Short Story Mechanics with Richard Thomas: Day 2

Narrative hooks—those first few words that sink into your reader’s flesh and drag them through the depths of your story only to leave them gasping onshore when they reach its end. You do want your readers to follow the story all the way to the end, don’t you? Of course you do! So make sure those hooks are good and sharp; and if you’re writing horror (like me) throw in a couple of rusty barbs for good measure.

rust2

This was the lesson for Day 2. Our assignment was to come up with five hooks, four of which could be only one sentence long. I don’t know about you, but I tend to write short sentences, so trying to include all the information necessary to craft a good hook in just one was a challenge for me. I think I succeeded to some degree, but it was Richard’s opinion that they all lacked a little something. I’ll probably visit and revisit these hooks a number of times over the next however long it takes me to get each of the stories written, and hopefully by the time you see them in print, they will be sharper and rustier than ever leaving you with a bloody hole in your lip and a smile on your face.

Here’s what I came up with:

1:  Audrey first noticed the spider when it was still only 105* inside the sauna; the spider was tiny, only the size of a pencil eraser, but the dread it inspired was large enough to crush a Greyhound.

2:  As frigid rain cut and shaped frozen heaps of road-stained snow into twin rows of sculptures that lined both sides of the two-lane highway like an army of malformed sentinels, Lyska—wearing nothing but a skimpy, black and white French maid costume and a pair of stripy pink knee-socks—gripped a World War II era gas mask in one hand while using the other to lift her skirt’s hem just a bit higher.

3:  It was date night again; Lester caressed cracked leather and inhaled the ghosts of a million dead cigarettes as he counted hash marks on the dash—one for every romantic evening that had culminated in sweet satisfaction.

4:  To a casual observer, the jagged split in the floor of the abandoned mortuary’s basement was nothing more than a sign of entropy slowly reducing the loathsome edifice—and, perhaps more importantly, the shadows of past deeds still clinging to memory within its halls—to dust; to Sean, that crooked concrete smile was his own personal ATM.

5:  The waiting room smells like a department store perfume counter. Heavy particles of floral vapor orbit each of the eight or ten women—some still with hair, others wearing designer hats or kerchiefs—as they sit reading magazines, sipping ginger ale plucked from my snack cart, and pretend they aren’t dying. Each woman waits patiently, wrapped in a cocoon of aerosolized denial designed to mask the scent of her own decay. It is as if by dousing themselves in expensive, migraine-inducing fragrances these women think they might confuse Death, throwing him off track, as if by buying PETA-friendly cosmetics and perfumes they are actually buying themselves extra time.

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