OK now how does this grab you as the start of a novel?
A phone rings in the hall. A hand appears from the dark; a hand with white fingers. There’s a silver ring on the fourth finger. The hand picks up the receiver. A voice sounds low, almost whispering, the words indecipherable. The phone is put down.
From the bureau in the hall a flap is lowered. The same hand reaches for a yellow pad and a blue biro. The ring glints as the hand writes on the paper. The biro has a white bulb at one end like a ball of snot. The blue pen writes a few lines and then stops.
That is how it starts.
As they splashed in their thick boots down the muddy land, Sara looked regretfully at the locked door of the pub. There were aspects of jogging that she liked: the open air, the views, the company – the feeling of well-being once you’d taken a shower afterwards – but it was the sheer persistence of the thing which bugged her. Could they not stop once in a while to look a the view? Or pick up a fallen leaf to admire the half-eaten pattern of it? Or simply rest and breathe because they felt like it? No. None of these things could happen – because they were jogging – and once you were jogging you jogged. You had to keep jogging until the jog was finished, otherwise you’d have stopped jogging and entered a different state, one which needed defining and sanctioning.
There’s no fluidity, grumbled Sara to herself as they crossed a stream by a tiny bridge. She would have liked to stop and admire the fret-work of the bridge; the pattern of straight and wavy lines in fine metal – a filigree design, almost, she thought, but the pack was already fifty yards in front and on the point of noticing her absence.
Why had she ever thought joining in was a good thing? As someone at the rear of the pack half-turned to see where she was, Sara bent double, pretending to be catching her breath. It was then that she saw the foot.
What shocked her the most was that the boot was similar to her own. It could have been herself lying there, half-in and half-out of the water, with one foot upturned on teh bank and the other hidden under the leg. It was as though the person had been sitting cross-legged on the bank and just tipped in. Except that then, they would have fallen completely into the stream – but here was a body half-in and half on the bank, the waters running over her head like Ophelia and – she has seen it but in her shock not taken it in – blood mingling with the hair and the clear water. Fresh blood.
Tara was at her elbow. ‘Are you all right -?’ she began to say, but inhaled hafl the sentence in a sharp breath as she saw what Sara was seeing. For a moment the pair stood, side by side on the filigree metal bridge. Then Sara got out her phone and thumbed the same button three times.