It’s important to open with a strong hook, especially in a short story. I did fifteen short stories in the month of May, for a challenge on Forward Motion, a website for writers. Here are the openers (ie, the first paragraphs) from thirteen of them. Any of them make you want to read on?
- Little brown pots on the south windowsill gave off smells of earth and damp. Two of them had sprouts already poking through the dirt. Over by the sink, Claire was trimming green onions from one of the pots she’d already harvested. The knife was sharp, its blade a fractal of infinite length, and when the sun caught its edge it winked rainbows at her.
- “Faith will lead you home,” said Ingraham.
“Faith will lead you in circles, ever wider, ever further from the truth,” said Yasht, her voice muffled by her mask. “I never understood faith.”
- “There was a woman, see,” said Riley, “and she was the most beautiful thing you’ve ever laid eyes on.”
- “I don’t get it,” said Sammy. Mist rolled away from him in all directions, pale and formless.
- The water had receded, the dry spell of summer washing once more across the land, and Esau’s raft had beached in a thicket of high-and-dry reeds already browning under the glare of the sun. Where frogs had so recently blatted their tributes to the rains was silence, the animals having burrowed into mud to wait, entombed, for the rains to return in a year.
- For nine days the sky itself had burned, and even now, five years later, John didn’t like sunsets. But Miko did, and he wasn’t stubborn enough to argue his way around her insistences, so they sat on the blackend concrete stoop and watched the sky light up all over again.
- Emerson reached over to select a disc from the rainbow assortment of jewel cases on his side table, and the world shivered. He hesitated, watching the shadows swing from side to side as the fluorescents overhead swayed like metronome arms, ticking away the seconds left in his life. Run for the doorway? Did that even work, or was it an old wives’ tale?
- Before the great parley, the drones arrived, seeds that plummeted to earth and unfurled vast lung-wings to collect and convert solar energy into electricity and breathable atmosphere. It wouldn’t last long–the sun’s wind was powerful now, blasting shreds of the star itself away–but it didn’t need to. This was a visit only, a final look around at the old home, the origin world.
- Kuiper Belt forest comets reaching for the bright star in the middle of the sky, dazzling if you looked right at it but only barely bright enough to cast a dim shadow when the gro-lites were shut off for the “night”, and Eleanor thought, I’ve spent half my life in the ghetto. If the hot worlds shuffling their feet on the sun’s doorstep were the rejuvenated core of a city, then the cometary haloes were its dock district, full of rough-and-tumble vigor, transient labor, and the hopeful mad looking to score a ride out-system on vessels that more often than not would never leave. Tumult and catastrophe had rocked the Proxima colonies, both attempts at reshaping extrasolar worlds ending in riots, civil war, megadeath.
- She licked her wounds, blood-salty, and let the sun warm her fur. In the middle distance she could hear a brook whispering over smooth, worn rocks. The fat branches of the tree would hold her up. Even if she drifted into healing sleep she would be safe here.
- Murray said, “D’ja see the match last night?” We all shook our heads. Nobody else in the office follows Brit sports; nobody else even [em]understands[/em] cricket. “Grumman goes up to bat, see, and Eldstaff pitches a” blah blah blah I’m not listening anymore but his voice drones on. He doesn’t get that he’s local color, a cover for the office in case the bobbies show up with a warrant or something. Not that they ever would.
- I don’t want to say it was a dark and stormy night, because it wasn’t, it was the middle of the afternoon. But condensation cascaded down like rain from the ragged edge of the never-completed dome, and the sun was blocked by the dome’s bulk, and the arc lights had never worked properly, sparking and flaring, superheating air and sending shock waves rumbling out in grim imitation of heat lightning and rumbling, echoing thunder.
- Every morning he got up, squeezed the control that left a few liters of rainwater chug down the pipe from the collector on the roof, and washed his face and hands and shaved his head in the chipped white bowl. Ablutions done, he gestured to the hausfrau for the previous evening’s news, and let her soothing voice guide him to the kitchen, where he prepared toast and marmalade, then out onto the sun porch where he sat in a skeletal wire chair and watched last night’s weather disappear out over the waters.
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