My friend Robert recently posted a writing exercise he’d done from the prompt: “What is your metaphor for the fear of writing that first line?”
Well, it seems I face that fear with every line when I first sit down to write, whether it’s the first or halfway through, so when I couldn’t come up with a next first line for the story I’m working on, I wrote this instead:
And here is the OCR’d version, with minor edits:
(Aside: This was written on the little maroon SM-3 and OCR’d with MS Document Imaging, which seemed to work better this time than Paperport, although I turned the resolution up to 600 dpi, so that could have had something to do with it. It also transfers to Word a little more smoothly than the old version of Paperport that I have.)
There was something that Mark had to say. The noise of the party was a family of insects tickling the hairs of his body, distracting him from the concept that he wanted to communicate. He lifted the plastic cup of cheap beer to his lips and took a long draught.
The blonde of the woman’s hair glowed with the luminescence of a night’s sky full of firefly butts. Across from her stood a man with a salt and pepper beard, whose deep eyes behind small eternally elegant glasses held the knowledge of a thousand libraries filled with only university press books. The third in the small group was dressed too casually for the party, and Mark couldn’t make out if the person was a man or woman, but their shabby appearance was belied by the enormous SUV he or she had arrived in–the one with the Greenpeace sticker.
Mark knew what he wanted to say. Or he had thought of several topics that he had quite interesting opinions on. But the three relevant partygoers were ignoring him. In order to get a word in edgewise, he was going to have to interrupt them. He had to say something so sparkling and witty that they wouldn’t be able to ignore him any longer.
He rehearsed his opening line in his head, over and over, knowing that he had to pick Le Mot Juste. The perfect opening line would draw the longing gaze of the beautiful blonde, would impress the professor, would make the man or woman think he was entertaining. Mark drained the last drop of beer from his cup, still mentally moving words around. He left to refill his drink, and no one in the small group noticed. By the time he returned they had gone.
Mark killed the beer and crumpled up the plastic cup.
There was another party tomorrow night. And every night after that. Mark wondered how long he could stand to keep going.