Sunday, April 22, 2018

Writing Prompt: The Re-Write: A Love Story Opening That Needs a Lot of Love

By Janice Hardy, @Janice_Hardy

This week’s prompt is designed to help you practice your revision skills without the risk of messing up your manuscript. Edit the bad writing, strengthen and clarify the goals, conflict, and stakes, develop the setting, establish the character, etc. You know the drill.

You have to keep the bones of the piece, but how you get those ideas across is up to you. Add whatever details strike you, as long as you can still identify this scene as the scene I started—so no completely rewriting it from scratch. The goal is to make this monstrosity better.

Edit this opening page into something worth reading:

I knew it would end like this. I knew it would stop and cease and drag me to a terrible, awful end that would look exactly like the scene playing out before me. Which sucked.

“Why are you doing this to me,” I asked tearfully, my eyes stinging from the waterfall of tears pouring from them.

The man who had been my everything looked back and said, “I told you I was going to leave you if you didn’t quit your job as an ER nurse and stopped working the graveyard shift.”

I gasped and pressed perfectly manicured nails against matching red lips. “But Maurice, you know how much I need to be needed. Saving lives in the ER fulfills my very soul. I can’t quit.”

“Not even for me?” Maurice asked.

That was the question, wasn’t it? I thought to myself. When he had first walked into my life I thought he’d been the perfect man. So tall, so strong, and his clothes had reflected that sense of style. But he had been the most confident man I had ever met, and sometimes it felt like he didn’t need me, not the way the patients who came into the ER on the worst days of their lives did.

Who did I want? I wondered. My patients or the man I thought I loved?
For fun, let’s try to keep this as a one-page opener, so try not to go over 300 words.


  1. For starters an edit on your title should read A LOVE STORY.

    I knew it would end like this, this feeling. I was sucked into the vortex, stuck in the center of what I hoped was a dream, except this scene was real and there was no way out.

    “Why are you doing this to me,” I grabbed his arm to hold him back, but he pushed me aside. His angry face blurred through my tears.

    The man who had once told me I'd been his everything looked back and said, “It's your choice. Your job or me. I've pleaded with you to quit working.”

    I bit my lip. “But Maurice, you know how much my work fulfills me. I'm needed in the ER. I can't turn by back on that."

    “Not even for me?” Maurice asked.

    That was the question, wasn’t it? When he had first walked into my life I thought he’d been the perfect man. So tall, so strong. His clothes reflected a sense of confidence. Sometimes it felt like he didn’t need me, unlike the patients in the ER who I meet on the worst days of their lives.

    Who did I want? My patients or the man I thought I loved.

  2. Nice, Janice :) I could play with this for hours, but here's a quick first pass:

    It had to end like this. Some part of me knew it would, yet I let it happen anyway.

    My eyes stung with tears. “Why are you doing this to me?” I

    Dry-eyed, impassive, the man who’d been been my everything replied, “I told you I’d leave if you didn’t quit the graveyard shift.”

    His coldness stung. He didn’t get it, never had. Saving lives was my purpose, my soul. “Maurice, the ER is everything for me,” I managed, in a pathetic, strangled little voice. “I can’t quit.”

    “Not even for me?”

    I stared down at my hands where they wrung and fretted in my lap. Ankles locked under the chair, knees pressed tight, my legs stuck together as if to comfort one another. I’d fragmented, parts of me independently expressing the swelling despair as it crept over me. My heart strained and bled alone.
    I’d thought he was the perfect man – strong, confident. He’d love me. Support me emotionally. He’d understand. He still might.
    I looked up into his eyes, hoping to see some spark of affection, of compassion, of love. Who was I kidding? I could have been looking at a pair of icebergs in a still, arctic sea.

    As my last hope crumbled, I was left with a single, stark question: who did I want? My patients or the man I’d convinced myself was The One?


    1. Like your last two paragraphs. Strong feelings. good job.

    2. Thank you so much, Arvilla -- you are very kind :)

  3. (Dang, lost some para returns! Fun exercise.)

  4. I knew it would end like this. Didn’t it always?
    “Why?” I asked, a hard sob of a word. But I knew.
    My latest everything man turned back towards me from the door. “I told you that I needed you to quit the graveyard shift. How can we be together if you’re never home?”
    It was true. He had said that. But wasn’t he listening to me? “Maurice.” I cringed at the reproach in my voice. “I need this. I told you, I need to... help these people. I can’t quit.”
    Maurice shook his head. “Nice try, baby. No ER nurse has those perfectly manicured nails. I don’t know what kind of nursing you do… Can’t you quit for me?”
    That was the question, wasn’t it? I thought he was the perfect man, tall, strong, well dressed; but more importantly, undemanding.
    What do I want? My patients or Maurice? Maurice.
    But what do I need? My patients.
    He waited a moment more. I had no answer for him.
    Gripping his suitcase firmly, he left, closing the door gently behind him.

  5. Gunshot victims were nothing new to me, and, unfortunately, neither was the newest hole in my heart. Mom warned me I was signing up for both when I began working the graveyard shift straight out of nursing school. Two years and four failed relationships later, I had to admit she was right.
    “What do we have, Kate?” asked the resident on staff, now striding alongside the gurney an orderly wheeled toward the ER.
    I swallowed the sadness from the latest fight with Maurice. I shouldn’t have left our apartment that way. Him bare-chested in bed, begging for me to stay, pleading for me to change jobs. Switch to day shift, he’d said. We can’t keep living this way- one working while the other sleeps. I had no answer for him. I could only manage a shake of my head from the edge of the bed as I dressed into my green scrubs. I saved lives in the inner city- that’s what I was meant to do. I wouldn’t have this same conversation yet again. Plus, I was running late. I tried to kiss him goodbye, but he turned his head away and stared out the window into the moonlight. So I left.
    And he didn’t follow me this time.
    But there was nothing to do about that now.
    At this very moment, I needed to focus on my job. And that meant keeping this kid on the gurney from bleeding out. I pressed down on the bullet wound with both hands and gave Dr. Finch a rundown of the situation.
    “Eighteen year old male, multiple gunshot wounds to the leg. Two clean through, one still inside. Possible knick of femoral artery.”
    The kid’s blood soaked my hands, painting my fingernails a deep red I hadn’t seen on them since prom night.