Round Two Winners and Round Three Rules: The 50 First Lines Challenge

The 50 First Lines Challenge

Round One challenged you to write 50 First Lines and submit your Top Five.

Round Two challenged you to write Five First paragraphs and submit your Top Three.

From all those paragraphs, we picked OUR Top Three.

(click for source)

It was tough for our judges to pick the Top Three. Seriously tough. It took 2 days to whittle it down and we had a new guest judge (a Vancouver writer/actor/producer) to break the ties.

Without further ado, the Top Three First Paragraphs are (in no particular order):

1 – TAMARA WALSH (I don’t have a blog link for her)
I blame everything that happened on the orange chicken. Nobody would’ve ever known it was me who spray painted, “Steve Sucks!” across his barn if the dumb chicken hadn’t gotten itself caught in my crossfire. You’d have thought I’d sprayed it with acid instead of paint. The damn thing came at me like a pit-bull on steroids, pecking at clucking and flapping its wings. I couldn’t help but holler. When Steve’s father rushed out of the house to see what all the ruckus was about there I was—still swinging the can of paint, flailing about like a feathered fool in the moonlight. And there was the orange chicken, its claws dug firmly into my hair—still trying to peck my eyes out.

Nobody wanted to claim the abandoned baby on the hill. Not a single hunter from the King’s clan and not one farmer from the Queen’s clan knelt in admission. That hill, with its concealed scorpion pits and live landmines, was supposed to keep the two clans divided as part of the War treaty. But the baby had all the markings, proof that the hill had been crossed. He had the silvery eyes of the Kings and the ruddy skin of the Queens. His secret will not last long. In time, the family birthmark will bloom. Announcing to which hunter and which farmer the baby truly belonged. And then the spooks will come after them.

Waves rolled in, one after another, slowly erasing the bloody evidence. A lone seagull swooped above the breakers, curious about the swirling red in the pounding surf. Not far away, an old man in a parked BMW watched stone-faced as the last traces of his obsession were claimed by the sea. He sat motionless for another quarter of an hour, staring down at the log-strewn beach which, just an hour before, had been the scene of grisly violence. Turning the key in the ignition, a smile crept up his face as he reveled in what he had done. Avra would be so proud.

Congratulations! Each of the finalists gets an extra entry into the final drawing. And bragging rights, of course.

AND NOW … It’s time for the finale:

And once again, ANYONE can play!

I’ve never done this challenge in this manner before, so after it’s all over, I’d love your feedback. Typically, as an exercise I give to my students, I have them write 50 first lines, 10 first paragraphs, and then one short story.

Since I never specified if these were short stories or novellas or novels, I’m not going to require that for this challenge, but perhaps you’ve been inspired by what you’ve written and have big plans to turn one of these into a short story after all. I’d be thrilled if any of these became something bigger. (and please share with us if they do!)


Your final challenge is to take ONE of the THREE winning paragraphs above and tell us what the story is about. Beginning, middle, and end. Stakes and consequences. And you must do it in 10 sentences or less.

It might start something like:
This is a story about a young woman who gives away all the jewelry her ex-boyfriend ever gave her, only to discover that one of the pieces was a charm that belonged to his Hungarian grandmother. This charm has magical properties; it was how he got her to fall in love with him in the first place. Out of revenge, she wants to retrieve it and use it on him … then dump him right back! She goes on a wild cross-country goose chase after it, landing herself in jail after a speeding ticket leads to a fight with a police officer. Her ex-boyfriend bails her out and she realizes, after her road trip ordeal, that she’s no longer in love with him. Together, they find the ring and bring it back to his grandmother, so it can’t ruin any more lives, only to find out it wasn’t magic after all. It was just a story she told him for fun, because that’s what grandmothers do. (okay, that was spur of the moment, but you get the idea)

EVERY entrant gets their name in the draw. The BEST story idea (deemed so by our judges saying YES, I want to read this story most of all!) gets a bonus entry into the draw.

There will be two drawings for prizes, PLUS the person who has the MOST entries at the end (by participating and getting bonus entries) wins the secret prize.

But, again, most of all, this is for fun and inspiration. This is to get your creative juices flowing. So, have a good time with it.



Filed under 50 First Lines, writing exercises

15 responses to “Round Two Winners and Round Three Rules: The 50 First Lines Challenge

  1. Great paragraphs from Char and Tamara. Congrats to them both. I’m looking forward to the third round, although this sounds suspiciously like a query…and I am currently loathing queries right now, lol.

    Regardless, I’m on it!

    • lol. Well, summarizing is good practice for query writing, that’s for sure. And with this exercise, there’s not the pressure of the query, only exploring the What ifs.

      I should finish my example, I was too tired to think when i wrote it.

  2. Yippee! How fun. I almost didn’t turn that paragraph in; I couldn’t decide between that and another one I liked. Congrats 4amWriter and Tamara. Your paragraphs are amazing! When I saw Tamara’s take on my orange chicken sentence, it made me laugh. I love how different minds work. That was definitely very clever. I’m excited for round 3, although that challenge is definitely out of my comfort zone.

  3. Here’s my entry, using paragraph 2:

    This is a story about a child growing up in a world divided by war, a world that was torn apart by betrayal. His silvery eyes and ruddy skin clearly show that he is born of both clans, and no one will claim him and admit to a dalliance with the enemy. However, as he comes of age, a birthmark appears on his body, clearly showing which family from each clan he springs from—for everyone in each clan has these birthmarks—and his parents are revealed to be the son of the chief hunter and the daughter of the head farmer. This revelation causes some consternation, and leads to some argument, for both families want to claim the child as their own as he is now displaying talent in the magic of both royal families. The child, now really a young man, was raised by a farmer family who treated him as a servant, and he wants nothing to do with the war or with either royal family, but he wants out of his current situation, so he allows them to fight over him until he cannot take it anymore and he calls up the spooks and sets them on his families. Spooks cannot physically harm anyone, but they are terrifying in aspect, and the superstitious farmers and hunters are terrified of them, and no one has ever been able to call up or control the spooks, so when the young man does this, he immediately has their complete attention. He declares himself the Ruler of both clans, and no one argues.

  4. Tamara Walsh

    Okay. I need some time to think about this challenge, but I wanted to say…yay! I won! 🙂 I never win. lol. Thanks!!

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  6. Here is my entry for Paragraph #1

    Despite her good looks, Vanessa could never be popular; she is not only ungraceful but also untalented, living in a trailer park that is a tornado away from being a cliché and has a style seen on the opening segment of What Not to Wear. With her close group of outcast friends, who have named themselves the Loathsome Five, she makes a plan to pay back all of the popular seniors’ who have made their lives miserable for the past four years. Unfortunately, her poorly thought out plans quickly unravel when she is caught, orange faced and red handed, spray painting Steven Butler’s barn. Her prank seems to backfire when she finds Steve is not the mean guy she thought he was; he not only agrees with her sentiments, but also wants to help her gang complete their mission. At first, Vanessa cannot understand why a good looking jock would want revenge but despite the group’s complaints, can’t help but use Steve’s incredible knowledge of the popular clique’s deepest secrets to help her show the world exactly who they really are and, by doing so, inadvertently, making the Loathsome Five the most popular people her school and her town have ever known. When Steve finally confesses that all the stories were a lie he told because he loved Vanessa, she is caught in the middle of a struggle that made the chicken in her head seem like a walk in the park. Through some uncomfortably comedic moments that find Vanessa choosing between right from wrong, true friends over true love and reality over popularity, she succeeds in graduating high school being neither loathsome or unloved.

  7. Here is my entry:

    Sarae, a sixteen-year-old girl of war-torn Queen’s clan, finds an abandoned baby that possesses the features of Sarae’s people and of the enemy, King’s clan. Someone illegally crossed the hill, an act so galling war threatens again.

    The prayermasters learn that the baby is part of a long-forgotten prophecy which warns the Queen’s clan is destined to be wiped out forever, unless a Breaker can be found. Sarae, a Breaker, is her clan’s only hope of survival but she’d have to destroy the King’s clan.

    She is unwilling to destroy the enemy, for at one time they were all one region, friends and family. Sarae knows there is a chance to unweave the prophecy, but it means a treacherous journey being hunted by spooks and the risk of being stoned for treason.

    In her quest of unweaving the prophecy she makes unlikely bonds who share her cause of bringing peace between the two clans. One of Sarae’s scouts brings her the devastating news that the abandoned baby’s birthmark has bloomed, revealing it as belonging to Sarae’s family.

    Sarae soon discovers that her own family was responsible for the clan war from the very beginning. Sarae makes the choice to destroy her family so that she can bring peace back to the clans.

  8. These are great! I don’t know if the stories were already floating around your brains or these are brand new, but congrats to all for finishing the entire challenge!

    Winners posted on Wednesday and then it’s feedback time. 🙂

  9. Here’s mine for paragraph #3:

    Avra Capaldi—High Seer—rules the northern province of what used to be the United States of America after an apocalyptical war. Among those who fight her rule, are a band of nomadic freedom fighters led by Joel Barber, Avra’s once upon a time love interest and corporate partner from a time when life was sane—before war and decimating epidemics ripped them apart. With Joel’s capture by Avra’s sadistic chancellor, Zulu, the two close associates meet again, and work to persuade the other to change loyalty. As Avra’s dormant feelings for Joel gradually reawaken, Zulu forces Joel to decide his path—whether to reign comfortably with Avra, or to fight the woman he still loves, even at the peril of his life. Seeing no way out, Joel consents to marriage, hopeful that he can revive truth in Avra’s broken mind and bring an end to five years of tyranny. Drinking the potion required by the vow, Joel is aghast as it turns out to be a truth serum and he gives up the secret locations of his freedom fighters to Zulu, who imprisons him. The chancellor, unwilling to relinquish his claim on his puppet princess to another man, lies and tells Avra that Joel has escaped to warn the opposition. As fighting ensues between the desperate opposition and Zulu’s forces, Avra discovers the truth and breaks free from the controlling chancellor. Destiny then unites Avra and Joel in climactic combat with the maniacal Zulu, where they conquer the madman and finally bring hope and freedom to a crippled nation.

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