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Wait, What?

The wait, what beginning is best used when you need the reader’s attention right away.  You start with a seemingly nonsensical or self-contradictory, or reality-contradictory sentence.

I know there are a million published ones, and I’ll let you quote.  I am pre-caffeinated, so my brain refuses to spit up a single one, but I remember one from a workshop (not my work): “It was Wednesday and Smith was dead again.”

Of course you want to know why Smith was dead, so you read on.

There is a trick to this. No matter how strange your beginning, you have to either explain or pay it off fairly soon.

And again, because uncaffeinated and frankly suffering from something not unakin to con crud, I’ll use one of my own stories as example; the only one in which I really used this opening gambit to effect.

Dying is easy.  It’s staying alive afterwards that’s hard.

We’ll agree it’s a “Wait, what?” right?

And I don’t tell you what it’s all about in the next sentence, but I start giving you heavy hints.

Until the payoff at the end of the section.

The dark portals open in front of you.  You cross them.  It’s like a reverse birth, from light to pain and constriction and the darkness beyond.  No escape. 

          You emerge into smoky darkness lit by a tremulous red glare.  Fears of fire and damnation flee with all your memories of another life and leave you empty, vacant, alone.

          You smell sulphur, but you lack a name for it.  And your new eyes don’t know how strange the landscape looks, how the buildings in the distance, looming and dark and diamantine, look like nothing you’ve ever seen.  Like skyscrapers made of wax caught in the flame of a candle.  Like architecture writhing in pain.  Like maddened claws tearing at the crimson sky.

          And then they slither out of the darkness.  The creatures.  To call them devils would sully a perfectly good word.  They are worse than any boogeymen, more heinous than any monster, scarier than any nightmare the living mind can conjure.

          They come with open maw, with dripping fang, with tearing claw and screaming hatred.  Towards you.

          In the new body you haven’t even learned you have yet, you fight back.  You fight back with your bare hands, your cunning, your monkey-mind, your puny being.

          Only the strong survive the slashes and cuts and bites.  Only the determined run past that first gauntlet.  Only the merciless kill the demons and drink their life force.

          Only those who can fight ever survive to enter hell.

It worked fairly well, and it’s one of the short stories I get the most fan mail about.

So, start up your number 2 pencils, and let’s see your efforts.

97 Comments
  1. On a bright sunny day in Amsterdam, Robert Cook found a shoe.

    February 21, 2018
  2. kali #

    I’m sure there’s a rule–if you feed someone, they don’t get to arrest you.

    February 21, 2018
  3. danielshumphreys #

    “I was halfway through a stack of pancakes when the dead guy walked through the door.”

    February 21, 2018
  4. “Pirates!”
    The quad autocannon to my right swiveled and fired. Fortunately it was set to trace only otherwise the herd below me would have been rendered into well-done ground beef.
    “No,” I said as I hit the override. “Those are cows.”
    Ever since the Beltuga had arrived, bringing with them what passed for galactic civilization, including galactic crime and, yes, galactic war, our autodefense programs had been rendered obsolete.
    “Incoming!” And before I could stop it the autocannon temporarily blinded a perfectly defenseless condor.
    I hit the override once again.
    We were in a desperate race to update the AI’s. Human reflexes just are not fast enough to spot a target, identify whether or not it’s a hostile, and respond before our own ship would be blasted out of the sky. We needed computerized auto-defense.
    But the new autodefense programs were insane.
    It’s not like cows or condors actually resembled any of the alien threats.
    We did not know what glitch was causing this problem, but we had to solve it and we had to solve it now.

    February 21, 2018
    • The “wait, what?” moment is a little delayed in this one but I still think it qualifies as the type.

      February 21, 2018
    • And a little editing….

      “Pirates!” the alarm announced.
      “No,” I said as I reached for the override. “Those are cows.”
      The quad autocannon to my right swiveled and fired. Fortunately it was set to trace only otherwise the herd below me would have been rendered into well-done ground beef.
      I sighed and punched the override. Silence.

      Juxtaposes the conflict a bit faster, I think.

      February 21, 2018
  5. “On the morning of Quintember fourteenth, a bright and warm day in the year 3128, Sir Josiah Hartington blasted his brains all over the south wall of his office.”

    It’s a regency romance set in outer space, and follows Sir Josiah’s children as they deal with the aftermath of his death..

    February 21, 2018
    • Zsuzsa #

      I’m not sure whether that qualifies as a “wait, what?” opening. It’s a reasonably good hook, but there’s nothing in there that makes me go, “huh?” It’s pretty obvious what’s going on: in some future setting, some guy committed suicide. If I keep reading, it’s to find out why the guy committed suicide or to learn what effect the suicide had.

      It’s not quite like the examples Sarah gave, where there’s obviously something so off with that opening line that you have to keep reading to figure out what the heck is going on. It doesn’t make sense that someone is “surviving” after death. And how can Smith be dead AGAIN?

      February 21, 2018
      • I think the DATE of 3128, as well as the month (Quintember), can bring this to the level of a ‘Wait, WHAT?’ since we are talking about a “Sir Josiah Hartington.” It’s a nicely antique name, set in a distant future.

        February 21, 2018
        • Zsuzsa #

          Maybe, although I’m sufficiently used to the “aristocracy in space” trope that the idea of a “Sir Josiah” in 3128 doesn’t even make me blink. “Quintember” might do it, but the year following on so closely seems a pretty clear explanation of what’s going on there: this is the future, we might be in space, it’s pretty clear we’ve got a different dating system.

          This one may depend on genre. If it’s a romance, then possibly threre’s a “wait, what?” element to it. For the sci-fi crowd, those used to Honor Harrington, Miles Vorkosigan, or even Dune or Star Wars, it’s much less so.

          February 21, 2018
    • Add another sentence such as “Then he started working.” and you will really have a wait, what? Then he called the butler in to clean up and enjoyed his morning tea? Anything that indicates that blowing his brains out is not quite as deadly as we might all expect.

      February 21, 2018
  6. DaftWully #

    “You know it isn’t humanly possible to do this, right?”
    “Good thing we’re not human, then.”

    February 21, 2018
  7. Luke #

    😉 The setup isn’t difficult. It’s the payoff that vexes me.
    I’m in dazed insomniac mode, so I’ll toss myself a softball.

    It was deep in the ninth, and everything was coming up scorpions.

    February 21, 2018
  8. A personal favorite of mine, from C. S. Lewis’ friend and fellow Inkling, Charles Williams (paraphrased because I don’t have the book in front of me):

    “The telephone was ringing, but there was nobody to answer it but the corpse.”
    ~ Charles Williams: “War in Heaven”

    February 21, 2018
  9. Christopher M. Chupik #

    And you must then fulfill the promise of your first line, or the readers will feel let down.

    February 21, 2018
  10. “The building was on fire, but it wasn’t my fault.”

    That’s a situational case, of course, because you need to have read the earlier Dresden books for the, “Not your fault? Yeah, right.” reaction.

    February 21, 2018
    • well, no. It’s pretty grabby without it, and I should have remembered it.

      February 21, 2018
    • For someone who hasn’t read Dresden it definitely gives the “Who are you, and why would people assume the building fire WAS your fault? *starts looking for matches in the character’s pockets*”

      February 21, 2018
      • Zsuzsa #

        I believe it falls under what TVTropes calls the “suspiciously specific denial.”

        February 21, 2018
  11. From a work that needs more work:
    It was raining whisky again.

    February 21, 2018
  12. Nigel staggered down the hall, his temples throbbing with a hangover’s caterwaul, only to find a young woman he’d never seen before practicing French horn in his living room. William Schuman’s New England Tryptich, if memory (such as it was) served.

    February 21, 2018
  13. Opening of my last opus – Not sure where it falls on the “Wait, What?” Scale.

    Day 1, Year 1 – I could, I guess, give this thing an actual date. But why? The old days are gone. Might as well be dead and buried, even if most of the corpses aren’t. Sick doesn’t describe how I felt – three days of crawling back and forth from the bathroom to the bedroom, stopping only to make sure Cat and Dog were fed (why did we let Billy name them, hon?) and to drink some lemon slime flavored sports drink. Probably saved my life, but I don’t know that I’ll be able to choke that stuff down ever again. My only hope, Susie, is that you and Billy died of the Plague or whatever the CDC ended up calling it before they went dark. Because otherwise, I’d seriously consider suck starting my shotgun after some of the things I’ve seen. . .

    February 21, 2018
  14. Zsuzsa #

    Is this supposed to be an example of a “wait, what?” opening from our own work, from someone else’s work, or one that we just make up on the spot?

    February 21, 2018
    • Looks like people are taking it both ways.

      Wait, that didn’t sound right… 🙂

      February 21, 2018
    • Your own work. Made up on spot probably better for training.

      February 21, 2018
  15. And something in the WIP pile – because well, it had to be done…

    It was a dark and stormy night. Cliche, true, but it was raining like a cow pissing on a flat rock.

    February 21, 2018
  16. Zsuzsa #

    If it is supposed to be something we make up on the spot, how’s this one:

    “We had almost made it to safety when the kangaroo pulled out an anti-aircraft missile.”

    February 21, 2018
  17. 1. This takes TWO sentences, but otherwise, I believe it is a fine example, from Larry Correia’s ‘Monster Hunter International’:

    “On one otherwise normal Tuesday evening I had the chance to live the American dream. I was able to throw my incompetent jackass of a boss from a fourteenth-story window.”

    2. I just found out that it’s the beginning of Chapter 2, not Chapter 1, but I remember it as the start of ‘Slaughterhouse 5’ by Kurt Vonnegut:

    “Listen: Billy Pilgrim has become unstuck in time.”

    (Erm: I also found out that a literary device I thought was unique to me is actually a rip-off of Vonnegut, which is to start a paragraph with the word ‘Listen.’)

    3. From the second Ringworld novel, ‘The Ringworld Engineers,’ by Larry Niven:

    “Louis Wu was under the wire when two men came to invade his privacy.”

    Actually, the only part of that I remembered was “Louis Wu was under the wire.” However, upon reflection, I think that the men invading his privacy DOES make it a better ‘Wait, WHAT?’ intro.

    4. I don’t suppose I can make this quite qualify as a ‘Wait, WHAT?’ moment, but it sure is a hook to keep reading. At least, it was for me. ‘Stargazer,’ by Cedar Sanderson:

    “In a shabby little room, in a great slum, hidden from all outsider’s eyes, a woman curled herself around her children, under the heaping blankets, and prayed.”

    5. I confess: I have not read the book. And, I’m not entirely sure I watched the entire movie. But, I THINK this might qualify. From “Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, by Hunter S. Thompson:

    “We were somewhere around Barstow on the edge of the desert when the drugs began to take hold.”

    A final erm:

    Erm, I think I may have slipped from bona fide ‘Wait, WHAT?’ into ‘Memorable First Lines,’ and they aren’t the same thing.

    February 21, 2018
  18. Mike Houst #

    My first warning was when the cat barked at the door.

    February 21, 2018
    • Good one.

      February 21, 2018
    • Mike Houst #

      Which was fortunate since I hadn’t had my first cup of coffee yet. Greycie only barked at trolls. Which meant that, yes, I had a pair of trolls selling crap door to door again. This time too stupid to read the signs 300 feet up the driveway that said, “No Solicitors” and “You’re within optimum rifle range.” I so did not have a sense of humor pre-caffeine.

      “Alexa. Trigger the front door trap. Authorization Alpha One.”

      “Triggering now”, she replied.

      The screams and the howling of severely singed trolls did bring a smile to my face while I took my first sip, and watched them run smoking back up the drive. I made a note to buy another packet of the powdered dogwood extract to put in Greycie’s food. A bark was much more effective at getting my attention than a meow.

      February 21, 2018
  19. It’s Big Dog’s fault we all died under a mountain in Afghanistan yesterday, and it’s my fault we ended up dying again today…

    From my first novel, Bad Dog. And the whole story is about that first line.

    February 21, 2018
  20. “I awoke at half past dark. To put it mildly, I hurt, far more than most girls my twelve years ever hurt. ”

    Barked?

    February 21, 2018
  21. “The buzzing of the alarm clock woke me at 5:30. Except, I couldn’t remember setting an alarm, much less purchasing an alarm clock.”

    (trying this again)

    February 21, 2018
  22. Very much on the spot.

    Robin glared at her visitor, ignoring the fact that the woman’s feet were nowhere near the ground; after all she’d been dead for over a hundred years. “Where’s my sister?”

    February 21, 2018
  23. I, personally, have never cared much for this technique. The one example that comes to mind where I think it works is Samuel Delaney’s Dhalgren (I think it fits) that begins in the middle of a sentence. (For those who haven’t read it, or not finished it [i.e. most people] it ends with the first part of that sentence.)

    “to wound the autumnal city.
    So howled out for the night to give him a name.
    All that you know, I know:”

    February 21, 2018
    • I would prefer you make up a beginning. And I really don’t care if you don’t care for the technique. It doesn’t hurt to have it in your paintbox. Sometimes, it’s useful.

      February 21, 2018
      • MIght be worth noting that this often gets used as a kind of shake up beginning of a new chapter or scene. I.e., the story is purring along, the reader is starting to settle in, and flips to the next chapter… Wait, what? and we’re off and running again.

        February 21, 2018
  24. Roger figured his troubles all began around sixth grade, when he was expelled from school, and very nearly committed, for “smiling inappropriately.”

    February 21, 2018
  25. “Miss Leopoldi, while turning the target into a giant daisy did stop the attack, the exercise specified standard offensive tactics. Ten point deduction. Next student!”

    February 21, 2018
  26. C4c

    February 21, 2018
  27. mrsizer #

    He thought that the first few times his liver had been cut out had hurt more but it was hard to be sure while screaming as it happened again.

    February 21, 2018
  28. When she smiled at me, for the first time I knew what it was like to lose my heart to someone. I already knew about losing an eye, but never a heart.

    February 21, 2018
  29. MattB #

    “Err, Gavin, that’s a -”
    “Yep.”
    “And he’s carrying a-”
    “Yep.”
    “Riding a dragon??!”
    “Looks that way, doesn’t it.”

    February 21, 2018
  30. Maybe not quite what’s called for, but here’s this from Friday’s Children.

    Despite the best efforts of his mother, Henry O’Donald Williamson Blighe was a rational man.

    But a “Wait: What?” moment calls for more stripping of gears – and I’m coming up empty.

    February 21, 2018
  31. If you’re not trying to avoid the police, it’s a pleasant hour’s walk up Esperanza Avenue from the Senior Boys Crèche to the Interstellar Reserve. Skipping lunch had bought him that hour, but not a lot more; once he missed his first afternoon class, Adrian knew they’d start looking for him.

    February 21, 2018
  32. Okay, original and improv.

    It all started when David forget to put his lunchbox in the fridge and the eggs inside it hatched.

    February 21, 2018
    • I like that one! Is there more?

      February 21, 2018
      • Nope, I just wanted to see what I could come up with off the top of my head. But it does make me want to know who David is and why he brings viable eggs in his lunch and what hatched out of them.

        February 21, 2018
        • mrsizer #

          Of course, he didn’t notice until he opened it. He’d never live it down. It really wasn’t fair. You try capturing a clutch of smolems in zero-g.

          February 22, 2018
          • mrsizer #

            If anyone is still reading this far back, a bit of advice please? I like the “you” there. It seems cozier than “Capturing a clutch of smolems is never easy, zero-g made it worse”.

            Cascading problem: a semi-colon is better than a comma in the second option, but who uses semi-colons?

            Thoughts?

            February 22, 2018
            • I like either one, myself. The only thing I would do is add emphasis to the “you”.

              As for semicolons, I use them occasionally.

              February 22, 2018
            • You’re a writer, you’re allowed to use a semi-colon occasionally. 😉

              February 23, 2018
            • mrsizer #

              Thanks!

              February 23, 2018
  33. Once more… on the CORRECT blog…

    Attempt 1:
    At 0613 Eastern Standard time, the world cocked itself at a 45 degree angle, spun a full 360 degrees, then righted itself, and Nick was the only one who noticed. What most everyone else noticed was the 0615 train was on time for the first time in recorded history.

    Attempt 2 (different story):
    Most people wouldn’t rejoice at an order to kill a man, but most people hadn’t spent 4,000 years in the service of Hell. He had, and so he rejoiced that this time it was only to be one.

    February 21, 2018
    • Ooh, both sound interesting. The first poses an interesting question beyond “Wait, what?” with “Just what happened that things… went right?” and the second.. you just know it can’t be that easy, given what little history was just learned.

      February 21, 2018
    • OK, the first one sounds like something out of Hitchhikers. 🙂 Can we have more, please?

      February 22, 2018
  34. So this has tickled my fickle sense of humor. These aren’t part of anything I’m working on, so if anyone wants some muse-bait:

    “I opened the door and stuck my head out. Across the room, I saw myself from behind, standing at the door, looking out.”

    “Waking to the sound of soft voices, I opened my eyes and saw the cow talking to my sister.”

    “I walked calmly into the building and took the elevator up to the sixth floor, then walked out to a balcony, so I could look the alien in the eye while talking to him.”

    “I looked down at my cup, to find my tea looking back at me.”

    “I made a light and looked at my watch. Foolish, as it had stopped decades before. They really put me in a tough coffin, this time.”

    “Preparing to set the table, I opened the cabinet, only to find a severed head resting atop the dinner plates. It was the third time this week.”

    “Gary opened his car door, brushed the 13 frogs off the driver’s seat, and got in, thinking that at least it was better than the 13 hedgehogs that were there yesterday.”

    “I started the day in a foul temper. Halfway through shaving, my reflection turned and walked away.”

    “Walking down the hallway of the manor house, abandoned these last sixty-four years, we heard the stopped grandfather clock strike 12.”

    February 21, 2018
    • sam57l0 #

      OOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooohhhhhhh!!

      February 21, 2018
  35. The fire burned blue from the fungus in the body. I’d hated having to kill my best friend, but I didn’t have a choice in the matter.

    February 21, 2018
  36. OK, here’s one:

    It all started when Dad sent me out to clean up the fields after the madwind.

    February 21, 2018
  37. “What makes you think you had a stroke? The nurse told me you were brought in as a hit and run accident in last night’s rain.”

    February 21, 2018
  38. It’s actually condensed down quite a bit (I didn’t want to reproduce five or six paragraphs), but the upshot is this: “Tuesday slid into the driver’s seat, chirped a cheery “Good morning!” and passed back a chai to make up for it. Wednesday took shotgun while Thursday slid in next to Monday apprehensively, clutching a bottle of ibuprofen. Monday looked over at Friday, who fastened her seatbelt, turning to reveal a black eye. ‘It’s no big deal,’ she said. ‘Not even funny enough to put online.'”

    February 21, 2018
  39. Young Christopher accused his teacher of practicing her spelling on him.

    February 21, 2018
  40. SheSellsSeashells #

    “Side effects may include drowsiness, rashes, vertigo, and in some cases, death,” read the fine print on the back of the box.

    “Now you tell me,” I grumbled, swiping ineffectually at it with an ectoplasmic hand.

    February 21, 2018
  41. Arwen #

    I reached down to pet Max after his enthusiastic greeting when I remembered that Max had been dead for six months.

    February 21, 2018
  42. It took me a lot longer to make the bed today than it did yesterday, but then, I ain’t never been shot this many times before.

    February 21, 2018
  43. Sandman29 #

    She put her hand in her purse, holding first the chocolate bar, and then the Mark 2 plasma grenade, trying to decide which would be best for making it through the checkpoint.

    February 21, 2018
    • I’m thinking the humor advice would be to move the conflict to the end? So maybe something like

      She put her hand in her purse and looked at the guards, trying to decide which would be best for making it through the checkpoint, the chocolate bar or the Mark 2 plasma grenade.

      February 21, 2018
      • Terry Sanders #

        Or…

        She felt around in her purse, considering the best way to get past the checkpoint. The money? The chocolate? The Mark 2 plasma grenade?

        She decided on the chocolate.

        ***

        That assumes, of course, that humor is intended. He may want to play this perfectly straight.

        February 22, 2018
        • Oh, true, true. I was just thinking that the punchline advice or humor advice says to put the edge, the thing that makes you laugh, the thing that catches your eye, as close to the end as possible. And this kind of point feels like that to me.

          February 22, 2018
  44. morrigan508 #

    They told me this morning they were going to give my old partner Pete Sims a hand. This was sort of amazing; he’d had his blown off by a Mark 60 anti personnel grenade (silver plate counter Lycanthrope use NSN 5657-01-345-LLL5). We were pretty much sure that he was going to end up riding a desk for the rest of his career, if they didn’t just medical him out.

    February 21, 2018
  45. Developed on the spot.

    “Let me make sure I understand this correctly: you are upset because your son does not have hemophilia?”

    February 21, 2018
  46. BobtheRegisterredFool #

    That day on the carrier, when we found out the Captain had just been relieved and that we were on another world, was when alien spacecraft crashed in the number seventeen cargo hold.

    February 21, 2018
  47. Okay. I’ll take a few. This is one of those challenges where you really need to set yourself a quota and pop them out, then go back and look at what you have stirred up. So… here’s five.

    When I popped the hood and looked underneath, she winked at me.

    I turned the corner and hit the gas just as the zombies ran across the road.

    When you make a drink, you always need to consider the glass, the booze, the mixer, and the gun in the hand of the customer.

    “Put a lid on it,” he said. Then he slammed the coffin shut, and started hammering nails in to hold it down. The coffin bounced, hard, as the vampire inside fought to get out.

    The flight attendant looked at us, smiled, and offered, “Coffee, tea, blood, or other stimulants for the flight? What would you like?”

    That was fun!

    February 22, 2018
  48. This is from a brief snippet I scribbled down some time back, it hasn’t gone anywhere yet.

    I woke up with a pounding headache and a burning need to throw up. Mostly it was because I had drunk a bottle of cheap brandy the night before. The archangel screaming in my head didn’t help though. I rolled to one side just before a burning blade cut through the cardboard box I had called home for the last six months, and looked up into the face of a fallen angel.
    “Damn it, I was sleeping” I shouted as I thrust my fist into its ribcage and ripped out its heart.
    My name is Marshall Jenkins, and I’m God’s Hitman. I’m also a drunk.

    February 22, 2018
    • Terry Sanders #

      If I may suggest…?

      I thrust my fist into the fallen angel’s ribcage and ripped out its heart. “Damn it, I was sleeping!”

      February 22, 2018
      • I’m not sure I see the difference between the two, whats the reasoning?

        February 23, 2018
        • OK just came back and realized my comment may have come across as a bit…. me-ish. What I mean is what is the writing logic that I may be missing behind puting the dialogue at the end? Does it read better, does it provide a better dramatic cap to the paragraph etc?

          February 23, 2018
          • Terry Sanders #

            Mostly just moving the “uh, what?” moment to the top of the page. Mostly I was suggesting leaving the cardboard box and the hangover for the next paragraph.

            In terms of the order of action vs dialog, I guess I was thinking the gerund phrase wasn’t quite as dynamic. A matter of personal taste, perhaps–if it were my story and I did the sentence your way, I’d have an seraph (or something) leaning on the alley wall shake his head, tsking, and say “Testy this morning, are we?” Perfectly valid, but a different feel.

            And, as I said, a matter of taste.

            February 24, 2018
            • Ok I think I understand the logic, One questions though. What is a gerund?

              February 24, 2018
          • Dorothy Grant #

            Two notes for me – when you stick the dialogue in the middle of the monologue, then you’re switching monologues-dialogue-monologue, and expecting the reader to follow along. Sticking the dialogue at the end, especially if you give the reader a pause after that like a paragraph break or chapter break, means the reader doesn’t have to make that jump back and forth, so it flows better.

            Second, which doesn’t apply to this particular example, chunks of internal narration are often used for observation and summary between scenes of action. So if you’re going to transition from one to the other, making a single smooth segue is easier than a sort of stuttering transition. So in Terry’s seraph example, it’d transition from internal description to dialogue with the seraph.

            February 24, 2018
            • Ok I’ll keep that in mind.

              February 24, 2018
              • Dorothy Grant #

                …And as I didn’t say it earlier, please let me add: I liked the snippet! Hope you expand on it!

                February 24, 2018
              • BobtheRegisterredFool #

                I liked it also. Didn’t have a computer last time I checked, and noticed my own reason for thinking the change an improvement.

                Damn it, I was sleeping” I shouted as I thrust my fist into its ribcage and ripped out its heart.

                I thrust my fist into the fallen angel’s ribcage and ripped out its heart. “Damn it, I was sleeping!”

                What order does it make sense for things to happen in? He heart grabs at reflexive speeds, then complains? Or he takes the time to complain, and then heart grabs? Sometimes I love me some manga mid fight exposition or flashbacks, but my impression of your project feels more like fast deadly action first. I feel that while both actions may have started at the same time, the heart grab finished first, and is more properly ordered first. But I can’t promise that I would have noticed anything without prompting.

                Wiki: a gerund is a verb form that functions as a noun.

                I also think it reads more smoothly with the change.

                February 24, 2018
  49. lfox328 #

    The EverChild Company had promised that its androids would be a major improvement on the meat-based children – “Your Little Angel Will NEVER grow up”.
    The trouble was, Lois reflected, rubbing her bicep made weary from hammering the circuitry of her SerenaDroid into splintery fragments, she hadn’t realized that her little Basket of Joy would stay a surly, eyerolling tween – forever.

    February 22, 2018
  50. Not the beginning, but the first time we meet a character.

    The man pulled his out his cane, and tromped into the woods, down the hill and to the water’s edge. He stood for a moment, watching the thin veil of water falling into the small pool below. He shook his head fondly, cupped his hands around his mouth, and bellowed, “Jelana!” He waited a moment. No response. He bellowed “Jelana!” again, and waited.

    When there was again no response, he reached down with a smile, and scooped up several small flat stones. He began to expertly skip them across the surface of the pond.

    After the third stone, the surface of the water began agitating. He grinned briefly, and took a handful of steps to lean against a picnic table just off the pebbly beach.

    The water surface continued to agitate, then, just off of the shore, a head broke the surface, followed closely by the rest of the body, a girl, appearing maybe 15 or 16 years old, with red-brown short, wild curly hair, dressed in a dark green stretchy tunic over brown leggings. Her feet were bare. She barely came up to th man’s chest.

    The young girl stepped onto the shore. “Tolly! That was rude!” she said, as she shook out her curls (perfectly dry) and walked up to him, her steps like dancing.

    Tolly just grinned at her. “Glad to see you, too.”

    February 22, 2018
  51. That’s something I haven’t used much. Closest thing I found:

    Chicago swallowed the last Artificial Intelligence whole.

    February 22, 2018
  52. In my defense, I was left unsupervised.

    February 23, 2018
  53. Here’s one:

    Alice made a grunt of complaint at the cold floor, then another grunt of resignation as she got up and wandered clumsily down the hall, tugging at her dorky flannel PJs. They were warm, that was all she cared about.
    There was a huge grey werewolf on the floor of the main room. The burning yellow eyes opened as Alice walked stumble-footed across the rug. “Why do you disturb my rest, mortal?” she growled.
    “Pee,” mumbled Alice, and went past the creature into the bathroom.

    February 23, 2018
  54. The re-worked version of my old Baen Fantasy contest entry:

    “We do what we must,” Mother always said, back when we were skulking around the wharves and warehouses at the bottom end of Port Alkarief. She said she’d do anything to protect me and keep me safe.

    Which is why she sold me into slavery to an evil wizard.

    February 23, 2018
  55. AesopFan #

    Rauley frowned at the silver incandescence that boiled along the lines of the pentagram.
    The spell had worked right the last time he cast it.

    February 24, 2018

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