Exercise #2: Getting Started

Getting started is always the hardest part for many.  We’re going to break through that fear.  The fear of the blank page is sometimes overwhelming.  In this exercise, we’re going to write the opening first lines of a couple of short stories.  The object is to write as many opening lines as you can within ten minutes.  Do nothing else except write the opening lines.

Objective: This exercise is designed to help you start a story.


Here are the first steps:

  1. Turn off your phone. Turn off your email. Turn off  your chats. Turn off the television. Log out of Facebook. Quit Angry Birds.
  2. Find a simple kitchen timer. Don’t use your phone.   (That will simply tempt you.)
  3. Find a quiet place to write without distractions. (I  like to put on headphones and listen to music to drown out everything around me.)
  4. Set the timer for ten minutes and write. Do nothing else but write. If need be, stare at the screen or the blank page until  you force the words out.


Here are some examples I wrote when I did this story.

  • He listened from the shadows to the old man tell the children about the gods and the twilight that was soon to come.  Ibn had never seen the snow before and he could well understand why these northmen believed in dying gods and ash skies.
  • Grandmother moved to the woods after the latest rounds of murder in the village. The people hated her for failing to foresee the deaths, but the full moon always blinded her.
  • Jacob Heller watched the boy fail all of his tests.  The milk had turned sour and the salt burned his young fingers.  The hard part was convincing his father.  How do you tell someone that his son has been possessed by a demon?
  • He waited in the warm shade of the citrus tree resting his bare feet in the irrigation trenches that lined the farm.  The blue skies offered no clouds for shade or shelter from the cruel sun.  Jabbing his pocket knife into the peel of the orange to create a finger hold, the boy feverishly peeled the fruit and broke it in half.
  • They say I killed more than twenty men.  How the hell would I know?   I never had time to keep count.
  • I’ve never felt worthy to show weakness.  What woman could ever love a man that couldn’t control his urges?
  • Moffat watched as the minute spider under the balcony slowly wrapped its web around the fly.  Her heart skipped an extra thump watching it struggle and she wondered why she envied it.


Some of these opening worked for stories.  Other died on the vine.  The idea was to force the brain to operate under pressure and see if diamonds were produced.  I turned three of these lines into stories that sold.

Did you enjoy this exercise?  Trying another one on the Creative Writing Exercises page.

One thought on “Exercise #2: Getting Started

  1. Pingback: Exercise #5: Threading the Narrative | The Universes of Jason Andrew

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