Emotion Prompt: fear/nerves

by | Meg Tuite July Day 1

One day I came home from school and found the front door to our house flung open. The lights inside were off, and Mom wasn’t in the kitchen, where she usually was. The familiar sound of novelas blasting on the TV was also absent, then I realized the TV itself was gone. My stomach dropped. For the front door to be open, showing all the world our whole business, was strange enough, but I couldn’t remember the last time the house had been this quiet.

“¿Mamá?” I whispered, tip-toeing down the narrow hallway to her bedroom.

She didn’t answer, so I cracked open her door. The room was a mess, piles of papers and emptied out boxes on the bed, but there was no one in there. Right as I was about to close it again, I heard something shuffling.

“¿Mamá?” I repeated.

This time, she yelled back, “I’m in here!”

I followed her voice to the little half-bathroom connected to her bedroom. There, she was hunched over, wearing her leopard-print house dress and sweeping up glass from the floor. The broken window above her head let in sunlight, crowning her long, copper hair with a halo.

“What happened?” I asked.


  1. Faye Rapoport DesPres

    Your piece really caught and kept my attention, Edgar. The fear and nerves were palpable. I liked the use of alliteration in a couple of spots, too — “piles of papers,” “boxes on the bed.” I think the sentence that caught me the most was, “The broken window above her head let in sunlight, crowing her long, copper hair with a halo.” That’s a sentence packed with meaning and metaphor. I enjoyed reading this. (And, nice to meet you.) – Faye

  2. Meg Tuite

    Hi Edgar!
    This is wrought with tension. My suggestion would be to rearrange this. Build the tension through altering the sequence. Perhaps start with:
    ““¿Mamá?” I whispered, tip-toeing down the narrow hallway to her bedroom. ” Then the reader has so many places to go before they find out that someone broke in. If you have time, rework this one and post again as a rewrite. Play around with the intensity and surprise.
    Great first draft!

  3. Meg Tuite

    Also, give it a title. One that keeps that surprise, but works the piece as well. Every line in this, including the title, should be a part of the puzzle.

  4. Robert Vaughan

    Edgar, this is wonderfully wrought with palpable tension. Love how we get that a break-in happened (front door open, inside lights off, Mom not in the kitchen, TV gone, and stomach dropped- all substantial clues). And that we have this timid POV from the kid who can’t find his mother. Terrific way that we are left with so many questions from your surprising details. Unanswered questions always light me up when a reader is left with unlimited possibilities. A great first draft! I like Meg’s idea of building even more tension into the piece- perhaps there is drops of blood on the living room rug? Etc.

  5. Koss Just Koss

    Edgar, I love the tension and the spare details of this. You’re off to a fab start.

  6. Georgiana Nelsen

    Hi Edgar,
    The actions build the tension really well, but there is distance between the reader and the narrator. I’d like to be brought inside with heartbeats and sweat and dread….I don’t need to be tod it is fear and nerves, but I wasn’t sure until the end that mama hadn’t levying a huff!
    Great start!

  7. Sara Comito

    Hi Edgar, you asked what I was thinking; “What happened?” Nice set up for the tension. With a normally not-quiet house to be so quiet, I wonder what unusual sounds the character could hear – his own heart, the tick of a clock, street noise, etc. Good start!

  8. Aimee Parkison

    Edgar, you do a fabulous job of capturing the fear and tension in this scene. I sense the dramatic rising-action, the notion that “something is wrong.” The piece draws me in, raising many good questions, and leaves me wanting more. What a cliffhanger!

  9. Jacqueline Doyle

    Love how you fling open the door to the story with the opening line, and create suspense by developing scene. Yes, a cliffhanger!

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