Story starts – more refreshing than a freshly ironed and folded handkerchief

Picture – courtesy of Dhuaine – Deviantart

Greetings Connoisseurs of Chaos,

We all have our little rites and rituals; practices and things that just help us get through the day. They provide a spotlight of delight to look forward to, in what can often be the prospect of another gloomy twenty four hours.

If that paints a depressing picture for you, then you may be right. But hey, think how dismal it could be without these oases of refreshHandkerchiefment. They need only be momentary, but they work – and they’re personal.

One such ceremonial for me is withdrawing a freshly laundered handkerchief first thing in the morning, and putting it in my pocket. I enjoy lifting it reverentially from my bedside drawer, secure in the knowledge that when I have need of it, I can take it out and bury my nose in its pristine folds. It won’t do if it’s just been washed and nothing else. It has to be ironed too. My heart despairs when I reach for my drawer, open it, and find it empty of these accoutrements of beneficence; and I curse myself for being tardy with my steamy, crinkle-removing obligations.

I have other affectations, but I won’t bore you with them. Suffice it to say that I plan these welcome lay-bys on my daily journey, so that I’m given enough impetus to make it over the day’s finishing line.

So what has this to do with story starts? Well, I don’t get writer’s block as such. I have a profundity of ideas written down to incorporate, expand or embellish. Enough to keep me going for years. But sometimes, just sometimes, I need a little lift-me-up. A well to draw the cool waters of inspiration from when writing seems a little like trekking through the scrubland. And my fix? That would be story premises, first lines, story openers.

There’s something about taking a left-field description, or an intriguing line of dialogue, or a unique twist of a character, and laying it out on the page,that reaches down and opens the tap of inspiration. I then let my dark pen start scribbling, a bit like auto-writing, and see where the page-demon beckons. It’s the nearest to ‘pantsing’ that I get and it’s somehow exhilarating.

This brings me to the present, and I feel an itching in my bones to write a short story. Not flash-fiction (attractive though that swallow-skimming-the-water flight path can be), but something more substantive – maybe 4,000 – 5,000 words or so. Something to provide a short detour on my novel length journey, which has now passed the 70,000 word mark.


Here’s where you come in, Connoisseurs of Chaos. A chance to share in the muse. Below are three, noir story starts that I picked from my log-basket of inspirational off-cuts. Which one would you like me to use? Is there one in particular that tickles you under the chin and entices you, or grabs you by your jumper and threatens to bludgeon you with its demand – Bring me into being!


Let me know which you prefer – #1, #2 or #3, and why. I’ll then take the most popular choice, or maybe the best justified case (I need you to do a bit of sweating too) next Friday – 30th October. I’ll then pen the story. The following Friday, I’ll publish the story. There I go again – giving myself a tight deadline to meet – but it’s all for your enrichment, good people.

You can write your choice in the comments section of my blogpost, drop off a comment on my Facebook page, ‘Writing in Starlight’ or tweet me at

So here’s the choices:

Story start #1

            I stared at the skin on the back of my hand. When I made it into a fist, the pressed layers of dermis and epidermis stretched taught, smooth, the venules like a roadmap lying just beneath. I knew that, at the size of a dust mite, the slick, pink oily surface would appear as valleys and peaks in some prehistoric landscape. Dermal flora would lie in those depressions, performing their routine biochemical functions, obliviously outcompeting an invading Mycoplasma or Legionella.


Story start #2

             The little girl walked round the trestle table and stared at my creation. She couldn’t seem to take her eyes off Martha’s face.

            “Did you make the eyes too?” she said.

            “No,” I replied. “They were rejected from the transplant clinic, so I brought them home. They were only going to autoclave them and throw them out.”

            “They’re pretty,” she said, “not like a dead person’s at all.”


Story start #3

             “You don’t have to do this,” the man said through broken teeth.

One of the shadows sighed. “Why do they always come up with that line, Marvin?”

            “I guess they think that this time it’ll work,” said the other shadow. “Like maybe the scales will fall from our eyes and we’ll have some kinda revelation.”

            “I’ve got to know,” said the beat-up pulp on the concrete floor “who are you?”

            The sound of a pistol being cocked echoed across level three. “Well I’m not St. Paul, that’s for sure,” said shadow one.


I genuinely don’t know where any of these stories will end up, so it’s going to be a real mystery tour. I’m very much looking forward to hearing your responses.

Until next Friday,



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