What’s the Problem?

My office receives many submissions with the hypothesis that a protagonist thinks s/he’s living the perfect life until it falls apart. This is a great premise!

What is a perfect life? Most of us have an idea of what the world thinks of as an ideal life and what seems to be the “perfect” life we can live as Christians. Therefore, the reader doesn’t need to spend much time living the protagonist’s perfect life before being presented with the problem the story seeks to address. 

Allow me to submit a beginning I wrote to a book I doubt I’ll finish:

Capri smiled into the mirror, admiring her veneers. Whitening toothpaste and her electric toothbrush helped her maintain a flawless appearance for her popular – and profitable – podcasts.

She’d just finished lining her lips in fuschia with her Yves St. Laurent Dessin Des Levres pencil when her daughter, Haisley, interrupted. 

“I’ve got news.”

“Let me guess. Your first college acceptance came in.”

Haisley shook her head. “No. I’m not going to college.”


“Mom!” Dior hollered from the foyer. “It’s for you!”

Capri hadn’t even heard the doorbell ring. She lifted her index finger toward Haisley. “Hold that thought.”

Careful to stay in the previously drawn lines, Capri colored her lips with a stick of Tom Ford’s Pretty Persuasive. Then, rushing through the owner’s suite, she noticed a folded paper with her name on it in her husband’s script on the bed. The letter would have to wait too.

“Who could be calling this early?” She navigated down one of the two curved staircases to greet her unwanted visitor.

A man in a business suit awaited. “Capri Nowland?”


He handed her a manilla envelope. “You have been served.”

In 185 words, the reader has a sense of Capri’s life and has learned about three problems. We know where the book is headed. Either the reader is hooked or not hooked. It’s all about the reader.

8 Responses to What’s the Problem?

  1. Andrew Budek-Schmeisser October 27, 2021 at 3:19 am #

    Breath is hard to come by
    from tumours choking me;
    working on a plane I’ll never fly,
    and I just blew out my knee.
    Writing career’s in tatters
    and brings no income stream,
    but nothing of this stuff matters
    for I’m living, now, the dream
    of good days passed beneath the shade
    of God’s bright mighty wing,
    and in this place I’ve got it made
    and do not need a thing,
    for in letting go achievement’s pace
    I fall to rest in Love and Grace.

    • Shirlee Abbott October 27, 2021 at 4:49 am #

      “I fall to rest in Love and Grace.” What a beautiful phrase, Andrew!

  2. Virginia Sue Grahasm October 27, 2021 at 5:31 am #

    I’m hooked. The crowning touch–amid chaos–she finished filling in her lipstick.

  3. Damon J. Gray October 27, 2021 at 5:39 am #


    What happened next?

  4. Loretta Eidson October 27, 2021 at 7:27 am #

    Perfect example, but not a so perfect life for Capri. Thanks, Tamela.

  5. Janet Pierce October 27, 2021 at 7:44 am #

    I enjoyed the intro to the story you doubt you’ll ever write. It hooked me!
    Great example.

  6. Patti Jo Moore October 27, 2021 at 10:23 am #

    Oh my goodness!! I hope you will decide to finish that story, Tamela – – readers would love to know more! (Yes, you hooked me, LOL). 🙂

    Thanks so much for sharing this with us.
    Blessings, Patti Jo

  7. Roberta Sarver October 27, 2021 at 10:55 am #

    This beginning hooked me too. Please consider finishing it someday.

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