Writing Challenge: Create an Intriguing Heroine

“Consider what makes a person so fascinating. Who captures your interest in a powerful way?” – Senior Editor Patience Bloom, How to Spot Problem Areas in Your Story

When we think about the people who fascinate us, it’s their unique qualities that make them alluring. But sometimes we create cliched characters even as we try to make them unique. We attempt to subvert expectations by flipping accepted ideas of gender, for example, to make our character “interesting”, and fall back on familiar tropes: the sensitive tough guy, the klutzy girl next door, the brooding, lone wolf billionaire, the sassy single mom.

Your challenge this week: Create an intriguing heroine. Your heroine enters the room. What makes her fascinating? How is she unique? What’s her story?

Post your short scene in the comments below any time between now and Sunday, April 28, 2019 and we’ll check back with you on Monday!

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  1. Rosemary Campbell

    ‘Woman you are a freak.’
    The words echoed loudly in the sudden silence of the cafe. Why was it, Erin thought, that most placed went eerily silent whenever a friend shouted something you didn’t want anyone to hear? It seemed at the pronouncement every other customer in the shop stopped sipping lattes and turned to stare at her.
    ‘Hush.’ Erin hissed at her friend.
    ‘Well, dammit woman.’ Jade returned, ‘you are a freak. No-one, but no-one is still a virgin at almost twenty three.’

    • Connolly

      This moment certainly grabs a reader’s attention! However, I wish we saw more of the heroine here. The scene seems more focused on the heroine’s friend, who is the one that is truly stealing the scene in this case.

  2. Brenda Willis

    That was the second time he’d called her darling, Venus needed to set him straight once and for all and send him away with no doubt that there could never be anything between them. However, it was hard to get her point across when he insisted on standing so close. His cologne seemed to overwhelm her senses. Or was it just him?

    Space, that’s what she needed. Maybe then she could think and speak with a clear head. Venus moved to the right, Anthony followed. She took a step back, he took a step forward. It was exhausting as he countered every step and turn she took.

    “What, what do you want from me?” Venus threw up her hands in frustration.

    Anthony grasped her shoulders. “In a word,” his voice was firm yet gentle, “You, Venus, just you.”

    God if only that were really true then she’d gladly give in. Once he figured out she was nothing like the sexy siren that performed on stage, just an ordinary woman, he’d do what Ray and the others before him had done. Move on. Disillusionment tended to have that effect. “The woman you want doesn’t exist.”

    • Connolly

      I really liked the way that you played with expectations. On the one hand, the heroine is really spunky, but she’s also somewhat timid. She is also aware that her persona does not match her day-to-day personality. Nicely done!

  3. Alicia Highmere watched from the ferry rail as the shadowed bulk of the mansion grew closer. With every passing second, the throbbing diesel engine drew her closer to her childhood home, Highmere House. In the gathering twilight, she caught meagre glimpses of the sandstone three-story monstrosity. The slate roof, darkened to black by the misty rain, was partially visible beyond the obstructing trees.
    Past images of her life in the house surfaced. Some were not pleasant and those, she pushed aside.
    The ten-acre property had grown even more wild and uncontrolled over the past weeks. Logically, something should be done about the over-growth, but her mother had never allowed it. Was Olivia Frost-Highmere’s intention to obliterate their old home from current memory? The thought wasn’t a shock if it were true.
    Alicia wasn’t exactly sure how she felt about going home, possibly for the last time. There would always be a thread that tied her to the old place, no matter what happened in the next few days.
    “Alicia, are you cold?” Bryce’s words pierced the steady noise the boat engine and churning water. He woke her out of the light trance she’d fallen into while staring across the waters of the Samsun Narrows.
    She blinked, and only then did she feel the slice of the November wind against her cheeks. Alicia turned to face her driver. “Yes, a bit,” she said and opened stiff fingers to let go of the metal railing.
    His dark brown eyes held hers as Bryce’s tall figure stood by the driver’s side door of the silver-grey Bentley. The car was beaded with wet, but its interior would be warm. So too, was his gaze.
    It didn’t matter her hands were encased in soft leather gloves. The cold was generated from within, not by the weather.

  4. Kama O'Connor

    Aurelie couldn’t turn away from the fiery glow in front of her. The amber, crimson, and almost fluorescent yellows danced together in perfect harmony, a routine passed down in their biology, generation after generation. She knew everyone who passed her on the main road to town must think her crazy for the way she stood on the patio of Jules and Verne’s, shopping bags at her feet, arms out and beckoning for the crisp air to envelop her, saturate her lungs and fill her with newness, even as the world around her died a slow, beautiful death. If she cared what people thought in the least, she would pay them mind, but for Aurelie, this moment, this exquisite witness of the majesty of decay, was to be cherished.
    The people of Banberry, the quaint, perfect hamlet nestled in the most pristine ring of mountains Aurelie had ever seen, were used to this stunning display of color, but she certainly wasn’t. Hers was a world of muted browns and tans, of the deepest blues and greens the world con conjure up, of a white so bright it made fresh-fallen snow look dirty. But no reds, yellows, oranges, no top half of the rainbow unless it was on the bright island clothes of the locals. Yet hers was also a world of stagnation. In the Turks and Caicos islands where she was raised, there were two seasons: hurricane season and everything else.

    • Connolly

      You did a really nice job of creating a unique heroine. Her personality and viewpoint are very apparent from the beginning of the scene, which is refreshing and helps draw in readers.

  5. Tracy Lombardo

    Virginia handed the card back. “I am his new art director. I will handle this account personally.”
    “The new art director?” TJ chuckled. “Is that so?”
    “Of course it is.”
    He leaned forward. “You’re the new art director?”
    “I am.”
    “The art director? A dame?”
    Virginia pointed her sharp pencil. “Yes and a very talented one at that. I know you’ve been away at war fighting the Nazis but times have changed and you’re lucky to have me, Mr. Mangan. If you don’t know it now, you will.”
    “And I thought I had seen it all flying over Berlin.”
    He chuckled again and rubbed his chin. “Well, I suppose you got high end credentials, then?”
    “The highest. Manhattan School of Design. And you?”
    TJ whistled. “Manhattan, huh? Pretty pricey. Guess that family money didn’t go to waste, did it?”
    “No more than the Mangan money did, I’ll bet.”
    “You’re a betting woman too?” TJ sat back. “I may have to mind my step with you, Rosie. I may fall in love.”
    “Just make sure you find someone suitable to pick you back up. I’m afraid I won’t have the time.”

    • Katie Gowrie

      – Well done, Tracy! You’ve given us insight into the heroine’s world and what makes her unique, and you’ve shown us her quick wit. One small thing, does her name change from Virginia to Rosie in this scene, or is Rosie a nickname? 🙂

  6. Amy Alberts

    The first time Desmond saw Ashley, he thought she was a homeless person. She entered the 24-hour diner at 4:15 in the morning wearing her hastily-darned lab coat inside out. The Spongebob pajama pants, green turtleneck sweater, and thick backup pair of prescription glasses didn’t help the matter either. If he had not recognized the tune she was skillfully whistling as “The 1812 Overture,” the tired police officer might not have ever taken any notice of the eccentric physicist.
    “Isn’t that the song Robin Williams’s character whistled all the time in The Dead Poets’ Society?” He asked her as she passed his seat at the counter.
    The bedraggled researcher stopped in her tracks and blinked several times.
    “Hmm… Yes. Think so. Catchy tune, I suppose.”
    Des could see a glimmer of Ashley’s true beauty as she ran a hand through her disheveled blonde hair and then slapped him playfully on the back.
    “Good listening ears, Captain my Captain,” she teased. “Or are you a sergeant? My uncle was a cop. Used to eat here with his precinct buddies, too. Loved the donuts.”
    Des wasn’t sure if the woman was mocking him or just making conversation. Either way, it didn’t matter. Before he could say anything more to her, she was striding away, whistling once again and scribbling in her notebook.
    From behind, she still looked like a homeless person.
    From the tingling sensation now seeping through his body from his right shoulder, Des now believed she was someone he just simply had to get to know.

    • Katie Gowrie

      Amy, your heroine sounds intriguing and I want to know more about her. I’m curious how the cop hero knows at this point that she’s a physicist—has he met her before? Is she part of a case he’s working on? Nice job!

  7. Kendra Peterson

    Ramiro stared into the hallow holes of the skull. The candle light flickered around the dark caves that once housed eyes. This was silly. He was more than capable of making decisions for himself. Maybe the guys were playing a joke on him. To think that anyone from his class would stoop this low for advice was ridiculous. Pre-med was hard but not witch doctor, voodoo, shrinking heads nailed to the ceiling hard.

    Ramiro glanced up to the very things he silently thought of. He swore he heard a voice. Maybe they heard him? Either way, he was leaving. He pivoted in his stark blue scrubs and the flame from the burning candles swayed from the movement. He had one hand on the wooden handle when the smallest sound stopped him. It felt like the breath of the wind and it was magnetic. He turned to her. Ramiro didn’t know what to expect. He had no idea what a psychic looked like, but he never thought one would look like her.

    Dark tightly coiled curls fell to her bare golden shoulders. The emerald fabric of her dress flowed freely around her. She had deep brown eyes that had a spark that could rival the burning flame. A humored smirk lifted her full lips. He had saw her before on the lawn in front of the library. Like then, she stared at him, bored holes into him until actual boredom took over. Ramiro cleared his throat. “I’m here for a reading.”

    She didn’t say anything. She motioned for him to take a seat at the table. Ramiro parted the smoke and spices that ruled her domain. When he sat, she sat and when she placed her hand out, he lifted his own and gently gave it to her. Her touch felt like clarity alone. He was sure he felt her energy. He glanced up quickly to see if she felt his. Nope. Not even the least bit.

  8. From a WIP, Chapter 1:

    “Thank you. Oh, and welcome to Ruby Hollow.”

    A sheepish half-smile graced her lips before she turned away.

    She’d been perfectly polite to him. It should have been one of those regular boring encounters people have every day; no different than the “hellos” to perfect strangers during a morning walk, holding doors open for people overburdened by grocery bags, and waving to a driver to let them cut in front of traffic. It should have been meaningless and insignificant.

    But it wasn’t.

    Josh remembered, with crystal-clear accuracy, the way her eyebrows had furrowed slightly when she whirled around to face him, a quizzical expression on her face. Her expectant, courteous look had transformed in seconds into one of gratitude when she noticed he was holding the sheet of paper she’d dropped. When she spoke, he’d noticed she had a very slight lisp. It didn’t detract from her speech, or make it difficult to understand her. In his opinion, sometimes people had a crisp way of speaking that sounds bossy or rude. Hers was the exact opposite; the lisp created a softness that rounded the corners off her words.

    It made him feel irrationally desperate to bring up a topic of conversation just to hear her speak again.

    Then there were her eyes. They were a dark blue, with gray bits flecked throughout. Josh thought they were beautiful, yes, but there was something else there, something that tugged inside of him. It was only later on, when he was getting ready for bed, that he thought about what it was.

    They were the saddest eyes he’d ever seen.

    He had the impression that no matter what happiness she felt at any one time, they would always remain that way. He wondered what, if anything, had caused her to feel like that. He wanted to learn what it could have been.

    But first, he would need to learn her name.

  9. Ann Allen

    Jen was fully aware of how ridiculous this was. She was sitting in the marina bar, drinking overpriced beer, to escape the party on the superyacht down the dock. The one that was nominally in her honor.
    Since her phone hadn’t beeped, apparently, she hadn’t been missed.
    She’d give Colin and his idea of a yacht another chance, but so far, this wasn’t working for her. Since they’d sold their company, she’d been at loose ends. Selling had been the right thing to do: the last three years had been far too much taking care of the business and not enough time with the technology that they loved. And becoming, for at least a moment, a billionaire, had been a rush.
    Jess had made up for years spent in front of a computer with a personal trainer and a personal shopper. She’d binge watched all the shows and movies she’d missed over the past decade. Running out of things to fill her time, she’d accepted Colin’s suggestion that they try out this yacht, see if they wanted to buy the corporation that owned it. Travel the world in luxury.
    Flying from the cold and damp of a Canadian winter to Antigua had been wonderful. The yacht itself was luxurious and huge beyond belief. The guests at the party, however, weren’t her people. She spoke computer geek, not rich people. Her face had started to hurt from fake smiling. Her mind had started to wander down the wrong paths.
    Better the beer and rugby highlights on the TV.

  10. Teresa Lunde

    Rianna glanced around the lobby, trying to keep a grip on her emotions. Displaying her inner panic would only alarm her friends even more, and too many unanswered questions floated through her head. If not for her three-year marriage to a highly decorated Navy SEAL, she wouldn’t believe things like this could happen.
    “Do we risk going downtown as planned?” Laura adjusted her glasses and blinked. “Maybe we should ask the desk clerk to call the police.”
    Poor Laura. She’d been less than thrilled with the idea of leaving the North American continent. Just when she’d begun to relax and enjoy Italy, this had to happen.
    Rianna needed to take a deep breath, center herself, and make a logical plan of attack.
    “We’re already following basic travel precautions.” She lifted her chin and glanced around the lobby. “We’re continuing with our plan for the day. If anything looks suspicious, we’ll check into the cruise early.”
    Despite her brave front, doubt threatened to take hold in the back of her mind. The French woman had to know something. She’d known Rianna’s name, and Ben’s. So help her, if Ben was alive, and he’d left her to face the worst time of her life alone for nothing, she’d find him and choke him.

  11. Cheryl Anne Graham

    Alberta Watkins
    She didn’t like these things. Give her a head of steer any day. That was her happy place. But she was gussied up to the nth degree for the Cattlemen’s ball. She was the honoured guest tonight, a rarity for women.
    “Alberta you made it! Come over and let me look at you! Spin.” She moved around and showed off the new slinky dress she had picked out for the occasion and laughed, a bright laugh.
    “Bruce you always make me feel better. You know I don’t enjoy get ups like these.” Wrapping her arms about him she held him close and breathed in his aftershave, musky but sweet.
    “Where is he?” Alberta said, her orange dress following every curve of her body.
    Bruce pointed. “Right over there in the beige Stetson.”
    “Well, he’s nothing if not pedestrian.”
    Eugene saw her and waved her over.
    “Have at ‘em,” Bruce whispered as she moved away.
    “Eugene,” Alberta said with pretend politeness as she walked over.
    “Well if it ain’t the little lady with her steers on my field,” Eugene said grabbing her in a most improper hug.
    “Let me go Eugene. We’ve chatted about this before.”
    “Sorry little lady. These new rules. Can’t ever get ‘em dang right.
    When are you moving them cattle?” Eugene said pushing his Stetson up a might and going back to the previous subject.
    “You know very well Eugene that that is my land and my cattle have every right to graze on it in perpetuity. Unless you wanna buy the land from me.”
    Eugene went to open his mouth.
    “It’s not for sale!” Alberta said like a slap.
    “And just so you know I’m nobody’s gal, woman, or miss. I own this ranch, outright, me. It’s not my daddy’s, and if you don’t stay away from me and my cattle, I will have the sheriff come up one side of you and down the other. We clear?” She awaited a brash answer, but he stood shocked and silent. So she turned on her heel and ambled back to Bruce to get her award and continue her evening.

  12. C. B. Gilliam

    “Are you Jackson Wyatt, the actor?” Emily asked the man whose face she couldn’t see. He stood on a tall ladder in the shadows in front of an empty stage pulling down a banner which read, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof. According to her friend, he’d played the Paul Newman part. He let the banner drop to the floor before he turned to her.
    “As opposed to Jackson Wyatt, the person?” He didn’t wait for an answer, but continued as he descended the ladder. “If you have to ask, I guess you’re not a fan.”
    His voice belonged to an actor, rich, unhurried, filling the empty theater around them. As he stepped into the light near her Emily felt a mild shock. Cheyenne was right—he was hot. But definitely not her type. She took in his thick dark hair, curling at the edges, too long for her personal taste; his clear eyes, too penetrating, and green instead of blue, although she did instantly think Paul Newman. A black T-shirt clad chest rivaled any of the big screen stars—muscles surely bought in a gym and too machine molded for her taste. The legs were long and his soft jeans hugged in what she supposed were all the right places. He towered over her and she was five feet seven, not counting her three inch heels. He was too macho, but perfect for what she needed.
    Or as close to perfect as she could get. She didn’t have time to be choosy, so she might be lowering her standards a bit. Her cousin Tiffany, though, would take one look and flip. That thought lifted Emily’s spirits. She backed up so she wouldn’t strain her neck looking up. “Maybe I’ll become your biggest fan—if you’re good enough.”
    “Good enough? Do I even want to know what this is about?” His annoyed expression said he didn’t. He picked up one end of the long banner and started rolling.
    “It’s a job.”
    He looked her over then as if assessing her worth or trying to decide if she were a stalker with a different approach. Which didn’t help her overcome any of her earlier conflict of thinking herself as up-for-grabs cheap when deciding what to wear—something to make her look as alluring as possible without going too far. She’d settled on a hot pink suit with a lacy camisole underneath and, on her lapel, a lethal, keep-your-distance spiky spider pin, one of Cheyenne’s creations. Later, buttoned up and pin-less, she could wear the silk suit back to the office, although it would raise eyebrows. She only wore serious colors to work.
    “Paying how much?”
    “Don’t you want to know what it is first?” Emily distrusted people who didn’t question everything before they agreed to anything.
    “I assume it’s to do with acting. And if it’s not enough, I don’t need to know what it is.”
    “How much is enough?” While Emily didn’t begrudge people their worth, she was a negotiator at heart, even when faced with limited options.
    “How long’s the gig?”
    “A weekend.”
    “How much?”
    “I’ll make it worth your while.” Whatever that might be. Somehow he looked like he might be worth less than she was willing to offer.
    “It being what?”
    “Being my escort to a family function, and . . .” She hesitated not sure how to phrase the second and tricky part of the job.
    “You don’t need me. Hire a gigolo.”
    Her blood ran cold at what the tabloids would make of that should they find out—and they would. She never got away with anything. Somebody would rat her out for sure—probably her own family—and she’d never live the scandal down.
    “Hiring a gigolo is out of the question.”
    “And?”
    She looked at him with a questioning frown.
    “After the escort part, you didn’t finish your and.”
    Maybe he wasn’t as dumb as she’d expected.
    “Because you interrupted me.” She paused, finding his attitude too careless for someone currently unemployed. “Maybe Cheyenne was wrong about you. I don’t think you’ll work at all.”
    His whole demeanor changed on the mention of her friend’s name. He didn’t actually smile, but the annoyed lines disappeared from his face. And he didn’t look so dangerous, after all.
    “You know Cheyenne?” He sounded surprised.
    “We’re good friends. We roomed together in college.”
    “A case of friendship built on opposites attract?”
    “You don’t know me.”
    “Body language tells me all I need to know.”
    Emily tried to relax without being obvious about it. He just grinned, showing a flash of white against his tanned face. But she was miffed. He made it sound like she was the one lacking instead of flaky Cheyenne. Although Emily had wanted to be more like her friend until the heavy hand of responsibility had slaughtered her humor and hammered the frivolous life right out of her.
    “Didn’t Cheyenne call you?”
    I’ve been unavailable.“
    “Incarcerated?”
    He laughed.
    “Anything illegal?”
    His smile faded.
    “Woman trouble?”
    He frowned. “Is this invasion of my privacy necessary?”
    She didn’t have time for this. If he didn’t accept, she had to find someone else. Soon. She looked at her watch. “Are you interested or not?”
    “You never did finish the ‘and’ part of the job.”
    She hadn’t thought this would be so difficult. “You’ll have to pretend I’m . . .” She struggled to say the word she’d decided on earlier. A word that made her sound like a loser in the relationship department. Too late. She sighed. “…irresistible. “
    He frowned. “What?”
    “You’ll have to pretend I’m irresistible.” She said it fast, furious with him for making her repeat what she wished she didn’t have to say.
    This time he looked beyond the clothes. While she was no raving beauty, she took care with her appearance. She exercised. Her body was good. And she paid her hairdresser a small fortune to add natural looking highlights to her mousy brown hair.
    “You have to hire somebody for that?”
    Evidently he thought it a doable task because hadn’t cringed. Or he really was a good actor.
    “I prefer hiring someone. It keeps everything on a professional level.”
    “Even your love life?”
    She gave him her overstepped-your-bounds look. “My love life is not up for discussion.”
    His sharp gaze studied her as if he were reassessing an earlier impression. “What’s your name?” he asked.
    “Emily Richmond.”
    “Of the hotel Richmonds?”
    She nodded, surprised he’d so easily made the connection, yet unsure whether that was a plus or a minus. Some of Cheyenne’s friends looked on the wealthy as bloodsuckers of the masses. Well, she wasn’t apologizing. She’d worked damned hard to get where she was. So had her grandfather who had founded the well known Richmond Inn chain.
    He whistled like he was impressed. “Cheyenne has mentioned you. She calls you—never mind. You’re the one who turned everything around, the behind the scenes wonder—the smart Richmond”
    “Evidently not,” she said, surprising him—and herself—with the self-deprecatory remark. Which showed how rattled she was just thinking about the ordeal ahead. A smart woman wouldn’t have to proposition a stranger to be her crutch.
    “Let’s get a cup of coffee and you can convince me to take this on—now that I know you can afford me.”
    “I don’t have time to sit and chat.”
    “Well, then.” He shrugged his big shoulders and turned his back to pick up where he’d left off when she’d interrupted him. She clinched her jaw and curled her fingers, wishing he’d hired on just so she could have the pleasure of firing him.

    • Deirdre

      This fairly long scene hints at quite a few character details. The most intriguing for me was, “She calls you – never mind.” Excellent line! Just a reminder that sometimes “less is more” 🙂

    • C.B. Gilliam

      My apology for the length. Didn’t realize how long it was until after I had posted it. That won’t happen again. Thanks for the feedback.

  13. Fiona Marsden

    She shouldn’t stir his blood. Blaire Maitland was a computer in a suit that in theory made her tall lean figure look masculine. It was the general consensus in the office that she was sexless. Unfortunately, Valentine McKabe knew what the boxy jacket and straight leg pants concealed and he couldn’t forget it.
    Her pale blond hair was cropped close to her scalp with cheekbones and jaw too prominent for beauty. Yet endlessly fascinating to a man trying to see under her skin. In all these months of working together, she’d never let her guard down in the office. Or in the bedroom.
    As if she felt his gaze, she looked up from her laptop, her silver-grey eyes enlarged behind the frameless, narrow spectacles. He couldn’t see anything beyond the cold impassiveness that frustrated him in ways he wouldn’t have believed when she joined the company as chief accountant almost twelve months ago. Number cruncher extraordinaire. He’d head hunted her for her analytical brain and then found himself enthralled by something he sensed hidden behind her professional mask.

    • Calida Ally

      I absolutely love this, Fiona! As always, such beautifully crafted characters and incredible writing that deeply engages the reader and keeps them wanting to read more. I am a huge fan of your writing Fiona. 🙂

    • Deirdre

      This scene plays nicely with a popular trope – that of the analytical, cool personality possibly concealing passionate depths – and plays with cultural norms around the masculine/feminine as well. The fact that the “analyzer” refuses to be analyzed does make her intriguing!

  14. Rosheda stephenson

    It was hard to tell where the brown baseball cap stopped and where the wavy hair began. Every drop of red was gone. And it was just the way she wanted it. She pulled the cap lower so that her eyes hardly showed and pulled into the parking lot. Her hands shook as she pulled into an empty spot so she clenched the steering wheel tight to steady them. Now came the test. Could the new hair and eye colors and fifty additional pounds hide the fact that she was the famous Karachi?
    She grabbed the folder with her shiny new degree and took a deep breath before opening the car door. She had worked hard to get the degree and now she could finally have the life she really wanted. One that didn’t include months living from a tour bus and nightly headaches. And the paparazzi. Just thinking of never seeing another flash as her picture got taken in the most private places steadied her heart. If she was going to escape the life of fame, this was her chance and she wasn’t going to waste it.
    She squared her shoulders and walked into the small building. The one friend she had managed to keep in touch with through all the madness that was her childhood had gotten her a job with a domestic abuse intervention center. It wasn’t much really, just assisting one of the center’s counselors with appointments and being a sympathetic ear in the waiting room. She had already done a formal interview through Skype and now she was dropping off her official application and bachelors degree.
    Karachi smiled and looked down at the brown envelope that held the degree. Despite years of being told that she shouldn’t think of being anything but a superstar, she had done it. She had studied hard and graduated four months ago from one of California’s top universities with a degree in counselling. Helping women heal was going to be her new life. No more of those demeaning songs that prepared girls to be sexy sirens instead of empowering them to be strong. She grimaced as the lyrics of some of her billboard hits flooded her brain. If she had had a choice she would have had a normal childhood and gone to college like other kids. For sure, she wouldn’t have been singing those lyrics as she hopped from stage to stage in full makeup and teeny outfits while teenagers and grown men screamed at her. But it wasn’t too late she was twenty five, and she was making the first move to change her life
    She inhaled and tugged at the cap as she stopped at the reception desk.
    “Hi. I am here to see Sam Gardino, could you direct me to her office?”
    The man at the desk hardly glanced at her while giving her directions. If he had given her gold, he couldn’t have made her happier and for teh first time she allowed herself to think that this just may work. She just may pull off the biggest disappearing act ever.

  15. Sally Freytag

    Jude pressed her lips together and went through into what, until Friday, had been her office as the CEO of Aurora Technology.
    The newly-returned owner, Richard Blake, was standing over by the windows.
    Jude stopped dead, her breath hissing silently from her body as she absorbed the shock. Gone were the faded jeans and casual shirt, but there was no disguising those shoulders, the height, the head of thick brown hair, the muscular, lithe grace of his body, now clad in an impeccable, expertly tailored, dark-grey suit.
    Adam.
    Adam was Richard Blake!
    What was going on?
    He spoke coldly, without turning around. ‘Thank you for coming to see me, Miss Drayton. I shouldn’t take up too much of your time.’
    ‘I hardly had any choice,’ Jude said hoarsely, her voice dry as shock washed through her.
    The man at the window froze. Slowly he withdrew his hands from his pockets and turned. ‘You!’ In his eyes she saw equal shock, and, as she had feared, disappointment and a flash of uncontrolled anger before his expression became masked.
    ‘Quite,’ Jude responded, recovering some of her equilibrium. ‘You!’ She tossed her blonde hair back over her shoulders and looked at him, her amber eyes cool.
    ‘What the hell are you doing here? I asked to see Miss Drayton, not her PA! Miss Drayton…she has to be older? Much older?’
    ‘Sorry to disappoint in the matter of age, but I’m not Miss Drayton’s PA,’ Jude replied crisply. ‘I’m Jude Drayton herself.’
    ‘Then on Saturday, you deliberately misled me?’
    ‘I think, on Saturday, I was not the only one to be misleading…Adam,’ she replied sharply.
    His face coloured slightly as he accepted the truth of her acerbic comment. ‘Adam is my middle name,’ he said bitterly.
    ‘Anna is my middle name too,’ she said drily, crossing to a chair and sitting down. ‘What a coincidence! We’d agreed not to discuss Aurora Technology. I was happy to escape for a day, as I think you were as well. Equally guilty, perhaps?’
    How ironic to discover that Adam and her apparent enemy, Richard Blake, were one and the same person! She’d wondered if she would see him and how he’d react. Well, now she had her answer, and she knew the reaction would be even worse than she’d imagined. It was bad enough when she’d thought Adam was Richard Blake’s PA. Catastrophic that it turned out he was Richard Blake himself. She glanced across at him and was shocked by the expression of contempt and self-loathing she saw on his face as he turned away from her.
    ‘Quite frankly,’ Jude said sharply, deciding to hit back at him, ‘I don’t think much of you, either. On Saturday you deliberately misled me and also tried to elicit information from me about what was going on here. You sent an email which kicks me out of my job and basically says you aren’t going to continue with this factory as it stands. That means I’m not the only person who’ll lose out, but I’m fairly fortunate. At my age, with a good reference, I’ll be able to get another job.’
    ‘A good reference?’ Richard stood up and walked back over to the windows, his face now smoothly blank, his tone insolent. ‘And tell me, Miss Drayton, just where will you get a good reference from?’
    ‘Why, Aurora Technology, of course,’ Jude asserted before her voice died away and she looked at him with dawning horror. ‘You wouldn’t!’ she breathed.
    ‘Wouldn’t what, Miss Drayton?’ The mocking note she remembered from Saturday was in his voice as he wheeled round to face her. ‘According to you, I’m a monster. I’m going to shut down this factory, remember? I’m going to make all these good people redundant!’ His arm swept in a wide gesture. ‘So what…’ he came forward and leaned with both hands flat on the desk, bending down towards her. ‘So what,’ he repeated, ‘makes you think I’ll give you a reference?’

    • Patience Bloom

      Wow, Sally! So much animosity between these two characters and we do get a sense that this heroine is someone who can stand up to anyone–especially a boss. Nicely done.

  16. Nora was used to turning heads.

    The way she looked had always attracted attention, and she tried not to smile as all the faces in the room swiveled to watch her walk across the stage. She felt good, confident; this was her moment.

    She stepped up to the podium and waited until silence settled over the gallery crowd like a blanket, and then slowly, deliberately raised her arm and rested the carved polished wood that replaced Nora’s left hand and forearm onto the lectern.

    This was what everyone was here to see, and murmurs cut through the hush as people took in the intricate floral details, the delicately shaped fingers, the warm gleam of the brushed brass joints. The room was charged, expectant, and Nora leaned forward and spoke.

    “Hello Strangers.”

    The audience erupted, and Nora grinned.

    While she waited for the applause to die down her gaze stretched out across the room of people and then stopped in shock at a face from her past.

    He hadn’t changed much in twelve years. He was older, of course, and time had sharpened his cheek bones and etched the memory of laughter into some fine lines around his eyes, but he was still unmistakably Tom. Her Tom.

    No. Nora’s right hand fluttered as she resisted the urge to shield his view of the gleaming ebony of her left. Not anymore. She looked away and continued her address.

    “Most of you are here because you follow my SartorialSnap account Stranger Limbs,” affirmative whoops and whistles rippled through the crowd, “but for those unfamiliar with my limb difference fashion, I’m Nora Strange.”

    The audience responded with renewed applause, and Nora smiled down at the sea of rapt faces. A tall, familiar figure was pushing his way toward the stage, but Nora ignored him and leaned closer to the microphone, “I’m so pleased that you could join me for the opening of my Avant Garde prosthetic exhibition – Armed and Dangerous.”

  17. Kathleen Day

    A bumble bee landed on Ruby’s cheek just before she was to jump into the next dimension. Fly away home, she thought, and her hand eased toward the yellow ball as sweet and soft as her downy bed had been before her village collapsed. Godmother, the creatures were large up close! Sticky insect feet tickled, edging closer to one grey-green eye which squinted shut, but she dare not move. .
    She lay hidden in tall grass on a hump of ground overlooking a group of fairies about to pass through a portal yet to appear. And when it did–bango! Ruby Stiffbeard, town-crier and inventor, last year’s winner of Irth’s Clever Dwarf of the Year, would leave home forever. As her fingertip crept toward the bee’s furry abdomen, it raised up, prepared for flight, then descended with a vicious sting. Surprise became pain, and she clamped her hand over her mouth. Thanks for one last message from this biased and unjust world! Now she would have an ugly spot on an otherwise dewy cheek.
    It didn’t take long for family and friends to turn on you when a whole mountain collapsed on your village and everyone blamed you. It wasn’t fair, there was no evidence, but everyone agreed, and she was imprisoned for one long week.
    Her accusers, so quick to blame, forgot clever people can pick locks. She glanced over her shoulder, but no one pursued her. Come on! Portals appeared on their own schedule. Even fairies knew that, but the sun had retreated—where was the dang moon? She pushed short strawberry-colored hair from her eyes and ducked lower behind waving seed heads. With her ear near the ground, she detected the approaching pat-pat-pat of feet. No!
    Below, a low hum began: it was happening! The moon rose to proclaim Autumn Equinox, and a delegation of stout, bearded dwarfs jogged toward her hiding place. The air at one end of the glade wavered and shimmered as Ruby got to her feet, adjusted her knapsack, and ran down the slope. Her small stature served her well as she avoided fingers and shouts. “Hey! What are you–” Bobbing and darting, she negotiated the forest of long legs. “Where did that dwarf come from?”
    “Sorry!” Ruby cried when she felt herself cut into one fairy’s knees, sending the tall creature sprawling. Ruby would have liked to stop and laugh, but the portal was beginning to fade. Wuffling and panting, she threw herself through the gate’s posts. Time and space disappeared.

    • Patience Bloom

      This is wonderfully descriptive, Kathleen. It really reads as an otherworldly and poetic tale. As you continue, I would add more to the heroine’s point of view as she feels that intense emotion about reaching her goal. Well done overall!

    • Kathleen Day

      Thank you so much, Patience! I know Harlequin no longer publishes fantasy but had this opening for a series. I’ll keep your advice in mind as I continue writing,.

  18. Susan Edkins

    So, so tired. Even after a year of working the flight from LA to Hong Kong, Mali was nearly comatose by the time she arrived at the airline hotel, showered, changed, and slipped around the corner to meet the car that Geoffrey had arranged to meet her. The ride from Lantau to Central took another thirty minutes, and by the time she arrived at her “other” hotel she was practically asleep. Once her driver pulled up to the entrance, a bellman was there to take her bag, and the manager walked her to the elevator, slipping a unique key into the slot to raise them to the suite reserved for her. And for Geoffrey.
    He Inevitably joined her in the city soon after her flight had arrived, but the luxuriously appointed bed proved irresistible.
    One chime would probably not have been enough to pull Mali from the depth of a sleep only a fourteen hour flight could have demanded. A second chime had her instinctively scrabbling on the nightstand for her phone. Through a fog, she read the first text: “Flight Attendant Milhone: Flight 288 for 9/17 has been cancelled. You will be taking flight 288 on 9/18. Pickup will be at 13:00.” Her first feeling, fighting through the fog of sleep, was pleasure at the thought of another day with her lover; then she read the second text message: “American whore. We know who you are. We know your intentions. Know ours.” Now wide awake, the soft sound of a keycard opening her room door was as loud a sound as she ever hoped to hear.

    • Patience Bloom

      Seriously. This ending gave me chills! I like the detail in this heroine’s experience–and I’m always curious about how flight attendants/pilots go about their days. This pacing is great because then the jolt at the end, well, the reader will feel it. And it implies what the heroine will have to deal with next, which is when we really get to know her. Nice job!

  19. Ashley Storm

    Alex watched as the beautiful woman looked at every exhibit, read every placard. It wasn’t uncommon for the tiny museum to be empty, so any visitor was a welcome sight. Never mind that this woman had more curves than a meandering river and a waterfall of auburn hair cascading down her back. It was her careful attention to every historical detail that made her so attractive to Alex.

    “How many men died in the battle?” The museum had once been a house, and then a makeshift hospital during one of the smallest and least significant skirmishes of the Civil War.

    “Only a few hundred,” Alex admitted, “but there were nearly 6,000 casualties, counting the wounded, captured, and missing.” He braced himself for her reaction. It paled in comparison to the devastation of most preserved battle sites, but it pained Alex that so many people failed to see what he saw. A time capsule, filled with historic treasures.

    She nodded thoughtfully. “Any ghost stories?”

    Alex frowned. “Not that I’m aware of.”

    She looked up at him through thick lashes. “This was once a hospital, though?”

    “Yes.”

    “There has to be at least one ghost story.”

    Alex shook his head.

    “Hmmm.” She leaned toward a display case filled with Native American arrowheads. “This site was also an Indian burial ground?”

    “It was a hunting ground,” he explained.

    Her eyes twinkled. “Would you mind if I came back this evening with a recorder and an EMF reader?”

    Alex hadn’t been this disappointed since losing the state spelling bee in the fifth grade. He had mistaken this woman for an historian. Someone serious. Someone like him. “You’re a ghost hunter?”

    Her lips tilted into a half smile. “Something like that.”

    “I’m sorry, but the museum closes at five.”

    Her smile morphed into a playful grin. “You don’t believe in ghosts?”

    “No.” Alex could hear the irritation in his tone, but she laughed. Laughed!

    “We all have ghosts,” she said.

    Alex nodded tersely. “Well, if you have any questions about the battle, let me know.”

    He began to walk away, but she gripped his arm and leaned toward him. He caught the scent of her shampoo. Sweet, like vanilla. He inhaled deeply.

    “Yes?” he asked.

    “I don’t believe in ghosts either, just so you know.” She spun on her heel and headed for the door. When she reached it, she looked at him over her shoulder. “See you later.”

    Alex gripped a display case to steady himself, his pulse fluttering like a hummingbird. The encounter left him feeling dizzy, but he hoped she’d be true to her word. Because he definitely wanted to see her again.

    • Sara Jafari

      Hi Ashley,
      The dialogue here is fast paced and reads really believably – which is wonderful. You could perhaps hold a bit more back here, in order to create a little more intrigue and tension, so that more is revealed later. Great job!

  20. Calida Ally

    Ellie walked into the boardroom with her head held high. A silk light pink blouse and an A line knee length skirt adorned her tall slender figure. Her every movement, balletic and poetical. Her career as a ballerina gifted her with those qualities.

    Meeting and holding the blue gaze, transfixed on her, she walked toward the man seated behind a large modern style desk. Determination glittered in her emerald eyes and her delicate chin jutted out. Her ethereal beauty unmarred by the scar that ran down the side of her neck. She never felt the need to hide the scar…now. She wore it with pride. She owned the scar. The scar no longer owned her.

  21. Dina van't Veer

    Aiden’s attention was captured as he looked towards the entrance of the reception hall. He knows he should know who this beauty in breathtaking baby blue should be. Red hair was spilling down her back like the ripples of flames from a bonfire. That shade of hair would be unforgettable.

    Molly entered the hall in her newly acquired finery. Feeling many eyes following her progress into the room made her pause and look. She jolted as her eyes found those of her boss.

    As soon as their eyes met Aiden knew who this woman was. Having only seen her with her hair tidy under a hat he had no idea his new private co-pilot was so ravishing.

    Molly saw him blink, say something to the guest of honor. He turned towards her fully and seemed to be in front of her in a heartbeat.

    • Sara Jafari

      Hi Dina,
      Love the way you describe your heroine here – it’s so evocative and vivid! You focus on the way she is interesting physically here, which is great, and as you continue writing it would be great to see why she’s interesting in her personality too. Great work!

  22. A combination of nerves and hope made the short walk to Samantha’s room a blur. Her hands trembled as she pushed the door open and stepped halfway into the room. First, she looked toward the bed. It took a moment to fully register the scene. As she’d hoped, Samantha was sleeping – a tiny figure, with beautiful short blonde hair framing her delicate features. Josie breathed a little easier as she noted the pink tint in the child’s cheeks. Then her gaze was drawn to the figure of a man sitting in a corner chair near the bed. She blinked once. Twice. Her thoughts stalled. Her heart pounded against her ribs. No…she must be hallucinating…
    *It can’t be him.*
    But her silent appraisal of his silhouette in the soft lighting said it was. The dark blonde, longish hair. The broad shoulders, the strong profile she knew so well. Her immediate reaction was a spark of joy – quickly doused by a wave of anxiety.
    He turned his head in her direction and Josie’s instincts kicked in. She backed out of the room quickly, her only thought now was to run away. She needed time to absorb seeing him – time to absorb what his presence in Samantha’s room meant. Time to catch her breath – and think.
    She knew the hospital well. She could slip away before he caught up to her. Ignoring the pain in her hip, she focused on getting downstairs, and outside to her car.
    To safety.
    She didn’t dare look behind her, just walked as fast as her hip would allow, past Gwen’s inquiring gaze, down the hall and around the corner, to the elevator. As the doors opened, he called out to her.
    “Josie?”
    *Oh, dear God. Don’t look back. Maybe he’ll think he’s mistaken.*
    She rushed inside and pressed the button, pretending not to hear him. The doors closed. She tried to tell herself she’d been mistaken as the elevator descended. When she’d reached the first floor, she walked to the exit across the lobby.
    The glass doors slid open and she rushed through them to the parking lot. Picking up her pace, she noted her skittering heartbeat and swiped away the nervous perspiration beading her brow. *I’m a coward…*

    • Sara Jafari

      Hi Gina,

      This passage is certainly intriguing – and has me wondering what happened between your hero and herione! I particularly liked that she ran away from the hero – it made her very relatable, which is also a really good thing for your heroine to be!

  23. Cherith O'Connor

    This was the second meeting in a row that she had sat directly opposite him at the top of the table. She gave off a wanton air. An air that said desire me but you can’t have me. She was a lady certainly but silently he knew she didn’t need a man. She was the one who did the choosing. She was extremely pretty with a straight nose, large Bambi like green eyes and high cheek bones. She smelled incredible! Her scent lingered long after she had left. She was so many things.She had moved from her home town, for what reason he didn’t know, she never gave away too much about herself. Now she stood talking and every now and then she looked him straight in the eye, an entrepreneur just as successful as the rest of the men in that room and she knew it. Her voice was firm, yet lilting as she spoke. She always seemed composed…almost too composed. What was she doing. Was it a signal he wondered as her bgreen eyes bored into his. She was younger than him by at least 15 years. Was that it? Her age? No it was more than that. Just when Jarryd thought he had captivated her, she changed course. What was it about this married woman that he found so captivating? He had made up his mind……whatever the cost he had to have her, he had to know what she thought, what she dreamt about, everything he could soak up about her he would! Leaving the room he took his chance as she hugged her colleagues goodbye he stood right behind her. “Can I have a hug too?” He took the gamble. She turned and looked at him knowingly. “Feeling left out Jarryd?” She smiled at him again her gaze not breaking his. Then suddenly the look in her eye changed and she hugged him like a brother. He wasn’t going to give up…..he had to have her, he needed to know more about her. Stepping back she gave him a simple smile. As she turned to leave she fixed Jarryd with her large eyes and said in a very telling voice, “Oh Jarryd…the postman always knocks twice.”