Starting Your Story
Let’s step into a time machine for a minute. Back to high school dances when I was a kid. They usually happened in the gymnasium. All of the boys would line up on one wall. All of the girls would line up across the gymnasium on the other wall. And then, while the music played on, we mostly just leaned there, squinting across the distance and trying to work up the courage to cross that vast span of gym floor and ask someone to dance.
Sometimes, getting started is the hardest thing of all.
So – today – I have prepared for your use twenty-six story-starting paragraphs.
Read through them and write yourself a short little story. It doesn’t have to be an epic. It doesn’t have to be particularly brilliant. This isn’t rocket science. We’re just sitting here together on opposite sides of the internet, telling each other stories.
Consider it a challenge.
Consider it an exercise.
Consider it an invitation to a dance.
Albert had it all figured out. She was coming by train. He wanted to surprise her. He was at the station two hours before the train arrived. He had a chocolate bar an hour before arrival time. As she was getting off the train he was hiding in the men’s washroom, waiting for her to leave.
Betty bought the pistol at a pawn shop from a dapper little man who was a foot too short and about thirty pounds too heavy to be considered anywhere close to desirable. He placed the pistol in a shoebox, tied with a frayed yellow string. She drove home, unwrapped the box and loaded the pistol. She turned on the television and sat there, watching a Dr. Phil rerun, waiting for her husband to come home.
Cyril hated his job more than any human being ought to. He hated the sight of his desk. He hated the smell of the wallpaper. He hated the rasping wheedling sound of his boss’s voice. One morning everything changed.
Delores loved Cyril – but Cyril had been married to Betty for over twelve years. As far as Delores concerned that was a twelve year mistake that she was about to rectify.
Ernest had sold tickets at the train station for sixteen years. Every morning before work his wife would pack him a lunch – cold ham with a slice of processed cheese and a generous squeeze of yellow mustard. A cup of lukewarm tea that he sipped from all day long. Then one morning Ernest bought a train ticket for himself for the very first time in his life. He boarded the train, handed the ticket to the conductor and sat down at a window seat to watch.
Felicia collected butterflies. She loved the magnificent patterns of their wing structure. She kept them mounted in picture frames in her living room where she would sit and rock upon rocking chair and stare for hours at the kaleidoscope of perfect wonder. One morning Felicia decided that she had waited and studied for long enough. It was time to make her very own set of wings.
Gary watched the woman upon the roof with that beautiful set of multi-colored silken wings. Any other person in the world would have felt some sort of a brief burst of excitement but Gary was tired of living. He wasn’t suicidal, just intensely lethargic. It had been coming on for some time. He took one last look at the winged woman, then returned to his room and crawled under the bed and lay there in the darkness. “I’ve been waiting for,” a voice whispered far too closely to his ear.
Hilda turned the television set off and wondered when Ernest would come home. He was nearly two hours late. He might have been shopping – but he hated to shop. He might have been bowling – but he hated sports of any kind. She picked up the telephone and dialed the train station. When she heard that Ernest had left on the morning train she hung up carefully and considered her next move.
Isaac was having a good day. He had sold that pistol as well as the three rolls of silk that the old Chinamen had left with him. He ought to close early but you should not turn your back on luck. His father had taught him that. When the fat black man with the guitar case walked into pawn shop and said “I’d like to pawn my soul, please.” Harry simply replied “How much were you hoping to get?”
Jennifer had never heard such music before. The old black man’s guitar must have strung with lark song and essence of whippoorwill. She threw three shiny quarters into the belly of the guitar case and was surprised when the old man snatched the three quarters up and told her – “I can double this ten times over if you’d like to make a little medicine with me.”
Keith picked up the bible and started to pray. He’d done the same thing every morning and every night of his life but God had never listened – until now.
Laurie walked into the church with two cans of gasoline and one box of matches. Maybe now God would finally listen.
Max smoked his last cigarette just outside of the old church. He was staring directly at the graveyard when the first explosion roared out. He woke up beside a gravestone, staring at himself.
Nancy opened one eye. Then the other. She breathed in. She breathed out. Damn it, she said – I’m still alive.
Orson started walking. He wasn’t sure where he was going but he had a hunch he’d know when he got there.
Phyllis listened to the waves rolling onto the beach. They had been telling her a story all of her life – a story that only she understood and knew the meaning to. This morning she woke up to discover that the waves had grown silent.
Quincy had worn cotton in his ears for as long as he could remember. He had a theory that ninety-eight percent of the words that were ever spoken weren’t particularly worth listening too. Three days following his fifty-eight birthday Quincy finally found a reason to unplug his ears and listen.
Rita was ready. Something old, something new, something borrowed and something blue – namely herself. She sat there alone in her room sprinkling uncooked rice and dead daffodils upon the floor playing the wedding march on her dead Uncle Billy’s eight-track player.
Steve sat at his keyboard – wondering how in the world he was ever going to come up with a story-starting paragraph for T,U,V,W, X,Y and Z. His coffee was getting cold. His patience was wearing thin. If only someone would help him finish this all-important blog entry. He looked up in surprise to see a small blue songbird sitting upon his windowsill – whistling out the answer in a surprisingly tuneful Morse code.
Too bad Steve had failed his Morse Code Badge in Boy Scouts…
Yours in storytelling,