Terry’s September Newsletter

september-2016(here’s the link to last month’s watercolor newsletter)

Here’s the link to my Facebook Page. I also post the videos on my blog here.

Here’s the link to The Simple Test That Will Tell You How Compelling Your First Chapter Is

That’s all this month. Happy Fall!

From Terry!

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5 Tips For Writing A Killer Short Story Intro

If you’re like me, you write a lot of short stories – like at least one a week!

I’ve been fortunate enough to be involved in a writing group that helps me critique my work. This not only means that I receive lots of tips on my writing, it also means that I’m constantly reading drafts of other people’s short stories ALL THE TIME!

And I’ve learned a few things. Actually, I’ve learned a lot!

And perhaps one of the most important things I’ve learned is how well the intro to your short story has to be (we’re talking the first 1 or 2 paragraphs).

Think of the intro to your short story as the first bite of a new food. You’re curious. You’re sceptical. You’re ready to spit out your first bite and throw the entire dish away if you don’t like it. BUT! If that first bite tastes delicious, you’ll gobble everything else up as fast as you can.

That’s what the intro to your story is.

If it’s got a fantastic hook and glimpses of something great, your reader will keep reading at breakneck speed.

If it’s just “meh,” you’ve already lost your reader. With millions of other things to read on the internet, or in stores, why would anyone ever keep reading “meh”?

So, how do you make your intro super great? Well, to be honest, I’m still learning. But, I’ve also learned a heck of a lot so far, and my introductions are getting better. I’m writing better hooks. I’m retaining readers for longer. I can see a clear distinction between what I wrote even a month ago and what I’m writing now.

Every time I write an introduction, I use a checklist. While some of the items may seem a bit obvious, it’s amazing how many times I get too excited about one aspect of what I’m writing and forget to include them.

Checklist for How to Write a Short Story:

  1. Introduce The Setting
    • where is the reader? Be quick about it, no extensive descriptions! While it is okay to add some description (ie. “Moss hung on the stone wall below the cathedral windows”), the reader should never EVER have to guess where they are.
  2. Introduce the Main Character Right Away!
    • Who are they? What do they care about (motivation)? Why do I care about them?
  3. Introduce Character’s Situation
    • This must be something that we’ve all found ourselves in and can relate to. Introduce this immediately! This makes the reader feel connected to the character, “Yup, I’ve been there.”
  4. Introduce What’s Different
    • This can be about how the character acts in the situation that the reader might not have thought of OR how the situation forces the character to act in a way that the reader would wonder what they would do
    • This lets the reader know what kind of character the main character is and how they differ from them
  5. Reveal Every Mystery Right Away Except for One
    • Don’t leave the reader guessing about where they are, the motivations of the character, or anything else. This is a short story, and your reader will start off being confused and staying confused until you answer all their questions.
    • While you should reveal everything upfront, it’s a good idea to leave only ONE THING a mystery. This will help keep the reader’s attention as they want to figure out what it is.

Now, this list isn’t the be-all and end-all of short story introductions, but it is a good start to keep you on track.

So, what are you waiting for? Take a short story you’ve written and compare the introduction to this checklist and see what matches up.

Happy Writing!

Finished your first manuscript?

killer queryYou need to know how to write a killer query letter!

  • Learn the 3 step process
  • Know how to format your query in a professional manner
  • Read examples of other killer queries
  • Plus tips & tricks to get ahead & more! 


Short Story: Jackie the Pokébaker

Jackie the Pokébaker

Jackie dumped her sneaker upside down, revealing a hole. A pebble fell out.

Ugh, I can’t afford new shoes!

She checked the Pokémon watch on her wrist. Two minutes past three.

Crap I’m gonna get shit.

Quickly she tied her laces and hurried her steps as the faded bakery sign came into view. Seeing that sign was always the worst part of her day.

If I’d had graduated culinary school, I wouldn’t have to work in this dump!

Silently she crept to the side door and peered in through the glass window. Ben, her nasty manager wasn’t at the counter. She blew at her bangs in a sigh of relief. As quickly as she could, she dove to the back, but a sneery voice stopped her in her tracks.

“Jacquoline,” it snapped.

Jack’s shoulders drooped.

“You’re late, and there’s a huge long list of things to do. This is the second time this week…” blah blah blah.

Jackie tuned out as Ben continued his blabbing. She looked at his angry face and almost felt pity for him, if he wasn’t reaming her out. She couldn’t imagine why he’d stayed here for the past fifteen years. No wonder he was so anal all the time. This cheap, franchise-run bakery clearly wasn’t her dream job either, but it was the best thing at the moment. As soon as something better came along, she’d be outta here. Maybe Ben thought this too, but something better never came along.

“Are you listening to me?”

Jackie averted her eyes. “Yes, Ben.” No matter how much pity she felt, she really couldn’t stand him. Plus he had a dumb combover.

Hastily she scurried to the employee washroom and changed out of her snazzy Megachamp t-shirt and into her dull baker’s uniform: black pants, black shirt, black hairnet.

Day in and day out, Jackie spent most of her waking hours at the bakery. It was good enough to pay the bills, but tough on the spirit. Every day she’d arrive home, tired, sweaty, and covered in flour. Her only relief came through the couple of hours she had to herself when she’d play with her cat, Snorlax, and watch Pokémon reruns.

Even though it was a crappy job, occasionally she got to work on the one thing she truly loved, though she kept it a secret.


Jackie brushed her hair away and glanced anxiously at the clock. 9:58pm. Two minutes until Ben’s shift was over, then she’d have the place to herself.

“Don’t doddle with those orders, Jacquoline! I want you out of here as soon as possible. Taking extra time costs extra money!”

Ben slammed the bakery door on his way out.

“Taking extra time costs extra money!” Jackie mimicked in a high pitched voice. Quickly she finished tomorrow’s orders. She couldn’t wait to get started.

Jumping into the employee washroom, she changed back into her Megachamp t-shirt and slipped on her Pokémon wrist watch. She winked at her reflection in the mirror. Time to get to work.

Rolling out a tail and twisting out some blobby flames, she stuck them to the body of her doughy creation and popped it in the oven. She set her Pokémon watch for 20 minutes, just enough time to watch one episode on her phone.

Ding! She threw open the oven and took out her fresh and steamy creation.

The flame tail hung a little lopsidedly. Charizard’s hands had merged with his body and he wore a dopey expression.

Not quite perfect, but he’s alright. She glanced at the schedule on the wall. Another night shift tomorrow. Excellent!

“What’s that?”

The voice startled her. Ben stood in the doorway with a load of paperwork under his arm.

“Uhh… it’s Charizard.”

“Chari-what?” Ben slammed the paperwork on the table.

“Charizard,” Jackie squeaked.

“I don’t care what you call it, was it part of tomorrow’s orders?”

A lump formed in Jackie’s throat.

“I asked you a question, Jacquoline,”


“This is unacceptable!” Ben picked up the Charizard bread and slammed it in the garbage bin. “Company policy is very strict about using ingredients for personal use. Finish cleaning up and we’ll talk about this tomorrow.” Ben picked up the paperwork and stormed from the kitchen. “And change back into your standard employee uniform!” he added, slamming the door on his way out.

Jackie just stood there, staring at the broken Charizard bread in the trash.


The phone rang. Jackie pushed Snorlax off her stomach and sat up.


It was Ben. He wanted her to come in an hour early. Jackie slumped back in bed and covered her face with a pillow. It had a picture of Nurse Joy on it.

“Oh Snorlax.” She stroked his black fur as he purred. “I really need a different job. I don’t wanna end up like Ben.”


Jackie’s hand hesitated at the door. She bunched it into a fist and knocked three times.

“Come in.”

Ben’s office was hardly closet-sized. He looked a bit silly cramped up at the tiny desk with the tiny computer.

“I’ve reviewed the tapes and it’s clear this was not a single abuse.” Ben pushed the screen so Jackie could see it. Several screenshots covered it. Instantly she recognized a Jigglypuff, Bulbasaur, Psyduck, and Blastoise. While she was impressed with her Pokébreads, especially the Jigglypuff, Ben’s stern expression made her heart sink.

“No more of this foolish waste of ingredients. You’re lucky I’m not firing you. I’m switching you to day shifts where you can be watched.”


“Yes, that’s right. Plus, I’ll be taking $50 from your next paycheck to cover the cost of the extra ingredients.”

“$50? What? That’s so unreasonable!”

“It’s completely reasonable”

Jackie’s face flushed red. “You know what? I’m sick of this place. The conditions are so crappy, it’s not even worth the money.”

Ben put a hand to his chest, shocked. “Jacquoline! The conditions are…”

“And you’re a terrible manager, I quit!”

She threw her uniform at Ben and turned on her heel.


“And I think your hair is stupid!”


Jackie spent the rest of the day on her couch, eating ice cream and watching reruns of old Pokémon episodes. Snorlax licked his paws by her feet.

“Snorlax, maybe I shouldn’t have quit… where am I going to get a job now? No one will take a culinary dropout.”

Snorlax hissed.

“No, you’re right. I deserve much better than that bakery dump anyway. I’ll find something awesome.”

“Yay!” Ash coincidentally said from the TV. It was the episode where Ash’s Butterfree falls in love. Jackie switched the TV off. She was done being a bystander to her life, she wouldn’t take another crappy job and let 15 years creep up on her like Ben.

Snorlax bounded after her as she headed for the kitchen. She threw the cupboard open and the cat jumped onto her shoulder. Together they looked at the big bag of flour.

“This is all I need.”


The sun peeked through her window and cast its light across her tired face. Her Pokémon watch read six in the morning. Around her were dozens of failed attempts. The seconds ticked by and Jackie yawned. The Pokémon theme music played as the credits rolled on the screen of her phone.


Snorlax woke from his nap in a mound of flour.

Jackie trembled from either lack of sleep, excitement, or both, she wasn’t sure. She placed her hands on the oven door and slowly opened it.

A squeal escaped her lips. Snorlax perked his ears. Staring back at her was a masterpiece.

A zigzag tale stood perfectly in place. The arms held up on their own. The red cherries made for splendid rosy cheeks. The cute expression that smiled at her contagiously crept over Jackie’s own face. She punched her hands into two oven mitts and pulled it from the oven. Even the oven door squeaked with a “Pika!” as she closed it. It was a perfect. She had never been happier, but also more exhausted.

She snapped a quick photo of her creation and uploaded it to instagram, before passing out in her bed.


Snorlax pawed at her face.

“Ugh, Snorlax, you hungry? What time is it?”

She reached for her Pokémon watch.

“5pm? Holy cow, I overslept. Well, it’s not like I have anywhere to be today.”

The blinking light on her phone caught her attention and she grabbed it from her nightstand. She swiped the screen. Her eyes lit up.

459 likes on instagram. “Snorlax… we’re famous!”

Her quivering thumb quickly scrolled through the comments.

“Listen to this!” She grabbed the cat and hugged him close.

“Where can I order one?”

“I’ll pay you anything to make one for me!”

“You should start a business selling these, I’d eat one every day!”

Snorlax squirmed in her grasp.

“I know just what to do,” Jackie said, holding the cat in front of her face. “I’m gonna bake them all.”