Novel Makers Week 5: Draft your beginning

I want you to watch this short video. I want you to look for what this writer did when he was trying to figure out how to write his beginning.

What did he do? What’s the lesson here?

My answer is below in white font. Don’t highlight and read it yet. Take a second and draw your own conclusion. What do you think one lesson is? Write it down.

Okay, now look at what I think.

I’ll tell you what I think. I do not think the lesson here is that you must use this exact pattern. For example, I don’t know that this pattern fits a Jack Reacher novel. I don’t know that it fits a Louis L’Amour. I don’t think it fits a lot of great novels, even though there are some hugely insightful things in this pattern. Dang it, it’s a type of story I’d like to try. But this specific type of story isn’t the lesson, as good as it is.

No, for me the lesson is that he went searching for patterns that worked, and worked well, for his type of story.  And then he took those ideas and wrote his own spin on them.

The other thing is that he created a lot of sketches, didn’t he, before he came up with one that had the magic.

You might have to do that. You might not. But I hope the idea of sketching and drafting frees you from any performance anxiety.

You’re not writing gold. It’s just a draft. You might write 6,000 words of crap.

That’s awesome. It’s awesome because you’re the type of person who practices farmer’s faith. Farmers know that cow patties are good for the crops. They count on them, they spread them around, they pay good money for them.

You’re going to practice farmer’s faith and write crap, if that’s all you have in you, because you know that if you throw crap onto the garden of your mind, it will grow flowers.

Now watch this: Week 5 introduction part 1 and part 2.

Your Goals

This week is all about beginnings. Your goals are to:

  • Identify what draws you in a beginning
  • Clarify what you want the beginning to do to readers
  • Write the first draft of the beginning of your novel
  • Try sketching the scene before you write it

Let the fun begin!

Discovery Questions & Activities

Question 1: what types of things draw me in a beginning? (3 hr)

When I say “beginning”, I’m not talking about the whole Trouble phase of the story. I’m talking about the first paragraphs, the first page, and the first 2,000 to 4,000 words.

  • I want you to get 5 to 10 beginnings that really draw you and sit down with those books. (You might want to get 5 that really don’t work for you as well to see the difference.)
  • Identify what line or paragraphs hooked you and made you want to continue reading.
  • Now see if you can figure out how they did it.
    • What rhetorical mode was used in the first five paragraphs? Narrative summary, narrative detail, exposition, commentary, or description? If you can’t remember what those are, go back to the page for lesson two and read about them. Is there a common pattern you see in these beginnings?
    • What’s going on in the story with these beginnings?
    • What did these good beginnings do that the boring beginnings didn’t?

I want you to follow the pattern you see in your story. Take the key elements and give them your own particular spin. Write down what you’re going to try.

Question 2: what effect do I want to build in my readers with my beginning? (30 min)

Name the top three effects you want your beginning to have on the reader.

Identify what is going to cause that–what have you got to tell them to elicit that response?

Now I’m betting one of those things will be something like hook or grab their attention. Do not stop at that level. I want you to think about what hooks or grabs your attention. What elicits that response? Dig a little deeper.

Write down how you will use your answers in your beginning.

Question 3: how can I make writing the scene easier? (1 hr)

I want you to learn about one technique that has done wonders for me. Later I found other writers used it as well to the same effect. Basically, you take a few minutes before you start writing the scene to make it come alive in your mind. The way you do this is to sketch the scene before you write it.

Please read Generating Story 13: The Scene Primer with Author Laurel Amberdine (you don’t need to read any linked-to pages).

If you want another example, read Generating Story 14: Freewriting from Inquiry to Outline to Scene to Draft with Author Maya Lassiter.

I want you to try sketching your scene before you write it when you write your beginning this week. You can use something formal like Laurel does to help you. You can use something less formal. If you do nothing else, trying jotting down (a) what each main character in the scene wants, (b) what conflicts or obstacles he or she will face in the scene when trying to get it, and (c) a summary of the steps the main characters take to achieve their goals.

Question 4: what can I do to have fun writing this and be more productive than I have been in the past? (0.5 hr)

I want you to think about this question when driving or in shower or something else like that. I want you to come up with some concrete things to try.

Write Your Beginning (5 hrs)

Block out your time and write it. If you write slow like me, I’m expecting 2,500 words. If you write quickly, you might have up to 5,000 words or more.

Post (0.5 hrs)

Post the following here by EOD Monday.

  • What you thought a lesson was from the Toy Story writer
  • The key things that the wowser beginnings that hook you do
  • The first 250 words of your beginning
  • What you’ve decided to try to have more fun and be more productive
  • Any other big insights you had this week about beginnings or writing

Attend the Meeting (1 hr)

Be prepared in our meeting to report your reaction to the other person’s opening and discuss your post.

I’m talking about the 3 grunts and aahs. I don’t want anything but three grunts and things that drew your interest. Be accurate in the report of your response. And if a beginning doesn’t pull you, just say that and state you don’t think you were in the audience for it. Why would you say that? Because it might be a great beginning for some other audience! How do you know if you’re representative of the target audience? You could be the one wackadoo. Even if you are in the audience, the author can’t know you’re representative until he or she has more data points.

Outline your novel project (1 hr, optional)

Putting in the time writing is the most important thing you can do this week. But if you have an extra hour, please read Lesson 8: Treat it like a project and the links to Correia, Aaron, and Anderson.

Outline your project including the date you target you can get it done and what your daily targets will be (hours or word count).


38 Responses to Novel Makers Week 5: Draft your beginning

  1. Bret says:

    Just to clarify, you want us to have about 4,000 words written but only post the first 100 words (along with the grunts and key things and insights), right?

    • John Brown says:

      I want you to have as many words as you can write in the time alotted. I just used that number to give you an idea. Then post the first 100 words.

      BTW, I edited the share portion and promoted question 4, so please review again if you printed the page.

  2. Greg Baum says:

    Things that wowser beginnings do for me:
    (in order of importance, and not all are necessary)
    1. Shows me prose that I like.
    2. Introduces a character, a setting, or a problem (or preferably all three) that: a) I care about, or b) I’m interested in/curious about.
    3. Reveals hints of a mystery or a threat or a problem or a question that I’m curious about.
    4. Shows me something awesome (an epic scope of struggle, a new world, etc.)
    5. Begins with action.

    I did not find sketching particularly helpful. I looked at the different lists of questions and ran through the exercise for my first scene and it didn’t feel like it helped. If anything, I was a little frustrated by the mechanical feel of the process.

    The biggest thing for me that makes me want to work more is zing. The bigger the ideas and the more zing I can generate, the more excited I am to sit down and write until my eyes fall out. This is something I really want to work on.

    Other insights:
    The activity with beginnings was really helpful for me. It gave me a great sense of how to use this approach of dissecting texts with specific problems in mind. I also, consequently, have a much clearer sense of what I want in a beginning.

    First 100 words:

    At seven o’clock at night, Saint-Rémy des Peupliers smelled like someone had shaken a litter box and dumped it on a birthday cake. It was a red flag, that mix of urine and air fresheners, and Viola Brash realized a mistake had been made. She paused at the automatic doors, her hand tight on her cane, and waited for the agony in her hip to subside. Air conditioning and cat-litter smell chased each other around her ankles, and she took a painful step forward, and the automatic doors slid shut behind her.

    There. The worst part was over. Well, the worst part since the fire.

    • Rich says:

      I’m a little confused because I haven’t read anything actually happening, except for Viola leaning on her can and taking painful steps forward. So “There. The worst part was over.” made me re-read a couple of times to see what I missed. I would read on, assuming there was a reason for the highlighting of litterbox smells.

      I don’t know the genre, so I can’t say I am aor am not the audience, but I read widely.

    • Anthony says:

      I didn’t find sketching using the questionnaire format very helpful. What worked best for me, was to ask “What’s the cool bit of this scene I want to get across?” In some instances that was a bit of dialog like “It ain’t ’bout livin’ or dyin’, Benji. You’re gonna live. It’s yer quality a life ya should be worried ’bout.” Other times it was a set piece or an action sequence.

      I was not hooked by your beginning. I don’t think I’m the target here though. I’m very confused about the smells, and how she would know they’re around her ankles (assuming a third limited viewpoint.) The brief mention of a fire is a little intriguing, but not enough to get me to keep looking.

    • John McClain says:

      OK, it took me a minute to figure out the Saint-Remy is not a person. I don’t get the litter box on a birthday cake metaphor. It works better as a visual than a smell IMO. I think everything after the first sentence and a half holds together pretty well.

    • Bret says:

      I always like some element of mystery at the beginning of a book, which is odd given that I don’t often read mysteries. In any event, I agree with what has been said by Rich, Anthony, and John. It has yet to turn me away, and I am intrigued by the mystery.

    • John Brown says:

      Good work, Greg.

      And I’m with you on the zing. The pre-scene sketch helps me do just that, but if that isn’t something that helps you, do precisely what gathers that zing for you.

      I have to say that your opening is clear and believable, but sinks my interest. I do not want to open a book and smell cat litter (grin). The fire is interesting. But the cat litter killed me.

  3. Bret says:

    The key hooker attributes:
    1. Mystery and intrigue
    2. World building–and it should take me somewhere amazing. Even Puzo’s Godfather which is outside my target genre introduced me to a new world. I like that. Transport me.
    3. At least one character I like. Preferably one I want to imagine being in my head.

    Sketching helps me, but I’d already read Rachel Aaron’s book and was familiar with the idea. A twist on two things I’ve used before helped me sketch. I used to set a bit of motivation to freewrite sketch ideas.

    Production fun: If writing isn’t fun, why are you doing it? Also, I normally worked more on plot, moving the story from A to B to C, but keeping a better eye on effect has made it more fun, zingier.

    Insights: Thinking about “rules”, but I didn’t connect them with zing. I was debating a prologue. I know some authors think prologues are bad. So, I worried but decided to see if following my zing would helpt. At first I thought prologues don’t give me zing. Then I realized I’ve never put a book down for having a prologue. I realized I need to Evaluate not just what works, but also what doesn’t not work (love me some double negatives). So I guess there’s zing, anti-zing, and the neutral zone? This might not be an insight, but rather just a maturation (for me) of looking for zing.

    First 100 (and 8):
    The Archma surfaced, hidden from Simon Feud by the mists of the Coh Sea.
    Under the lone gas light of the shipping depot, Simon clapped his pocket watch shut and grunted. “No wonder the train’s late; even the station clock is off.” He tucked his hands into his pants pockets and rocked back and forth on his heels, trying to figure out how to reach the clock on the station’s wall. The freight depot served the old wharf at the base of Widden Cliff. Mainly abandoned now; the wharf’s time as the gateway to trade between eastern and western Enua had died with the birth of the Still.

    Knowing this is being judged on 100 words is driving me crazy.

    • Rich says:

      I like the the character’s OCD-like obsession with clocks. The oddity itself interests me enough to read on. That said, it seems you’re trying to jam as much “world” in the 1st hundred words as you can. I’m interested in the character, have an idea of the time period (gas lights), but I have no clue what an Archma is, nor how it relates. IMHO – I could learn about the history of the freight depot later, I want to know what Simon is doing there. . .and what the Archma is. I’m hooked enough to read on to find out.

    • John McClain says:

      “Knowing this is being judged on 100 words is driving me crazy.”
      I feel your pain. I think it’s a good first hundred words, though. It has me asking questions and I find that I’m willing to keep reading to find the answers. (What’s the Archma? Is Simon in danger? What’s the Still? etc.)

    • Anthony says:

      The 100 word limit was bothering me too. I’ve got a slower burn than some of the samples I looked at, and so things don’t get going in earnest until after the 100 words, but if I don’t do a bit to set that scene, it’s too hard to follow.

      I hadn’t thought about your concept of zing, anti-zing, and neutral before, I’ll have to consider that a bit more.

      I like that your setting is not the typical pseudo medieval setting of a lot of fantasy works. I would continue to read it. I am confused by the Archma.

    • John Brown says:

      Good work, Bret.

      I totally agree with you on your evaluation method. I’ve heard the prologue thing as well. But there are plenty that work for me. So any rule that I cannot see connecting to effect (zing), I toss. And the “don’t do a prologue” rule is one of those.

      If it helps, just think about this 100 words as an experiment. It’s not about you or your ability or your idea. It’s just a way to try something on some folks. And you MUST remember that we are not a statistically valid sample. You will have a handful of data points. That’s it.

      My 3 grunts. I’m not totally clear on where he is. I’m seeing something rise out of the sea, then I’m at a train station.

      It’s important to learn about differentiating between symptoms, diagnosis, and prescription. What readers can give you are their symptoms. They are awesome at that.

      Diagnosis and prescription are harder. Why? Because readers don’t always know the effect you’re going for. So how do they know it’s broken or working as designed? Same with what to do about it.

      Having said that, if my symptoms are common, you might think about two things.

      1) You are giving me a bunch of new terms in this paragraph–Archma, Simon Feud, Coh Sea, Widden Cliff, Enua, Still. Go look at 3 or 4 books like this and see how many new terms they throw at you in the beginning. And how fast they come. Do it by page or by 250 words. Which ones throw too many? What’s the rate you want?

      2) You start with The Archma. You might want to try starting with Simon, i.e. Simon stood under the lone gas light at the shipping depot waiting for [insert cool mysterious thing].

      Treat is all like an experiment. You already know you can come up with story material with great resonance. Have faith you will figure it out. There is no test. Just take 1, 2, 3, 4, etc.

    • Greg Baum says:

      I didn’t have any of the three grunts with this one except, possibly, confusion about the Archma–it seems to be a ship, but the reference to the train station threw me off.

  4. Rich says:

    Okay, so, I’ve been in-bed-sick for half of this week, and I’m nowhere near close to my ultimate goal. I’m going to try for 4k by tomorrow or the next day, but this stuff is nuts and it has half my family down.

    So, thinking about the beginnings I have liked the most shifted my beginning completely, and gave it depth when I had to connect them. The beginnings I like most are active and exciting, most of them introduce a character in trouble. Doing this with my protagonist led me do a darker place (all around), made synaptic connections to the goals of the antagonist (contagonist?) and what he would do to achieve them.

    That said, here my first 103 words:

    October the 8th, Year of Our Reckoning 1799.

    Death came for Oliver Hope on a hot musket ball. He looked up from his blood pudding as a cloud of white coughed from the end of a pistol. Only the thick glass of the oil lantern in the center of his table turned death aside. Oliver threw his chair over sideways as the other patrons of the Winterhaven Inn panicked. Two women screamed, gentlemen overturned tables or ran for the door.

    “Time to die, half-breed murderer!” The man’s tenor voice sounded as if it came through the frothy head of a pint of bitter.

    • Anthony says:

      I’m intrigued by your setting. I want to know more about your protagonist, and why someone is trying to kill him. I would continue to read.

    • John McClain says:

      OK, plenty of action here. I’d keep reading if only to find out if the MC really likes blood pudding.

    • Bret says:

      I do enjoy the first line, but it carries an authorial intrusion that pushes it toward the gimmicky. The action is nice and immediate with interesting questions popping up in my mind. The prose is a bit muddled, but it’s a 1st draft and you’ve been sick. And I’m assuming that some of the confusion I felt would be clarified soon after the first 100. For example, is Oliver a half-breed or does he kill half-breeds? As I am being introduced to the character, I’m not sure yet.

    • John Brown says:


      Good job working through the sickness.

      My 3 grunts. I’m interested in this opening. Action and trouble is to my taste as well. I’m having a hard time picturing everything. I know, it’s just 100 words.

      See my comments to Bred on symptoms, diagnosis, and prescription. My prescription for my issue is that these needs a few tweaks for SiR order and description. Guess what? That’s what this week is about. So I’ll leave it there.

    • Greg Baum says:

      The only grunt I had was a bit of skepticism about the glass turning aside the bullet–but since I’m not a glazier, I’m not too worried about it.

  5. John McClain says:

    Key hooks for beginnings:
    1. Action
    2. The promise of action to come. Something happened or is going to happen.
    3. Twists. Things that get me started asking questions.

    Scene Sketching:
    I found this useful and necessary for the kind of story I’m writing. It forced me to not just think about important details but to write them down. I had to come up with about 30 names: ships, planets, people, etc.

    I think I’m going to have to rearrange my writing schedule. I make some progress during the week but not as much as I’d like. I’m going to need to block out some time on the weekends to give myself time to get into the groove. It’s good thing I’m not a big basketball fan.

    I found Laurel’s sketch list a bit easier to use than John’s (sorry John). I don’t think I understand all of the terms that John uses. I was completely demoralized by Kevin J. Anderson’s productivity. Half a million words in two weeks? How depressing. ?

    First 105 words:
    “Pigboats,” Kincaid muttered to himself. The smell wasn’t too bad in his cabin but when he opened the door the stench hit him full in the face. The elevated heat and humidity gave the smell substance and it seemed to evolve over time so he never got used to it. The Alcubierre Drive had given humans the stars but no one had ever invented a way to vent heat while underway. The longer the run, the hotter it gets. For his money, the trick to surviving a long run under Alcubierre Drive, aside from keeping the CO2 scrubbers functional, was to breathe through your mouth.

    • Anthony says:

      Wow, I hadn’t realized anyone was putting out half a million words in a couple weeks. That must be a lot of time spent typing. I don’t really compare my output to others. I figure there will always be someone going faster than me. What I really need to do is make sure I’m improving my own productivity. Taking time to sharpen the ax helps me be more productive. I wasn’t helped by using the questions from any of the lists, but it did help me to make the scene come to life if I asked myself what about this scene will make it compelling to read? What’s cool about this?

      I get a decent idea of genre from your 100 words, but I don’t have anything I can latch onto. I would keep reading from here, but if I wasn’t hooked in the next 900 words, I’d probably put it down. I’m hit and miss in Sci-Fi though. So I may not be what you should be measuring against.

    • Rich says:

      Don’t be demoralized by Kevin’s output. He dictates on hikes, and works anywhere he has a moment to open the laptop when he isn’t dictating. He’s a great guy–a really great guy–but telling stories is his passion.

      As for your 100:

      You’ve given me a lot about smell, but never actually told me what the smell *is*. The smell “hits him in the face,” the smell is given “substance” and he “never got used to it” but is it sickly-sweet, sour, bile-like, stale-breath, canned fart, etc? Stench is so vague it has virtually no effect for me. That said, talk of aliens, pigboats and the humor relating to the smell builds interest and shows a bit of character. It occurs to me that your stench my be a methane-type or pig-waste (which is a cloying, sikly-sweet). I would read on, but would hope something is happening, too.

    • John Brown says:

      No apologies necessary! You must use whatever version works. There’s no better or worse, just what works. The class is about discovering more of what works for you. So that exercise was a total success.

      It’s a good thing I’m not a bb guy either 🙂

      Don’t let Anderson demoralize you. He’s full-time and has been for years. It’s unrealistic for you to think you should be at that same spot. But are you sure he did 500k? I think he said he finished up the work on projects totally that many words.

      My 3 grunts. I’m not sure if pigboats are things or a curse word. I thought they were a thing he was talking about. Not too interested in this beginning.

      Here’s a question. You said you liked trouble or the hint of trouble. Can you give me that in the first line? Something to test.

      See my comments to Bret about symptoms etc.

      • John McClain says:

        WRT Kevin Anderson, he provides word counts for two of the 3 manuscripts for a total of 333k words. I looked at an earlier blog post that he references. They were line editing during that time. It’s still a tremendous amount of work but it makes more sense in that context. When I first read the original post, I assumed he meant start-to-finish in two weeks.

      • John Brown says:

        If he’d done that start to finish, I think we’d all have to make prayer rugs and face Colorado Springs every morning 🙂

    • Greg Baum says:

      I didn’t have any grunts on this one. I’m assuming the questions I have will be answered as I go forward.

      As far as the smell, I just connected it with pigs, since the first word is pigboats.

  6. Anthony says:

    I still have a few hours left in my writing this week, but I wanted to get my comment in in a more timely fashion this week.

    Key things that dowser beginnings do to hook me:
    They get going, moving into some action where the protagonist is active.
    They introduce fantastical elements, often with little or no explanation up front. I trust that things will be explained.
    They introduce a compelling character. Someone I wonder about.
    Most often start in narrative detail, or narrative detail with exposition.

    Taking time to sketch the scene:
    I found it to be helpful to make the scene come alive, but the questionnaires didn’t help me to do that. I wasn’t using it as a checklist, but it wasn’t bringing anything additional to life for me. I’ll need to find a better way to make that happen for me. As it was, I could make a scenelet come alive, but didn’t ever get a full scene to come alive before I started.

    I found that doing as much as I could to turn off my internal editor allowed me to have more fun, and be more productive. For every ten words in my draft I have deleted about three or four. When I let the work flow, and accept a less clean draft I can move on to funner parts to write, and I’m getting more of the story down. It probably means more work later on though.

    My first 100 ish words:
    It was a lovely Saturday afternoon, and Stockton Bradley was watching. Well, not watching per se, but he wasn’t sure what else to call it. He watched people with his eyes, but there was another sense at play here. Stockton was able to feel when other people actively used their own magic.
    Stockton stood at the northeast corner of Market Square. The people of Jefferson were not very imaginative in their naming. The market takes place there, so it’s called Market Square. At least they hadn’t named the city that way.
    The sun threw undulating reflections off the water of Adams canal onto the buildings on the other side.

    That last sentence is the beginning of a paragraph, and so you’re missing a bit from that. It most definitely needs to be edited to tighten things up, and draw more interest, but I’ll clean that up in later drafts.

    • John McClain says:

      I concur on the issues with self editing. I’m trying to train myself to just start over rather than delete.

      As written, I’d say its a toss up whether I’d keep reading or not. I find myself being curious about the magic system and Stockton’s ability to know when people use magic. Is this a unique ability? The interesting bits (for me) are buried in the description of the setting.

    • Rich says:

      The first three lines seemed to meander a bit: was watching; not watching; watching with his eyes; feeling people use magic.

      So, it took a bit to hook me with the Stockton stood around detecting magic, because I had to read it twice for clarity. I would give it a little more to see *why* he was doing this. The second paragraph confused me, because I just got to know what Stockton was doing and it switched to a scenery description.

      I may not be the audience for this, if the magic-detecting isn’t with purpose.

      • Anthony says:

        I know, right? But I have to get something down as a first draft, and that’s how things came out this time. I’ll be improving it after I have a full first draft. It usually takes me two or three revisions to get a tight, compelling beginning.

    • Bret says:

      Stockton isn’t doing much. He’s observing people and their magic use. Other than that, everything is vague. I’d rather see or have noted what Stockton was observing, not see or note Stockton observing. I’m sorry if that’s about as clear as mud. It’s a narrative distance thing.

    • John Brown says:


      Good job! Glad to hear you’re trying to turn off the internal editor. It might not be more work. Keep trying it to see what happens. Sometimes the best thing is to get the story out. Little edits can come later. Big story edits probably need to be made on the spot.

      My 3 grunts. Was really drawn in by your beginning. Was slowed down by your segue into Market Square. I really wanted to see what he was seeing, but you went off.

      See my comments to Bret on Symptoms.

      An idea. What if you work the setting into the guy he’s watching. i.e. “actively used their own magic. And Stockton was watching a [insert name of type of user] pickpocket an old grandfather who was giving his granddaughter an ice cream. They were down on the path by the canal next to Market Square. . . ” You might want to try working the setting in with the action.

      • Anthony says:

        Thanks for the ideas. I’ve got something similar to what you’re suggesting a bit further in to the scene. I probably need to hack off about the first few paragraphs, and rework the next few so they aren’t confusing, but we get going into some big action about 500 words in. I think what I’ve gotten down is salvageable, but I don’t know how best to handle editing the beginning. Basically, I need to practice more.

    • Greg Baum says:

      My grunt was ‘Who cares?’ I don’t mean that to sound harsh–I just mean that at the end of the paragraph, I had a collection of facts that didn’t have any significance to me. It’s only a hundred words, but I’d still need something that hooked me on this character to keep reading.

  7. Mark Holt says:

    The Crucible’s Children

    “Hurry up, Ephanie, they’re appearing higher up!” Romar called from the slope to the east.

    Thankfully, Ephanie gave no reply, though Chal raised his eyes briefly to her face. She was facing the other direction. Chal knew she wouldn’t allow herself to see his unspoken apology. Then he was forced to lower his gaze back to where his right foot dragged through the rich, black soil.

    “You should go with them,” he said.

    “Don’t be stupid, Chal,” she replied, as she always did.

    Chal couldn’t quite suppress a sigh. He’d accepted long ago that he’d never see a real mercurial–but Ephanie could, if she’d only leave him behind.

    He hated himself for being so happy she stayed.

    She watched as he picked his slow way around a large rock. Like most of the volcanic rocks here on the south face of Valampurn, its surface was so rough it would cut his hands if he allowed himself to put too much weight on it. Unfortunately, his foot didn’t always give him the choice–just then, he stumbled, and felt an edge of stone cut deeply into his palm.

    He yelped and almost fell onto his elbow, which would have cut his whole arm, before he stopped himself.

    “Chal!” Ephanie said. “I told you not to take your gloves off!” She examined his hand, tsking as she brushed grains of black sand out of the bloody gash.

    For a moment, Chal simply watched her hand move over his. Surely, her touching him tenderly, even in pity, was worth a the pain of a small cut–or even a deep laceration, as, from the amount of blood, this seemed to be.

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