Snap ‘Em Up (Not Literally)

Snap snap snap!

Speech, action, description.

What do all of these things have in common? Well, yes, they’re all words; but, more importantly, they’re ways to start your story! And we all love starting stories…

When readers start reading, you have about 3-5 seconds to capture their attention. I’ve just read a page of something and discovered that when I read normally, 3-5 seconds is about 20-30 words. Some sources say you have 10 seconds, which is what I actually did – and that was 59 words.

As you can see, you don’t have a long time, maybe one or two sentences. So how do you keep those readers reading?

The first line (I’m keeping this with a story, but if it’s a film or play, say about the first few minutes, even seconds. If it’s a poem, unless it’s like the Odyssey, they’re bound to keep reading cause it’s short) is crucially important. Most readers will try and at least make it to the last line of the first page before the put the book down and pick up another, or click the ‘back’ button on the top of the screen, but it’d be a lot easier for you if they were hooked from the beginning. Of course, you have to do your job and keep them reading beyond that, but that’s for another article next week.

I have in front of me 3 books (they were just lying around, but they’re quite different and I hope at least one appeals to you). Here are their first lines:

  1. ‘Renowned curator Jacques Sauniere staggered through the vaulted archway of the museum’s Grand Gallery.’ – The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown.
  2. ‘I suppose a lot of teenage girls feel invisible sometimes, like they just disappear.’ – I’d Tell You I Love You, But Then I’d Have to Kill You by Ally Carter
  3. ‘Sam Horwitz had never felt so excited.’ – The Forgotten Army by Brian Minchin (Doctor Who book)

So, the question is, what is it about these first lines that keep readers reading?

Well, The Da Vinci Code intrigues us with the words ‘renowned’, ‘staggered’ and introducing a character. We’re wondering why they’re staggering, and how they are renowned. Curious? Yes. (I’d just like to point out now that I haven’t read The Da Vinci Code, so no spoilers please. It is on my to-read list though, promise!)

Ally Carter’s book (come on, that title is way too long to type out) pulls us in by wondering why this narrator (we’re assuming a teenage girl, but can’t be sure) is talking about teenage girls and why they’re disappearing. It’s relatable, too, ’cause we’ve all felt like it (I’m assuming). And we want to know why the narrator is talking about feeling invisible – maybe they’re actually invisible? We don’t know, but we want to find out.

Finally, The Forgotten Army grabs our attention by introducing a character and making him excited. We’re wondering why he’s excited, what it is he’s looking at. We’re wondering who this Sam is, as well, and that keeps us reading too.

Now we’ve seen how the professionals do it. But how can we apply this to ourselves?

There are many things you can do (note: not all of these apply to the first line, but definitely the first page):

  • DO give them something interesting, eg humour or action, preferably in the first line. People want need something to keep them continue reading. You are the writer, you have to do that for them. SO DO IT.
  • DO ensure spelling, grammar and punctuation are the best they can be (this puts so many people off. Make sure the first page is typo-free, at least).
  • DO introduce a character that the readers are interested in. (The Da Vinci Code)
  • DO introduce a setting that the readers are interested in. (I don’t have one with setting at the moment, but I’m sure you know what I mean – crumbling walls and what-not)
  • DO introduce a scenario the readers are interested in. (The other two)

The first line has to snap up the readers’ attention. Throw them your best language, most fabulous description. Think about what made you read this article (hopefully it’s ’cause you were curious about the first three words. If not, that’s gone horribly wrong).

In anything, the first line has to get your readers asking six questions that keep them going: who, what, when, where, why and how. These questions may pop up later in the first paragraph, but by the end of the page, your readers should be thinking ‘come on, I want to know!’

And this, my friend, is what keeps them going. And another important thing is not to drivel on in your first chapter, as I am doing now (I’ll stop soon, promise).

I think it’d be easier right now to write about what not to do when starting. Here:

  • DO NOT start with describing the weather. The only time this is acceptable is when the character is about to get struck by lightening, or it is huge to your plot. If your character is sitting in the garden, start with something different other than they’re basking in the sun.
  • DO NOT start with something that doesn’t come to play in the rest of the book (eg the WEATHER). In The Forgotten Army, Sam is excited about a new exhibit, but it all goes horribly wrong – his excitement helps to create a plot twist.
  • DO NOT start with character or setting (eg, ‘It was 1949 and the beach was golden…’) description. At least give us some action first, otherwise the readers are gonna put your story down ’cause they’ll assume it’s all boring drivel. I originally got you reading with excitement and curiosity, and here you are now – reading my boring drivel.
  • Basically, don’t start with anything you wouldn’t want to read yourself. There, that’s easy, isn’t it?

I hope I’ve given you some food for thought about how to start your next piece, or, indeed, update existing ones. And if you’ve read this far have a cookie, cause this has been quite a long article. Sorry about that. Quite a lot to say on the subject to be honest.

Here’s a task for you: find a book you loved and a book you hated/didn’t finish and look at their first lines. What dragged you into the one you liked, and made you put down the one you didn’t?

Questions, comments, thoughts? Shoot! 😀 

Ps sorry it was so long, I got a little carried away…

The Evacuee {Short Story}

The Evacuee

Wordcount: 1000
Prompt: ‘word grab!’ Words are: front, deprive, picnic, throw and mock.


You stare, in disbelief, at the book in your hand. The scratchy, knitted throw presses against your bare legs, and you play with the loose thread. Absent-mindedly, you run your fingers over the front cover of the leather journal you have just been given.

It’s 1943. You were evacuated just last week.

The family that you’ve gone to seems friendly to everyone but you, but they are motherless. You, too, are missing your mother, even though you know that your father is already dead.

You remember the day that the telegram came. The ship that he was on had been sunk by a submarine. Your mother had dropped to her knees, a silent scream on her face. Blood tricked down your ankle as a shard of a dropped plate stuck into your body.

That doesn’t matter now. You’re 500 miles away, in Inverness, Scotland, whilst your mother remains in London. During the Blitz.

A pretty, red ladybug crawls onto your ankle, where the cut still shows – a scar now. You let it climb onto your leg, and the combined tickling of that and the throw beneath you makes you chuckle in spite of yourself.

Here.” A sandwich, filled with lettuce and an odd sauce that you don’t recognise is thrust into your palm. You stare at the boy’s plate, which is piled up, mainly with Scotch eggs. Although the family seems nice, you can’t help but feel a bit deprived: after all, you only had the throw for a blanket last night, and it’s spring.

Albeit cold, the day is bright, and you eat your measly sandwich, savouring the disgusting taste. Crumbs fall onto the front cover of the journal, and you wipe them off carefully, making sure that they don’t stain the beautiful leather. It was the one thing that the family had given to you that you felt like they wanted to give to you.

The journal, with a pen in a pocket to the side, is brown leather. The front cover has a motif, an embossed Celtic triskelion. You run your fingers over it, enjoying the way they fit into the lines.

The father of the family stretches out leisurely on the large throw. He winks at you, and you smile back. So far, he is the only one that’s been kind and welcoming. He gave you the journal, after all.

Go and play,” he orders the others; three boys, with whom you’ve been sharing a small farm cottage with.

The eldest, two years older than you, glares in your direction, but says sweetly, “Ok, Papa. Shall we take her with us?” You feel your stomach drop when the father nods. The boys have been pests since the day you arrived, laughing when you dragged in a ratty teddy bear and ate with your fingers at the table, even though they were soaked in gravy.

You stand, carefully placing the ladybug and the journal on the throw. You give it one, last longing look before following the boys down the hill.

You aren’t very good at running. You can do it in London, but you prefer to stay in and read. Thankfully, the teachers understood there: but, in Scotland, it would seem that they would rather you went out and froze than stayed inside.

Stockinged feet in black, leather shoes pound down the hill. When you reach the bottom, you see that the boys are by a rope-swing, over a small river. Watching them for a while, you see them ‘play’ – if you can call it that. More shoving each other around.

Come on!” the eldest shouts gleefully, pushing the rope at you. You catch it; just about. “You have a go!” He laughs, clearly assuming that you won’t be able to.

And he’s right. When you take a running jump onto the swing, you miss, falling into the freezing water below, soaking through your thin dress.

The boys hoot with laughter. Fuming, you stand, glaring at them. “Oh, look at her,” the youngest says, “She can’t even jump properly! What do they teach them in London? How to be losers?” The comments set the boys off again.

You storm back up the hill. The thin dress, the only one you could afford, sticks to your skinny body, and you shiver. You may be old enough to have started to grow a bit, but so far you still look like a boy.

Water drips down the front of your dress, keeping your legs in a constant state of wetness. Clenching your hands into fists, you ignore the mocking voices of the boys behind you. You race up the hill to your adoptive father. The picnic hamper is still open, and he is taking a glass bottle from it; you can see an amber liquid, then five cups follow.

Ginger beer?” he asks cheerfully, holding up the glasses. His face drops when he sees your stormy expression and the water dripping from your clothes. “What have they got you to do now?” he sighs. You shrug. You don’t want to talk about the humiliating experience. He pats the place next to him. “Come and sit next to me,” he smiles.

Even though you’ve only been there for a few days, you already understand the privilege of sitting next to the head of the household. As you sit beside him in the sun, beaming, the boys have caught up, and promptly begin to complain.

But Papa! She’s an evacuee!

Papa, you said that I could sit next to you!”

Yes, yes, I know,” he consoles them, “But look what you have done to her! She is soaking wet.” He shakes his head disapprovingly, but passes them a cup; although he gives one to you first.

As the boys glare at you, their Papa the only thing stopping their mocking, you poke your tongue out, relishing in the feeling of not being the piece of dirt on someone’s shoe: for once. 


As always, feedback is appreciated! 😀 Thanks, and I hope you enjoyed. 😀 

The Unknown Soldier {Short Story}

The Unknown Soldier 

Wordcount: 866
Prompt: a story set in the 1920s


In June 1918, I died.

It was at the Battle of Belleau Wood. I was just one of the 1811 killed.

The bullet wounds hurt as they ripped jagged holes in my skin and pierced my internal organs. I was only hit in the stomach, nearly cut in half by machine guns, and it took me a whole, seemingly everlasting minute to die, writhing on the ground with my blood pouring all over the mud. That is the only thing I remember. The pain, the agonising pain. I cannot even remember what my name was. Perhaps that is a side effect of dying.

Dying was not like how I expected. It was not white as some people think. It was grey. Swirling grey in front of my eyes, until I flooded into nothingness. And then…I was nowhere. Floating.

I turned and could see my body, mangled and broken, full of bullet holes. An empty corpse, only identified by a bloody US army uniform.

And then, I forgot. The body below; I did not know who it was. I did not know who I was. I just knew that I was rising, and then I was amongst others, like me. The dead.

I am pretty sure I have a body as I am now – I can move around and do all sorts. But I still do not know who I am.

Others remember. Maybe it is me. Maybe it was my fault I forgot. Perhaps, I think now, perhaps I wanted to forget. Maybe I was a bad person.

And now I watch the last body I saw being placed in a tomb at the Memorial Amphitheatre. I guess that it is me, but I still do not know his name. I have followed this body around whilst I am enjoying being dead. Being nothing. It is great, being nothing; there’s no pain, or conscience.

If I was that soldier, I guess I must have killed some people, but right now, that does not bother me. Strangely. I reckon it is because I am dead. I died, like the ones I slaughtered did. We are quits.

I am not sure if I would rather be alive. I would like to have all my memories – family, friends, who I actually was. We even have birth and death days in this place I am in (for I do not know what it is called) but, because I do not know mine, I am always left out. I have been given a death day, of course, the day I arrived, but because I was floating in nothingness for a seemingly long time, I do not know if that is the actual day.

I can watch what is happening as if through a translucent veil from where ever I am. Through the nothingness as other souls join us silently above the Earth. I have even met Napoleon as I float around.

The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier is what they are calling it. A body, brought from France, being laid, to act as a memorial to all those unknown soldiers. The body that I think is mine just so happens to be the lucky one, and has not just been left on the bloody battlefield to rot.

I can hear the cannon firing now, as a mark of respect. The troops march. I stay.

Floating down (because you can do that in the nothingness), I come to a stand in front of the tomb. People walk through me and pay their respects. I do as well. But not to me: I am not that vain.

I pay my respects to all the fallen soldiers on the day of November 11th, 1921. I thank them for all they did – even the German ones, for I know that many did not know what the cause they were fighting for was. I have met them. I know.

During my time in the war, I climbed over bodies as they were strewn over barbed wire to protect myself. Once, I even used a dead man as a shield to stop myself dying, holding him by his bloodied shirt. I retrieved weapons that had been discarded from cold, unfeeling fingers, and used them to kill more.

I am the Unknown Soldier. I do not know my name, or who I was. I know some of what I did during the war, the most recent memories. Sometimes, I regret what I did. I regret taking lives. I am not proud of it, but I cannot take them back. And as I float up into the nothingness for the last time, an image of a boy comes to mind. I do not know who he is, but he is young, with brown hair and intelligent blue eyes. He is kissed on the head by his mother as he marches to join his regiment, a rifle hastily slung over one shoulder. That boy was me, and I am him. I may not have lived for a long time, but I did my duty and that is something I am proud of. Finally, I have been buried; my body is at rest.

And now, I am, too.


As always, feedback is appreciated! Thanks 🙂 Hope you enjoyed. 🙂

The First One {Short Story}

The First One

TW: Drugs, murder.
Word count: 994


The tea was steadily getting colder, but still remained untouched. The marshmallow had been mutilated to the point that it probably wasn’t a marshmallow any more, and parts of it lay scattered on the saucer.

Fingertips tapped on the table top. Hard, blue eyes stared, watching various people go about their daily business outside.

Inside the coffee shop, there was a general buzz of content as the first flakes of snow fell.

A young man passed her by and sat opposite a pretty woman. He laughed and reached over to hold her hand. The woman’s eyes flitted to hers, and the girl stared, almost unseeingly, back at her. Shifting uncomfortably, the woman dropped her gaze.

The bell above the door rang as it was opened by a boy, no older than 16. He kicked grit from his boots whilst his friends passed him. They were jostling and laughing, but that wasn’t what made the girl smile.

Pushing tousled, brown hair away from his face, the boy’s gaze met hers. It dropped a split second later, and a hint of red appeared over his cheeks. Brown, intelligent eyes were enhanced by bright, white teeth, and he followed his friends to get drinks. With a skip in her heart as the handsome one looked at her again, the girl watched as the group sat opposite her table.

The book that had been used as a prop was ignored, and the girl put her full attention on the boy opposite. He sat, slouching but still managing to look interested in what the others were saying. He took small sips from his hot chocolate, pushing the hair from his face every so often.

Now and then, he would glance up at her, and she would pretend to be watching someone else, or would stare down at her book, feeling when he looked away.

Eventually, the three boys stood. The brown haired one turned her way one more time and smiled, before following his friends out of the door, which clanged shut behind them.

The girl stood. Leaving her untouched tea behind, she picked up a heavy duffel bag and opened the door, silent save for a light ringing of the bell.

For once, her tiny frame worked to her advantage. She followed the boys in a practised manner, waiting outside whilst they went into shops, always pretending to be engrossed in something else, making sure they didn’t notice her too much.

Long, loose hair flowed down her back like a white waterfall. Rubber soled boots made no sound on the concrete. Her leather jacket kept the rain off when a few drops decided to fall.

Finally, the boys split up. The girl followed the handsome one as he went this way and that, down the small alleys that no one else went down in the city. She watched carefully as he bought something from a dodgy looking guy, and, once again, waited outside as he disappeared into a club for an hour.

It was nearly 2AM by the time she caught him alone. He seemed sober and his eyes were clear, although she suspected he was under the influence of something or other.

What’s a pretty girl like you doing out so early?” he asked, stumbling upon her leaning against the wall just outside. She shrugged and batted her eyelids daintily.

Waiting for a handsome guy like you to come along, I suppose,” she twittered falsely. The boy smiled, almost warily, and she thought she saw a hint of recognition in his eyes.

Didn’t I see you earlier? In Mrs J’s?” he asked. The girl uttered a high, fake laugh.

Oh, perhaps. Weren’t you the handsome one that came through the door?” She stroked his arm, and the boy looked more at ease.

Perhaps,” he smiled. “Can I walk you home, then?”

The girl felt a rush through her veins. “Oh, yes please. It’s a little scary out here at night, what with all those strange men around.”

The boy nodded, and she reached down to pick up her duffel bag. “Oh here,” he said, “let me carry that for you.” She shrugged, and passed it to him; he bent momentarily over the unexpected weight, before straightening, and passing it to his right hand, so he could walk with his left to her. “Blimey, what have you got in here?”

Oh, just some…books,” she said, saying the first thing that came to her mind. “Shall we go, then?”

Casually, the girl walked off, and the boy hesitated for a moment before following her sashaying hips.

Street after street passed them by as the boy tried to make small talk. The girl answered in short sentences, still trying to keep the pretty tone to her voice. A small alley came up on her right, and she halted.

Oh, I know this place! This is a short cut,” she lied, holding out her hand for his. He took it without thinking, and she tugged him down the gloomy passage.

They met no one. Heard nothing. It seemed as if they were in their own little bubble. Perfect, the girl thought, a sly smile on her face.

So, where does this lead to?” the boy asked, peering back over his shoulders as the darkness engulfed them, taking them away from the comforting, orange street lights.

Somewhere special,” she replied vaguely.

When she felt sure that no one would see nor hear them, she pulled the boy towards her before pushing him against the wall. He dropped the duffel bag in shock, and they both heard the clanging of metal.

Frozen, the boy stayed tight against the wall. She reached down and slowly unzipped the bag. Drawing a knife from its depths, she held it up, so it glinted in the slither of moonlight that came from between the buildings.

This was it.

The first one.

The first boy she would ever kill. 


Thanks for reading! Feedback appreciated! 🙂 

I’m Really Sorry

Hi guys,

I’m really sorry that I haven’t posted in ages. I will once more when I actually have some decent ideas of what to write about…

In the meantime, have a short story, thing. Or, you can read it here on ReadWave, a site for 3 minute stories (or 800 words). This one isn’t 800, but enjoy anyway.


I Think I Care Too Much

When people ask, “What do you care about?” it’s easy to say what was probably the first thing that popped into your head: “Oh, my family of course.”

And, when you think about it, yes, that is true.

But when you think about it some more, other things pop into your mind.

Friends, even ones you don’t talk to that much any more; pets, even ones who are a little bit wild; hell, even food – ’cause you’re lucky if you have a full plate every night.

And then you think a little more, and other things make themselves aware.

You care about that special book that you’ve had since childhood; or the teddy bear that you couldn’t sleep without. Even your favourite seat on the school bus, or a pen that you thought was lucky and had it in every single damn exam – even when there was no more ink left.

Perhaps you’re a little more superficial – you care about your phone, or laptop, over other things. Or even a special woolly Christmas jumper, that you pretend you hate but secretly cannot wait to get out every year.

Sometimes even just sitting in front of the TV and watching your favourite program or a film with a hot drink and a blanket.

There are a lot of things many people care about – sometimes too many to list, even if you had all day.

But, for most of us, there is that special someone in your life. You know the one – they make it seem like you are floating on air when your feet are firmly on the ground, like your heart is beating at 10,000 miles an hour, and you pray and pray and pray that it will never, ever end.

See? That one person just popped into your head, didn’t they? The person that makes you smile when you think of them; the person who’s voice you can hear in your mind, and that voice that you can formulate into any sentence you wish; the person who’s face you fall asleep smiling about and is the first thing that pops into your mind in the morning.

And if I asked you after reading this, “What is the thing you care about most of all?”

What would you honestly, truly say? 

Rules Of Speech

One thing that really irks me (good word, ‘irk’. IRK.) in book or online story is when the rules of speech aren’t followed, or are done wrong. So, I thought I’d go through them now, because I can’t STAND it when they’re wrong. Sorry, this may be more of a rant. I apologise in advance, as I have already done so, apparently.

If someone is talking, and it finishes on a full stop with a ‘he/she’ after, then it is a comma, and the ‘he/she’ is lower case. For example:

“Wow, really interesting,” she said, sarcastically.

If someone is talking, it finishes on a full stop, and has a name or ‘I’ after it, it is still a comma. Example:

“Wow, really interesting,” Laura said sarcastically.

If this is the other way around (you’ll see what I mean in a minute) then it is still a comma, although the first word in the speech is a capital letter. Example:

Sarcastically, Laura said, “Wow, really interesting.”

Oh, and even if the punctuation is not a comma, it’s still lower case after it if it’s not a name! Eg:

“That’s awesome!” she declared.

Finally, if someone new is speaking, start a new line! Seriously, this is really annoying and hard to follow the story when someone doesn’t do this! So, even if it is only one or two new words in each line: DO IT!

Hope that helped, sorry it was so short!

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