When I am writing and not working on anything particular, I like to challenge myself. Mostly the game starts with a simple question: I wonder if I could? That’s it and that’s all, as my dad used to say. Those five words almost always send me down a writing path I’ve not traveled before. The following paragraphs are the latest result. I wonder if I could write an original story about each of the classic monsters. Vampire, Werewolf, Frankenstein, Mummy, etc. The challenge I set for myself was to tell a fresh story while staying true to the rules of the classics: Garlic and crosses for vampires, silver bullets and full moons for the werewolf, you get the idea. Here then is the first 400 or so words of my attempt at a werewolf story. I’ve been told I write decent openings that set the tone of the story well, so I thought I’d examine the beginning of this one even before the story is finished. Care to come along for the ride?
Charlie Dupont (Good everyman sort of name) stared out at the moon through the reinforced steel bars that criss-crossed over the large picture window of his bedroom. (Is he keeping something out? Or keeping something in?) Every night before sleep took him, his eyes found the moon, measured it as it grew fat and round, and then later, marked its progress as it waned. You could count on the cycle, slow and relentless as the tides, and at this time of upheaval in his life, Charlie needed something he could count on.
(So this first paragraph sets up a few things. It introduces you to the main character who has more than a passing interest in the moon. He may or may not be sympathetic at this point, though the last line of the paragraph suggests that he is having a rough time.)
He supposed in a way, he’d been searching all of his life for a stability he’d never found. As a kid, he’d never fit in, and it was no surprise that as a grown man he’d remained a loner, set apart by some deep-rooted inability to find common ground, some kernel on which to build lasting friendships. The world was his oyster his mom always said. He knew he could be a pearl, but all his life he’d felt more like the irritating grain of sand. That more than anything had led him to Nepal.
(Now we have a pretty good idea that he feels outcast, separated from his peers, and that loneliness has driven him to search for some understanding.)
The pamphlet promised it would be the trip of a lifetime -- a chance to lose yourself, to find yourself again, and go home a changed man. Charlie frowned. On that last count the brochure had been nuts on. He had indeed come back a changed man. What started out as a romantic, fourteen day second honeymoon with Brenda (Suggesting that he’d found a connection with at least one person.) had turned into a two month nightmare from which Charlie would never awake.
(Something bad happened to his only real friend in Nepal.)
Climbing from the bed, he padded (Use of the word ‘padded’ suggests dog-like) across the hardwood floor to the restroom. Squinting against the harsh fluorescent of the light, (His eyes are sensitive) Charlie stared into the mirror and relieved himself. The reflection of the moon haloed (suggesting he is a good guy) his head as he scratched the growth of beard on his cheeks. The hair grew faster these days, and he sometimes found himself shaving twice a day if he had an evening meeting. His five o’clock shadow had become a noon o’clock shadow over the past couple of weeks. (Not a direct arrow to his being a werewolf, but a foreshadow that will payoff later.)
He flushed and put himself away, standing a moment longer to stare at the moon in the mirror. They never found her body. (WHOA!) Brenda simply vanished on that mountainside in Nepal. (Moved this sentence to the end of paragraph for better impact.) A dense fog drifted into camp one evening, and in the morning as the fog retreated, it revealed her empty sleeping bag with a single drop of blood on the pillow, darkening from bright red to a rusty, dark brown. Brenda simply vanished with the mist on that mountainside in Nepal...
So there is a peek into my thought process as I am constructing the opening of a story. It may change in a rewrite, but in this first draft, you can see where I am heading. Is it a great beginning? Probably not. Does it raise story questions and beckon the reader onward? I think so. I think that a reader would follow a little further down the path. At least I hope so.