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C is for “Craft”
Book: Craft & Technique (Writer’s Little Instruction Book) by Paul Raymond Martin
My dice roll: 105
Lesson: Test the story opening
“A well-crafted opening should put a worry on a body.”
If you read the first few paragraphs of the story while in line at a check-out, would you buy the story?
Well, I’m the writer, so I am going to obviously say yes! But I’ll leave it to you, blog readers, to answer that.
It was the smell that made him do it. Xavier’s nose was attacked as he stepped out of his Manhattan office building onto the bustling sidewalk of Madison Avenue. It wasn’t a food smell, or one found in nature, or even a kind of perfume. The athletic, agile man tripped twice as he swam through the crowd to find the source of this scent. Not the hotdog cart. Not the bouquets of flowers. Not the tall, unnaturally blonde woman wearing Chanel No 5 (and little else). It was a scent he knew but couldn’t place. The smell was like a migraine trigger, except his head didn’t ache with pain.
Xavier begged pardon, passed, and pushed into a crowd of tourists. They were the horridly easy to spot kind: twelve people in matching neon pink tee-shirts, all carrying cameras and paying more attention to the sights than their valuables. He had to reach the source of the smell. Urgency whipped him into a frenzy. He moved beside a short young lady and sniffed her.
“What are you doing?” Never had Xavier been on the receiving end of such a look, as if he were a madman invading her personal space.
As he sniffed her again he realized, indeed, he was just that.
“There’s a scent about you I can’t quite place.” A flash blinded him as he spoke. “I think it’s your scarf. Where did you get it?” He rubbed his eyes.
A portly woman shoved against Xavier while reaching for the young lady’s arm. “I’ve got his picture, Ophelia. The crazies are well-dressed here, aren’t they?” She turned to the others. “All part of the experience at Bella’s Tours.”
“You have lovely accents.” Xavier bowed. “Northern Mississippi?” He faked a smile when there was no answer. “Sorry for the intrusion. I am Xavier Doyen, of…”
The portly woman poked him with her thick middle finger. “These here are my group. You best be movin’ along. Go on.” She motioned with her chin.
Xavier’s nostrils flared. He glanced at the portly woman. “No.” Xavier’s vibrant green eyes blazed, flecks of blue flaring in bright swirls of burning white. The woman grabbed her neck. Her face went beet red. Xavier shut his eyes, shook his head, and cleared his throat. The woman doubled over, water spewing from her mouth. He turned away.
“I need to know where you got your scarf.” Xavier touched Ophelia’s chin to redirect her gaze. The coughing woman stole the attention back. Xavier pulled three bills of a large denomination from his wallet. The young lady eyed the money. Her hand shook as she took the cash.
“My cousin Irving found it at a secondhand store. See the purple hearts knit in with the black waves? I had a dream once like that.” Ophelia unwound the scarf from her neck. “Never imagined someone would want to buy the scarf off my neck. Are you a fashion designer? Will it end up on a runway?”
Xavier stepped away from the offered scarf. “Secondhand store,” he repeated her answer as he shook his head.
“Yes. He stopped at one by the beach when he was in California. I’m afraid I don’t know more.” She pressed the scarf to his hand. “It’s yours. It isn’t worth near as much as you gave me. A perfectly good scarf though. Then again, I don’t know much about fashion.”
“No. I couldn’t possibly keep it.” Xavier imaged the smell driving him to this sort of bizarre behavior every day. He looked to the portly woman. She was shivering and asking members of her tour group to take her pulse. “Do any of you have some water?”
Ophelia pulled a water bottle out of her bag. The label, featuring pictures of the statues of Atlas and Prometheus, caught his attention.
“A water bottle depicting man’s teacher of fire and the Titan for whom our nearest ocean is named. Ingenious,” Xavier remarked.
“I bought it at Rockefeller Center.” Ophelia pointed in the direction from which her group had come. “They have statues there that look like the pictures on the bottle.” She spoke slow and clear, in the tone one uses when stating a fact that should have been obvious.
Xavier sighed. Millions of people walk by silent Titans every day, without a single thought about them.
He poured a few drops on the corner of the scarf, then held it in his hand and concentrated. The drops revealed dozens of memories to his mind. Nothing of any use, nothing that explained the scent. His fingers pulled away just as one final memory came through. Though fuzzy, it was all the proof he needed. The missing member of his kind was out there. She had worn this scarf.
Xavier eyed the drop on the tip of his finger. There was a chance now, a hope of preventing the apocalypse. He cradled the precious water drop. “Thank you,” he said to Ophelia before he walked away.
“You’re sure you don’t want the scarf?” She called after him, but he vanished into the crowd. Just one more sardine of the sidewalk.
Did the story interest you? Do you read much fantasy, urban fantasy, or speculative fiction? Was there a certain area that really intrigued you OR made you want to stop reading?
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