

With a generalisation
Rosewood was one of those towns which was great if you were retired or raising a family with small children. It was quaint, quiet and safe. If you belonged to the sixteen-twenty four demographics however, Rosewood was the sort of town you couldn’t wait to leave behind, dull, predictable, boring. That is to say, until Elle Adams moved in.

With dialogue
‘We shouldn’t be here’ Lola whispered, looking terrified.
‘Oh come on, it will be fun!’  replied her boyfriend Mark, with a lot more enthusiasm than he actually felt.
‘Sure, when has that ever happened? A group of teens sneak in an abandoned house at night…that’s a recipe for the next Romero movie, not a fun night!’ said  Zoe Daniels who had tagged along on Lola’s insistence. Zoe was not as easily frightened as Lola but she wasn’t keen on the “fun” trip Mark had planned for the night. Mark was an idiot.

With a setting and only one character
The changing room smelled of sweat and mould. The paint, which might have been white once, was peeling off at random places, giving the room an air of neglect and abandon. There were rows of metal lockers, half of them with broken doors hanging off and most of them dented in a way that suggested they had been punched, often. Sitting on the wooden bench, earphones in, Matt wasn’t paying much attention to the decor. His hands were already wrapped with bright red wraps, his wife, Stella, had picked them. In less than fifteen minutes, he would be walking the long, dark corridor, in his red silk robe, black and red gloves on, ready to defend his title. But for now, he was getting himself ready in his head.

With a child narrator
My dad was furious with me. It was the first time he had taken us on holidays since the divorce and I had gone and ruined it already by closing the car door on my little sister’s fingers. Dad had no clue what to do with the sobbing and wailing mess that she had become. I felt really bad looking at her little red fingers and watery eyes. He was yelling at me for being so “useless” and the more he yelled, the harder Nina cried. I just stood there, head bowed down, making faces at her until she started to giggle again.

Coming up next
Exercise 3 – Part 2
: Do the same but for the story you are working on. Same opening, different styles.
Sorry I just didn’t have the time this week to do it all.




Daily Writing Exercises – 1.2 Beginnings: Pairing Sentences

Day 2 of my following the writing exercises of What if? by Anne Bernays and Pamela Painter.

Today’s exercise is about pairing ideas for a first sentence.

Exercise 2: Write a first sentence of story about:

A- birth and one about death.
B- falling in love and one about filing for divorce
C- about spring and one about summer.

My contribution (comments, feedback, +1 welcomed!) – feel free to add your own contribution either in comment or as a ping back.

1. If Amelia listened to her mother, the day she had come into this world hadn’t been a joyous one for either of them.
2. As he slowly slipped away, his face relaxed as if finally, after a lifetime of pain and hardship, he was at peace with the world, happy at last ; with one last sigh he was gone.

1. It hit him like a freight train at full speed, he was falling for her, all of her, the good, the bad and the downright ugly.
2. Anna signed her name at the bottom of the page, her handwriting as elegant as ever ; she thought she should have felt something, relief, happiness, closure…instead she felt nothing, it was done, they were done.

1. Spring had always been Jake’s favourite season, not too warm, not too cold, nature waking up from its long slumber, bursting to life like a newborn taking its first cry.
2. The heat was always what got him in summer, making him uncomfortable and self-conscious ; did his armpits smell?


Feel free to comment, feedback or post your own contribution in the comment section or as a pingback.



The One about Writing Exercises – 1. Beginnings

As I mentioned before, I am a master procrastinator. I will find anything to do except what I need to be doing. Even if it is something I actually enjoy doing, like writing.

Writing is never really the issue. Writing a coherent and cohesive story is. I start. Then I start again, and again. My Google Drive is full of beginnings, character profiles and beat sheets (courtesy of screenwriter guru Blake Snyder).

I have now completed 2 writing workshops (Beginners and Intermediate) and I am waiting to start the Advanced one.

I have bought numerous books on creative writing, mostly about general fiction writing and right now, this is what I am using to procrastinate, skill practise.

Saying that, I have decided to dedicate regular posts to the exercises suggested by the book: What If? by Anne Bernays and Pamela Painter. I bought it second hand from Amazon.

Maybe this will force me to write more and maybe it will help me add to my story* bit by bit.

The book is a bit dated (1990) and maybe a little snobbish when it comes to more fun genres like sci-fi and fantasy but the exercises are sound (I think).

So like all good stories, this book start at the beginning…

Exercise 1: Write 5 of your own opening lines for 5 different stories…the advice from the book is to try to start in media res (in the middle of things) – I think they quite like big words in there and the use of Latin. They also recommend to do one opening line every day for the rest of your life, to keep perfecting it. We’ll see.

So here is my contribution…

1. ‘Absolutely not!’ I said, looking at my best friend Chiara, straight into her baby blue eyes ; she was the only person in the world I could stand up to and know she will stay my friend.

2. They came at night, whilst everyone was sound asleep, feeling safe and warm in their beds, with weapons never seen before, bringing mayhem, death and destruction so no one would ever feel safe again at night.

3. The sound of the gunshots resonated so loudly in the arena that it made her ears ring, her hand jerked back from the recoil and the smell of gunpowder made her nose itch; and just like that, she became a murderer.

4. It was still dark and quiet when I left the house, leaving my teenage son sound asleep.

5. My name is Stryder – no first name, thank you very much – and I am a demon hunter.


The first two came quite easily although, I had originally written them as a couple of shorter sentences (and I think it probably works better in short sentence) but the exercise was about one sentence, not a paragraph.

Feel free to contribute your own in the comment section.










* I have yet again changed the premise of my story. Having chosen one for my last class and subsequently decided that I didn’t know where I was going with it. I chose another, in another genre, which I have also abandoned and I am not back to my first genre but with a different story…yeah, I know *sigh*.

FLASH GIVEAWAY: “Writing For You” is FREE March 10-14!

Need any help with your writing? Not sure if a “how to” book will help? Why not take this opportunity to download this one for free? Who doesn’t like a freebie? If you are in the UK, you can link back to Amazon UK from there. Thank you Victoria

Creative Writing with the Crimson League

Screen Shot 2013-06-02 at 1.37.23 PM I have never done a giveaway of “Writing For You: A Novelist’s Guide to the Craft of Fiction.” And I think it’s time!

To that end, the Kindle version of my writer’s handbook will be FREE Monday, March 10- Friday, March 14 during a flash promotion.

You can read the preface here if you’d like an explanation of why I wrote a writer’s handbook (based heavily upon this blog and its backlog of posts) and what I was hoping to accomplish.

For another sneak peek, you can read part of the introduction right here: it’s a reflection why we would ever be crazy enough to write fiction in the first place.

I hope you enjoy your free download! You don’t owe me anything in return, but I would most definitely appreciate any help you can give spreading the word about the promotion (and about this blog)…. Please help others know…

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Writing Courses: The Complete Writing Course (Intermediate) – London

Power of WordsIt’s been a while since I posted something here. Not that I haven’t thought about it but life has gotten in the way a little bit…doesn’t it always?

That is not to say that I haven’t been working on my writing skills. Last I posted, I was about to start my Intermediate Writing Class with The Complete Creative Writing course people. Another 6 weeks course where you delve a little deeper in the areas you touched on with the Beginners Class. For this course, we mostly dealt with authors Naomi Wood (who got her second book published whilst teaching us, to great acclaim too) and Howard Cunnell. I like both their teaching styles very much, although they are very different from each other. Course founder, Maggie Hamand took care of one of the sessions (on Plots, as it is her favourite area). I can only recommend giving this a try as it is so important to be able to get feedback on your efforts. In combination to the course, I am reading Larry Brook‘s Story Engineering (which I have mentioned previously). I find this book really easy to read and it goes into really interesting and important details on “how to” do things, without preaching too much. In class, although we get 3 hours, you don’t get to go into too much details but what you get is the opportunity to do exercises and that most important of all: feedback. Of course, you get what you put in. If you don’t do the homework or volunteer to read your efforts, then you get less out of it.

I am grateful that I have such a great group of people (most of them whom I have met at the Beginners Course, but not all) werewolf-realas feedback is always done generously and constructively. We are all in the same boat, right? I have to confess though, that sometimes I do feel a little tentative as most of the other writers (I shall call them that) are much more poetic and deep in their writing. I feel really silly when I have to read an extract where I have werewolves or witches chasing each other. I seem to be the only one in my group interested in Fantasy. They all seem to go into more meaningful and deep type of writing…Gah! I have been too bored senseless by French literature when I was a student to try that myself.

For the course, we had to commit to a writing project – each person had their own one – and mine was to write 1500 words per week, pick one project out of all the started ones I had and have a short story ready for the end of the course. This Saturday is the last class and so far I have met all my targets but one: I haven’t got a finished first draft. For 2 reasons:

1. I kept re-writing the same first 3 chapters, discovering by Chapter 3 that I didn’t like how my story started…

2. Because I am reading Story Engineering and there is a strong emphasis on planning, I decided not to write v.5 of my story before I actually had an outline, if only a brief one

So Saturday I am going in there without a completed story (well that’s not entirely true – I have actually managed to write a really short, short story) but I am ok with that. I can look at the tutor in the eye and said “I made that decision knowingly and not because I procrastinated”. That’s not to say I didn’t procrastinate a bit…Well, you can’t give up the bad habits this easily. I do, however, have a notebook full of ideas, plot points, back story, characterization, etc. My Google Drive is also full of characters, settings and scenes notes. Once I have figured out what it is that I want my heroine (at least I know that bit) to do, then I should be able to write a first draft in no time…at least that’s what Larry promises.

Let’s see how this will work out for me.