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.

The First Two Pages: A Golden Eclipse

Debra H. Goldstein

Normally, I begin short stories with a clever line of dialogue or a dead body.  My goal is to engage readers immediately.  In Day of the Dark: Stories of Eclipse, the opening of my A Golden Eclipse short story is contrary to my normal style. It builds slowly in a manner parallel to the con revealed in the story.

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“Baby Killer” in Day of the Dark

Margaret S. Hamilton

I love eclipses and meteor showers. A few years ago, we watched the Transit of Venus through a telescope at the Cincinnati Observatory.

Excited to write my eclipse story, I struggled to generate a plot. I find solar eclipses wondrous, but ominous. Twain uses a solar eclipse to great effect in A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court, but an actual solar eclipse event is so short. What dastardly crime could happen during those crucial two minutes?

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Two Men Named Charles

KB Inglee

If you are writing a short story, your first two pages are a significant percentage of the whole. There is a lot of introduction to be done right off the bat. I try to get all the significant characters and a feel for the setting on those two pages. In the case of this story, I set a difficult task for myself. I combined a fictional and a real character and ended up with two men named Charles.

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Unmasking the Monster: The First Two Pages of “The Devil’s Standtable”

Melissa H. Blaine

(The First Two Pages is devoting August to celebrating the release of Day of the Dark, a mystery anthology edited by Kaye George, published by Wildside Press, and inspired by the coming total solar eclipse. I hope you enjoy getting a look at the opening pages of some of the twenty-four stories in this anthology!)

Writing urban fantasy can sometimes be a bit like creating a Scooby-Doo episode in reverse. In the iconic cartoon, Scooby and the gang travel somewhere and encounter a ghost or monster or other supernatural creature. They spend the rest of the episode getting chased by the creature, gathering clues, and eating Scooby snacks. At the end, Scooby and the rest unmask the creature as human and explain the mystery.

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Going Against the Grain

Nupur Tustin

As a writer, I take very seriously Horace’s advice to begin a story in media res. If this is important advice for a novelist, it’s even more important for a short story writer. So the first version of my young Haydn story, “The Baker’s Boy,” naturally began with the inciting event. Haydn, a young man, is getting dressed at dawn in his attic in Vienna when a commotion draws him to the window:

Heedless of his own safety, the young man leaned far out the small window. What calamity could have befallen the world today? The solar eclipse, plunging Vienna into a brief period of darkness, had come and gone without event.

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