Our writers group is planning a retreat. For me personally, I always enjoy our retreats. They are a great opportunity to get better acquainted with my fellow authors, other people like me, who listen to the voices in their heads and aren’t ashamed to admit it. I can’t tell you how life affirming that is to know that if I am crazy for listening to the voices in my head and writing down all they tell me, I’m in VERY good company.
At one of our retreats several years ago, Jackie Kramer presented a wonderful day-long workshop. My favorite part was when she gave us this sentence, “Toby looked across the crowded room.” Then she told us we had ten minutes to write the beginning paragraph to not one, but three separate stories. Trust me – it’s not as easy as it sounds. The point of this exercise, I think, was to teach each of us how to first, trust our writing instincts, and two, not to dismiss any story idea.
So below are my three separate story beginnings. (As you can tell, I was in the mood for a ghost story.) I’ve posted my story ideas below. Now I invite you to post too. But you’re on the honor system – you get ten minutes to craft your beginning.
#1. Toby looked across the crowded room. He saw the ghost of a young child holding a heart-shaped box. The child beckoned with her eyes and held the box at arm’s length. As Toby crossed the room, a green-eyed demon stepped into his path and snatched the box away. “You can’t have that. It’s mine,” the demon jeered. “But it’s my heart,” Toby said.
#2. Toby looked across the crowded room. A painting of a white house with green shutters hung on the wall opposite him. The picture tugged at his heart, although he’d never seen the picture or the house before. But he knew it was where he belonged. Urgently, he scanned the gallery looking for the artist. He had to know who painted the picture and why this house called to him.
3. Toby looked across the crowded room. The woman standing near the base of the stairs stood out from all the other mourners at his mother’s funeral. The woman was dressed in a wedding gown. He threaded his way past the groups of family and friends who gathered today pay their last respects. As he reached the foot of the stairs, the woman turned and started up to the second floor. He followed her. “Who are you?” he asked. At the top of the stairs, the woman in white turned and without a word reached out to gently stroke his face. She stepped back then vanished before his eyes.