Sunday, 21 March 2010

Paragraph posting game

For all the writers who read my blog, this is one for you.

Today I want you to post two paragraphs from your latest book in my comments section, and this is how you select them. Using your birthday, take the month chapter and the day paragraph, then the day chapter and the month paragraph.

Example: my birthday's February 26th, so I picked Chapter 2, paragraph 26, and Chapter 26, paragraph 2 from Heart of Rock. If your chapter is too short, as mine was, run on to the next.

And NO CHEATING! If the paragraph is two words, so be it. If it's a dud passage, now is your opportunity to rewrite it.

Here are my two:

1. I considered the implications of this. I had spent the morning alone with a man the police believed guilty of murder. He hadn’t seemed like a murderer to me, but then murderers, when not actually murdering people, probably did act as normally as anyone else. Feeling hunger, needing a pee, befriending stray dogs.

2. I laid my wrecking bar against the wall. There wasn’t anything about the way he held the weapon that suggested he didn’t know how to use it. It was beautiful, gleaming walnut and engraved steel, the toy of a rich man who indulged himself in country pursuits, golf, fishing, pheasant shooting. No doubt he had a licence for it, and a locked cabinet to keep it in, all above board and within the law. I could see the long polished barrels, because they were aimed at Ric, not me. Bullets or shot, I had no idea, but felt sure at that range whatever it was would make a nasty hole.

(These extracts make my novel sound much more crime-thrillerish than it actually is.)



  1. Hmm:

    1) Patty parked the car in a multi-storey car park close to the river. Tybalt staggered slightly as he climbed out. Almost two hours of immobility had made his legs switch off.

    2) ‘Hello.’

  2. Yo, Keef, thanks for posting.

    Bad luck with the second example - d'you think my rules are too unbending? But the first one grabs my interest.

    And you forgot to say, it's from Tybalt and Theo by Keef Williamson. Miss no opportunity for self-promotion, is what I say.

  3. From 'Heir of Ages' by Robert Brenchley:

    They were underground for two long days before they emerged into what seemed a dazzling light. Once their eyes adjusted, though, it was a dull day, cold under a mouse-grey sky. Gusts of wind made men shiver as they came suddenly out of the stillness of the tunnel. Behind them, the entrance was an oblong hole in a wall of grey limestone.

    “Which pub are we heading for, then?” Tim asked. He would be the first to mention the subject. “The Angel and Greyhound isn’t far.”

  4. Ooh here's mine (and mine is from a stalled novel from like three years ago that I've not looked at since so forgive the quality!!).

    1) “We gotta go, ok?” Stuart said desperate. He wished he had not agreed to this but Ryan had called him names that hurt. Besides Ryan was already getting a reputation at school for being “in” with Ian and Samuel and Stuart had to keep up or else he’d be left behind and everyone in the class would know and his life would not be worth living.

    2)He had held it together at the party. He had smiled and had laughed and had shaken hands and had helped with the children and had made small talk and had said, Yeah, Sue’s fine. She’s doing great… no I don’t know when her contract will expire. I don’t know when she’ll be back.. yes, she’s really enjoying herself… yes it’s a great career move for her.. no, no, I really don’t know when she’ll be back..

    LOL!! Oh that was PAINFUL for me!

    p.s. I loved your two paras - they're both action packed and full of mystery!

    take care

  5. Robert, I love 'mouse-grey sky'. Why didn't I think of that, particularly when there are so many mice in London right now for purposes of comparison?

    Kitty, if I were you I'd un-stall the novel, it sounds rather good. I like the run-on sentence in 1) and felt for the protagonist in 2).

  6. 1. “I am willing,” she whispered. “Give me strength.”

    2. The creature hissed angrily and spat at him. He reached for his sword, feeling as if his hand were moving through deep water that pressed him on all sides.

  7. Oh, yeah, the self-promotion part. My book is The Golden Gryphon by Christine Hardy.

  8. Hero of Rome by Douglas Jackson

    1 ‘The priests of the temple, those who officiate in the annual ceremonies central to the cult of Divine Claudius,’ Petronius continued airily, taking a deep draught from his cup. ‘It is a great honour … if you are a certain type’ - Valerius noted the repeat of Falco’s pointed phrase of a few moments earlier – ‘however, it also carries great responsibilities.’

    2 ‘There’s a pretty whore called Thalia in the brothel up by the gate on the Prata Flaminia, say hello to her for me and give her a big kiss, or something else.’ Julius laughed and took him by the arm, looking up into the young-old face with the wary fighter’s eyes. ‘I can’t imagine you in a law court, Valerius, but you’ll scare the life out of the opposition.’

  9. Christine, nice clear prose, though as ever I have a sneaking sympathy for the creature, no doubt about to come off worst in the battle. (Unless the chap is Harth...?)

    Doug, oh Published One, lovely to see you on my humble blog. Telling paras - I'd expect no less from you.

  10. I love your excerpts, Lexi. Intelligent, engaging, well-written. And I'm not just saying that because you are the host of this blog!

    For a description of the creature in question:

    It stretched its features into a gruesome smile, displaying its fangs. The face looked something like a hawen’s but with dark, papery skin stretched tight across its bones. He had heard of these things, though none had been seen since the war and those who had encountered one were reluctant to talk about it. They tortured their victims thoughts, feeding on their despair before they killed them.

  11. Hi Lexi

    Great idea this. (By the way, where do you get all these inspired ideas for your blog?)

    Loved your two paragraphs, esp no 2: there's some great writing and detail there; 'the toy of a rich man' is a superb line.

    As for my offer, here are the two from AFRIKA REICH:

    1) ‘That’s what you said at Dunkirk.’

    2) They were on a ridge overlooking a valley. Jungle, like a tumbling black ocean, stretched endlessly round them. In the hours after sundown it had rained heavily, an Old Testament cloud burst, now everything was drenched. The insects were caterwauling again.

  12. I'm sorry, but I had to cheat a bit, in part because my chapters didn't have enough paragraphs, but here are two samples nearby:
    1. I called each of my three witnesses to the stand. The female victim seemed credible. She described in detail how she had been to the honky tonk, where the defendant had approached and made a pass at her. She had left soon thereafter and had been knocked in the back of the head within minutes. The young woman further testified that, before he hit her, she had gotten a good look at him. She was positive it was the defendant. I then called one of the honky tonk employees and a customer, who both identified the defendant as the man they had each seen leave the business immediately after the victim. That was it! I had nothing else! The defendant took the stand and denied having committed the offense. He admitted only to flirting with the woman, but denied having seeing her after he left. My cross-examination was ineffective, but I doubt that an experienced attorney would have done much better. I learned that cross-examination in a real trial is not as easy as it is on television. But at least Sheriff Bembry helped me with several well-timed guffaws during the defendant’s testimony! We then gave closing arguments. I hit no homeruns. At best, I laid down a bunt single. But already, I realized that I was becoming more comfortable on my feet. It was still scary, but also fun, to be a trial lawyer.

    2. As a struggling young trial lawyer, I had no clue about how to cross-examine the defendant’s sister. Law school had clearly not prepared for this situation. I stood up and, as I approached the lecturn, I still had no game plan for my cross-examination. Then the idea hit me. Throwing caution to the wind, I simply asked her, “Ma’am, you say that your brother was at home with you at 7:30 watching “Name That Tune.” Can you tell this jury whether he robbed the store BEFORE or AFTER “Name That Tune?” Incredibly, before she could think it through, the defendant’s sister stupidly blurted out, “Before!” I was shocked. The defense lawyer was shocked. Everyone in the courtroom was shocked. Then the laughter began. First, it was just a few scattered giggles. But then it spread, like butter on a hot biscuit. Soon, everyone in the courtroom, including the jurors, was laughing! Everyone laughed, that is, except the defendant and his attorney! Even the attorney’s pea green leisure suit now seemed more subdued. The jury promptly “named the defendant’s tune” in one note, with a guilty verdict!

  13. This isn't very interesting.

    1) "Let me see the estimate." Eric reached out his hand; Van gave him a pen.

    2) "I've got insurance, babe." Eric dismissed the un-holy mess they'd barely survived the way that the guys from Delta had taught him. "It was just a motorcycle."

    I did better with page 99. (g)

  14. 1. He aligned three glowing points on the semi-automatic pistol: two at the rear V sight and one on the muzzle. The woman’s heart topped the center. Everything on the edges lost focus.

    2. I AIMED, PULLED THE TRIGGER, AND painted a line of yellow marking paint around a sugar pine with a forked top. This marked the center of a one-acre group-selection site. Once harvested, this area would have a great view of Beaufort Meadow.

  15. Goodness, a lot of variety here.

    Guy, either of those paragraphs, happened upon in a bookshop, would make me read on.

    Richard, the second one made me laugh - it reminded me of Legally Blonde. Is it based on a true incident?

    Kitty, brief but snappy. I had to look up Delta - I'm guessing that's Delta Airlines...

    Norm, a lucky pairing of paragraphs which play nicely off each other. The contrast between the man about to shoot a woman and the forester innocently shooting paint at a tree is so effective that if I didn't know you I'd think it too good to be true.

  16. Chapter Six, Paragraph Seven:

    Super loud “GO PANTHERS! YAY!” (pump both fists high, execute split kick, and finish with individual discretion split kicks, cartwheels, fist pumps or splits).

    Chapter Seven, Paragraph Six

    “Bite me,” said Balderson.

  17. Alan, I like a nice short paragraph (or two) myself.

    Both of yours have a certain zip, zing and zest.

  18. Hi Lexi
    interesting idea this. My day and month are close together so the plot doesn't move much between the two from my WiP(which may never be finished)Park Life.

    Paragraph 1
    'Got the afternoon off?' I asked.

    Paragraph 2
    I do my job: emails, phone calls, smile in my voice, promises I'll deliver on. This firm is lucky to have me. Yeah, Amisha is good, but so am I and next time it'll be me moving the contents of my desk into a private office.

    Bit of a lack of drama in these paragraphs...

  19. None of us can say with certainty our WiP will be finished until it is. Even then it's not really done till it's published.

    There's a hint of drama in the narrator's confidence and ambition in the second paragraph, in spite of the lack of weaponry and dragons.

  20. Lexi - I just realized that "Delta" doesn't translate. It should probably be "Delta Force" or "Spec Ops". He's referring to the Special Forces soldiers he knew in Afghanistan.

    Live and learn!

  21. Aha. I've heard of Spec Ops in Jasper Fforde's books...

  22. Good gracious, there's that anonymous pest again.

    Is it okay to submit the month/date thing from a WIP?

    This is from The Baer Boys.

    Chapter 6, paragraph 7

    “You just told us to take them out,” said a girl.

    Chapter 7, paragraph 6

    It is not possible to sing Cole Porter when you're as close to a god-honest stage as I was at that moment and not gravitate in that direction. At least that's the way I'm built. Before I hit the second verse I was through the airlock doors and, for the first time in twenty-five years, back on the Westview High School auditorium stage.

  23. The anonymous pest sneaks in overnight. I've taken to removing him over breakfast.

    I am a fan of The Baer Boys and look forward to your completing it - I like a novel that makes me laugh.

  24. Now that I read the second paragraph here I see the awkward construction of the first sentence. I must be off to correct said abomination!

  25. It is not possible for me to sing Cole Porter that close to an honest-to-god stage and not gravitate in that direction. Before I hit the second verse I was through the airlock doors and, for the first time in twenty-five years, back on the Westview High School auditorium stage.

    That's better. Not perfect, but better.

  26. Or (can't resist tweaking):

    It's not possible to sing Cole Porter so close to an honest-to-god stage and not gravitate in that direction. At least, not for me. Before I hit the second verse I was through the airlock doors and, for the first time in twenty-five years, back on the Westview High School auditorium stage.

  27. I shall give that version due consideration.

    Yes, yes indeed.

  28. Sorry to be a bit late doing this:

    ‘Oh quite right’ he said, seeming to give ground, ‘ but we do need to be careful. Imagine we brought in the name of your chairman, Mr. Vincent, isn’t it? Dorton and Vincent sounds quite distinguished until you think of the letters. D and V isn’t going to work for a pharmaceutical company.’ His lips crinkled in the slightest of smirk, ‘unless we just stick to food poisoning, of course.’ Carl glared at him, the bastards were pulling his chain, well, that’s one name on the list, he thought.

    ‘The bastards,’ he muttered ‘the bastards, I thought I was good for at least another month.’ He cut through the rest of the day and drove home long before the traffic got heavy, roaring into the garage with as much bravado as he thought appropriate for his image. He waved at the man on the desk and kept his composure as he went up in the lift, you never know who might step in.

    It is of course possible on your algorythm to come up with the same paragraph each time, if your birthday was the third of March, for instance - Oh that's my son's birthday. Ho hum, what if you write with a pen name, is it still the same birthday or the day you thought of the name?

  29. Fair point, Rod, re 3rd March, 4th April etc.; I clearly didn't think through the small print. But I'm really good at making up instant arbitrary rules as necessary. I can't remember when I created my pen name - can anyone?

    Vincent and Dorton wouldn't abbreviate well, either. Your Carl seems to be having a bad day...

  30. Well, I'm coming very late into this game. Please forgive me, but I only just stumbled on this blog and this sounds like fun.

    Here are the two paragraphs (and no cheating!) from my sci-fi novel Ghosts of Innocence (now querying at an agent near you), and both of them turned out to be architectural descriptions...Hmm...

    Brynwyn walked under the pergola and into the shrine itself. A dais in the centre offered a seat for meditation. The floor around it was inlaid with a mosaic of a serpent eating its own tail. A symbol of the circle of life. Stone columns supported a roof. The sides were open to the elements. Brynwyn walked slowly around, and looked cautiously over the balustrade. The town of Hawflun was laid out like a map some three thousand feet below her.

    Ahead of them, the walls of the Palace stretched across the southern side of the plaza, a low geometric facade of pillars, arches, and windows. The hypnotic rhythm of fine detail was punctuated by three wide balconies set well above street level. As Shayla's eyes adjusted to the scale of the building, she realised that the apparent height of the walls was an illusion brought about by the extraordinary length of the facade. Each balcony was in fact a vast terrace, at least a hundred and fifty yards across, cutting a deep shelf into the structure.

  31. Welcome, Botanist!

    I like a bit of architecture in a novel. Perhaps we should all put in more - a sense of place is important.

    Nice title, Ghosts of Innocence.

  32. Yes to more architecture :-)

    A sense of place is very important to me (although I know that is a personal need which not everyone shares) so it is natural that those sorts of details would work their way into my writing. Spooky, though, I was planning to write a blog post about that some time, likely to be entitled "A sense of place".

    And, yes, I'm very pleased with the title.

  33. I am occasionally psychic in a useless way...not winning lottery numbers, alas, just trivia.

    I once seriously spooked a chap on a forum by jokingly describing his appearance - he took some convincing that I was not stalking him.