The First Two Pages

Every Tuesday, a mystery writer explains how he or she faced the challenges of those brutally difficult–and vitally important–first two pages.

Hunting Inspiration With a Club

Vinnie Hansen

Usually I write a short story and then try to find a market for it. By nature I’m more a pantzer than a plotter. I don’t trust myself to spill a good tale unless it starts from the font of inspiration.

Many of these “inspired” stories eventually found homes. But waiting for a muse can be limiting. Jack London once remarked: “You can’t wait for inspiration. You have to go after it with a club.” Last year I got out my club. I tried writing to specific prompts and for specific markets. My success surprised me.

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The First Two Pages: Judy Penz Sheluk

Judy Penz Sheluk

When it comes to short fiction, you probably don’t have two pages to capture someone’s attention. You certainly don’t have the luxury of a prologue to hint at the backstory, or an entire chapter to start outlining what’s coming and who’s who. At best you have a few paragraphs. If you can hook the reader with those, you have a fair shot at keeping their attention. Let’s take a look at the opening of my short story, Live Free or Die, which is included in LIVE FREE OR TRI: a collection of three short mystery stories, published January 2016.

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The First Two Pages of: “The Drop”

Alan Gordon

The van pulled up and parked three blocks up and one over from the club. The side door opened, and a young man jumped down to the curb and immediately started walking, never even acknowledging his ride. He wore a black blazer-hoodie combo over a burnt orange tee with “SHALOM BITCHES” emblazoned on the front. Rocco jeans, skinny tight but broken in. Wouldn’t stop him from dancing. Wouldn’t do his balls any favors when he did.

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