Sunday, January 22, 2017

Writing Prompt: The Story Starter: A Shocking Betrayal

By Janice Hardy, @Janice_Hardy

This week’s prompt is a story starter, so take the element provided and turn it into a story of any length you choose. If you’re stuck on size, I suggest aiming for 1000-2000 words.

The protagonist discovers a close relative has betrayed them.

Write about whatever this triggers, in any genre you want.


  1. The creaking whine of a heavy door on rusty hinges told Jonas Stiles he’d been made. His eyes darted around the room, searching for any nook, any recess large enough to conceal him. The dim light revealed shelves that towered above him into the darkness, but they were packed so full of boxes, jars, and packages that there was no place to hide. Beads of cold sweat formed on the back of his neck.

    The whine increased in pitch as a sliver of light appeared on the floor through the crack in the door. With nowhere to run, Jonas couldn’t help but think about the fate that awaited him. All the hard work, all the time spent planning, it would all be for nothing. And the consequences, well…it wouldn’t end well for him.

    The sliver widened as it expanded, reaching for him through the darkness. Jonas pressed himself further into the corner and tried to make himself small, but it was hopeless. He looked at the glass jar in his hands. The light danced off its surface, but he could just make out the small treasures within. Should he take one out? He had come this far, he might as well get his hands on what he came for, even if it would be taken away before he could truly claim his reward.

    The light advanced along the back wall of the room, creeping ever closer. Sweat now coated his hairline in the front, and the jar trembled in his hands. So much for being a master thief, Jonas thought. He grasped the smooth lid and almost laughed when it didn’t turn. He couldn’t even open the jar. The mission truly had been for nothing.

    As the light reached his foot, Jonas wondered how he had been found out. No one was around, and the only living soul that knew of the plan was James, who was supposed to be his lookout. Jonas’ breaths came in quiet gasps. Maybe James would create a diversion at the last second. Maybe there was still hope.

    With a final creak, the door swung wide open and light flooded the space, blinding Jonas. He closed his eyes, as much from the light as resignation to his fate. A huge shadow played over him, and he instinctively placed both hands out for protection.

    Long seconds passed. When he opened his eyes, Jonas recognized the figure in front of him, even if he couldn’t make out their facial features. He knew he was dead. But something in the background caught his attention, and Jonas’ heart sank.

    There, in the living room, just beyond the kitchen and pantry where Jonas was trapped, sat his brother James. He flashed Jonas a devious devious smile and, as the jar of cookies was pried from Jonas’ hands, escaped into the far reaches of the house with the donut that had been sitting on the kitchen table.

  2. A friend of my in a writer's critique group introduced your site to me. I have been using it as a guide for my writing ever since, but now I have a headache (ouch). There's a lot of data to format.

    I have a question I can't seem to find covered in your articles. When typing numbers what is the general rule of thumb. Another words, 12 verses twelve? Also, when a number is used with a word like...3-D or three D or three dimensional.

    1. Welcome! Sorry about the headache :)

      AP Style suggests spelling out one to nine, but use numbers for 10 and above.

      Chicago Style suggests spelling all number up to one hundred. This is the style novels tend to use.

      Both suggest always spelling out the number if it begins a sentence (years excluded, for example, 2017).

      3D/3-D depends on the usage. 3D is often acceptable, but three dimensional would spell it out.

      Time uses numbers, so does anything with a decimal point (12.5 miles).

      Dates can go either way.

      Here's a good post from The Editor's Blog that covers the vast options and situations you might find: