1.3 Beginnings: Ways to Begin a Story – Part Deux

Last week has been a bit mental and I didn’t get a chance to post a single exercise. So much for a daily exercise. I might have rename this, Weekly Exercise, or Whenever-You-Get-A-Chance Exercise…


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 2Experiment 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 the story you are working on. (Go here for Part 1).

With a generalisation
I remember hearing someone say that you didn’t always what you deserve in, but what you needed. I wondered at this exact moment in which category finding a dying man at the moment of the stairs, fitted.

With dialogue
‘So how goes it?’ said Chiara over the phone.

‘Why are you calling? Aren’t you supposed to be on a hot date with what’s-his-face?’ I replied, sticking my mobile in the crook of my neck as I was touching up my make up.

‘Bah. He is absolutely yummy to look at but not much between the ears, if you know what I mean’ she sighed. ‘He is gone to the little boys room to I thought I’d check on you. Do tell now’.

‘You were right’ I scoffed. ‘They are dull as rain. All they are interested in is who will  make the cover of HEAT magazine, like any of them would. I have no idea who half of them are and they pretend they know who I am.

Chiara chuckled. ‘Told you so’.

I was about to ask her about our next dinner date when I heard a crash outside the ladies room.

With a setting and only one character
I was hiding in the ladies room, which was surprisingly empty, when I heard a cry and crash which seem to be coming from the lobby. 

With several characters but no dialogue
After dinner, the lights been dimmed and a DJ had started spinning some Top40 tune I didn’t recognise. I thought it probably was the right time for me to leave as I wasn’t much of a dancer and I could see that my dinner neighbour, a guy with wispy blond hair and the worst case of halitosis I had encountered, was about to ask me to dance. Around me, women with outfits that should never have seen the light of day, let alone be worn in public, were stumbling towards the dance floor, giggling, trying to pretend it was all part of their moves. I discreetly looked at my watch. Nearly midnight…I really should go.


And here the way I actually chose to start it (which would fall under “with a generalisation” and “by establishing POV” I think):

Sometimes you really have to be careful what you wished for. I had envied my best friend Chiara’s lifestyle forever and tonight she had engineered it so that I would get to be her for the night. She had told me countless times that being the PR manager for a cable TV channel wasn’t all that glamorous but I hadn’t believed her. I envied everything about Chiara. From her fashion sense to her career via her incredibly good looks.


Next: We move from Beginnings and onto “Notebooks, Journals and Memories! – Use yourself and your experiences as a source of inspiration.




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*.