Tuesday, September 26, 2017

A Fun Exercise for Writers: Let the Murders Begin

by Eva Marie Everson @EvaMarieEverson

Don't miss this fun game for writers!
This spring, Mignon Fogarty (Grammar Girl) posted a “Quick and Dirty” blog concerning fiction writer Marc Laidlaw and his wildly popular tweet from the week before.

“The first line of almost any story,” he tweeted, “can be improved by making sure the second line is, ‘And then the murders began.’”

The tweet went viral. Writers and readers from everywhere began tweeting their favorite opening line followed by And then the murders began.

One even quoted the Bible. In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. And then the murders began.

Another quoted Dickens’ A Tale of Two Cities.

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times. And then the murders began.

Check this one out: Once upon a time, there were four little rabbits, and their names were Flopsy, Mopsy, Cottontail, and Peter. And then the murders began. (Peter Rabbit)

My daughter called me this morning, telling me about it. We had a go at it, laughing at what happens even to favorite opening lines from nonfiction books.

Look what I did with Torry Martin’s Of Moose and Men:

The 400-pound reindeer was going berserk, desperately trying to get out of my kitchen. And then the murders began.

The point Marc Laidlaw tried to make, I believe, is the important of “something happening” within the first scene. Too often fiction writers want to ease the reader into the story (much like a movie). But fiction readers get bored too quickly. They need something to grab their attention right away.

For me, both as a reader and an acquisitions editor, if you don’t grab me immediately with word choice and action, I’m moving on to something else—whether it be the next submission in the stack or the amount of laundry waiting for me in the laundry room.

Have a go at it. 1) Take your favorite novel and shake things up with “And then the murders began.” Then 2) take your current WIP and do the same (even if you write nonfiction, try it!). Share with us here what you came up with and how you intend to “let the murders begin” in your own story.

(Here’s mine (although I had to do some manipulation on my favorite novel by changing “feel” to “felt”): With much talk about teen-age marriages, I felt, for whatever it may be worth to some young couple on the brink of same, that I should tell about mine. And then the murders began. Mr. & Mrs. Bo Jo Jones, by Ann Head.

Current WIP: I pushed the Keurig lever into a decaf dark roast pod. “I’ve made a decision,” I said, hoping my voice sounded as sure as I wanted it to be. And then the murders began. (Working title: A Marriage by Christmas.)

Your turn!

A fun exercise for writers: Let the Murders Begin - @EveMarieEverson (Click to Tweet)

Let the murders begin - tips for authors from @EvaMarieEverson (Click to Tweet)

Best-selling, award-winning author Eva Marie Everson is the president of Word Weavers International, the director of Florida Christian Writers Conference, and the contest director for Blue Ridge Mountains Christian Writers Conference. Her latest novel, The One True Love of Alice-Ann (Tyndale), releases April 1, 2017.


  1. Love it! You certainly got my attention. I'll give this a try and see what happens.

  2. I'm game!
    Sadie always says, "Southern women may seem as delicate as flowers, but we've got iron in our veins." And then the murdrrs began.

  3. I wondered if I had a worthy comment for your article. And then the murders began.

  4. It wasn't raining cats and dogs. It was raining tigers and Saint Bernards. And then the murders began.
    An interesting way to begin a children's story about a pair of important shoelaces. Fun and very funny!
    Love the hint - a great teaching tool.

  5. Jesus answered, “My Kingdom is not an earthly kingdom. If it were, my followers would fight to keep me from being handed over to the Jewish leaders. But my Kingdom is not of this world.” (John 18:36). And then the murders began.

  6. Love it! "Once there were four children whose names were Peter, Susan, Edmund, and Lucy. And then the murders began." he he he

  7. From my novella releasing Oct. 3:

    The full October moon reflected on the waters of the Mississippi River as a cool wind sent shivers through Andi Hollister. And then the murders began.

  8. It is not every day the most wanted man in the country walks into the police station. And then the murders began.

  9. "A shadow appeared above the shallows, barely discernible against the canopy of waves over their heads. And then the murders began."

    From Water's Break, my WIP

  10. "I went to sleep with gum in my mouth, and now there's gum in my hair, and when I got out of bed this morning I tripped on the skateboard, and by mistake I dropped my sweater in the sink while the water was running. I could tell it was going to be a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day. And then the murders began."