Writing Examples


ONE OF THE MOST DIFFICULT THINGS is the first paragraph. In the first paragraph you solve most of the problems with your book. The theme is defined, the style, the tone. The first paragraph is a kind of sample of what the rest of the book is going to be. That's why writing a book of short stories is much more difficult than writing a novel. Every time you write a short story, you have to begin all over again.          ---Gabriel Garcia Marquez

Beach the butler, wheezing a little after navigating the stairs, for he was not the streamlined under-footman he had been thirty years ago, entered the library of Blandings Castle, a salver piled with letters in his hand.
                                                                --- Pigs Have Wings by P.G. Wodehouse

I do not love mankind.                          ---The Giants House by Elizabeth McCracken

Something happened to Francois when he was barely thirteen, without which the story that follows would not have been possible.
                                                                        ---A Story like the Wind by Laurens van der Post

I am a cheerful man, even in the dark, and it's all thanks to a good Lutheran mother.
                                                         ---Wobegon Boy by Garrison Keillor

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"You've seen him?"
"Yes, twice."
"Talked to him, you mean."
"No problems?"
"Not really. I'm not going back, but he's all right."
"Have you told your family?"
"What for? They'd just get uptight and try to have him arrested or something."
"Why's he hanging around? Still trying to persuade you?"
"He likes it here," she said, and shook her hair back, laughing her ho ho ho. "Isn't it a gas? He loves the country, 'Why didn't you tell me about Grass Valley,' he asks me. 'This is a place, this isn't just Anywheresville. This is a place where a man could live.' He might just settle down here. Wouldn't that be great?"
"Would it?"
"No," she said.
                                                                                                            ----Angle of Repose by Wallace Stegner
"When you wake up in the morning, Pooh," said Piglet at last, "what's the first thing you say to yourself?"
"What's for breakfast?" said Pooh. "What do you say, Piglet?"
"I say, I wonder what exciting thing is going to happen today?" said Piglet.
Pooh nodded thoughtfully.
"It's the same thing," he said.

                                                                                                     ---Winnie-The-Pooh by A.A. Milne

"How lovely you are in this moonlight."
"What moonlight?"
"Just a fish tank in the dark, I thought it was moonlight." I moved closer to her, put my arm along the back of the sofa behind her. "We've known each other such a long time."
"Yes, haven't we?" She slipped a hand into the pocket of her skirt and leaned back along the couch, her shoulder just a hairsbreadth from my fingertips.
"Intriguing perfume you're wearing." Fingertips creeping down. Contact.
She turned her face toward me. "Howard, it can never work between us." She removed her hand from her skirt pocket and brought it slowly up to my cheek. "But I suppose there's no reason not to try."
                                                                                  The Midnight Examiner by William Kotzwinkle

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The first thing that makes a reader read a book is the characters. What you're hoping for is a book where you'll like the characters, where the characters are interesting.

                                                                                                                                    ---John Gardner

Well, I'm the king of jazz now, thought Hokie Mokie to himself as he oiled the slide on his trombone. Hasn't been a 'bone man been king of jazz for many years. But now that Spicy MacLammermoor, the old king is dead, I guess I'm it. Maybe I better play a few notes out of this window here, to reassure myself.

                                                                                        The King of Jazz by Donald Barthelme
Alessandro Giuliani was tall and unbent, and his buoyant white hair fell and floated about his head like the white water in the curl of a wave. Perhaps because he had been without his family, solitary for so long, the deer in deer preserves and even in the wild sometimes allowed him to stroke their cloud-spotted flanks and touch their faces.
                                                                                    Soldier of the Great War by Mark Helprin
"Go ahead and play your double-twos, my friend," said Pioquinto Manterola, with a smile. "I dare say even a poet of your esteemed character can't find a way out of this one."

The poet sank down into his chair, took off his hat, and drummed his fingers on top of his head, keeping time to a song no one else could hear. With the other hand he flipped over the double-twos and slid it across the marble tabletop.

                                                                        The Shadow of the Shadow by Paco Ignacio Taibo II
Billy has his head on my chest now. With one ear he can listen to the hollow sound of my voice inside me, and with the other ear hear the sounds coming out of my mouth. All our children figured this out at one time or another, or maybe it was only one and they shared. But, in the past, when for a while there were four of them scattered on top and around me, there was hardly room on my chest for all the heads. I'm missing those wonderful mornings, those full days. I dread when Billy will grow up and leave us.
                                                                                                Franky Furbo by William Wharton

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    That evening in their stateroom, while the Lazy Loon moved in a leisurely fashion on Jameson Bay's slow swell under a full and quiet moon, listening to loons chuckling near Squid Island, the commissaris said that he would never understand it.
    "Understand what, Jan?"
    The commissaris said that he would never understand the beauty.
     "Of this?"
     "Of it all."

                                                                                Corpse at Twilight by Janwillem van de Wetering

    Tabitha is seized with laughter.  She can't help laughing, an irresistible passion of laughter shakes her wholebody, and at once a tearing pain shoots through to her heart.  She thinks, "Stop - stop- it's killing me - I'm dying," and sinks breathless upon a seat.

    She is protesting with all her might against this laughter, this life which has taken hold of her, which is threatening to kill her, but still she is full of laughter.  Her very agony is amused at itself.  She presses her hand to her heart as if to grasp that frightful pain in her fingers and squeeze it back, crush it out of existence.  She is terrified that it will kill her, and never has she wished so ardently to live.  Her whole being prays to be reprieved this once - for a month, a week, till that letter comes from Nancy. And the prayer that is torn from her is not to the father or the son or the spirit.  It is the primitive cry of theliving soul to the master of life, the creator, the eternal.  "Oh, God," her blue lips murmur, "not quite now."

    Gradually the pain becomes less, the terror falls away before the longing, the prayer.  She perceives that she is not going to die that afternoon.  And as, cautiously straightening her back, she looks again at the sky, the trees, the noisy quarrelling children, at a world remade, she gives a long deep sigh of gratitude, of happiness.

                                                                                                                        A Fearful Joy by Joyce Cary

     With reference to her success, she gave a statement to the press. "Although,' she said, 'one hates to brag, I knew the thing was in the bag. Though I admit the Queen is stout, the issue never was in doubt.  Clean living did the trick,' said she, 'To that I owe my victory.'

    Ah, what a lesson does it teach to all of us, that splendid speech.

                                                                             Pigs Have Wings by P. G. Wodehouse

    The soldiers were forbidden to leave the train, but at every station they pushed the windows down so that they could call to the girls on the platform or buy chocolate bars from a barrowman or jeer in transparent asides at the striding maresciallo.  When the train was still for a few minutes in this way, the bugler would begin to play always the same air, an antiquated sentimental tune that belonged, perhaps, to a regional song.

    This wistful music filled the train and floated out on the cold dark station of every town they stopped at.  The song never reached its conclusion, for the train would always start up again with the last refrain and the instrument would be violently shaken in the musician's mouth and grasp.  But after each such departure, for a little while, the bugler tried to keep playing, to reach the end of the song; and these last notes, wobbling and swaying, persisted out of the station and into the countryside until the train, gathering speed, made it impossible to play any longer.

                                                                          The Evening of the Holiday by Shirley Hazzard

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