I write personal stories for my own blog, and while they are not commercial, they are an example of how I use stakes, word-painting, and drama to create an emotional connection. Here are few opening paragraphs. You can click the links at the end of each opening to read the rest of the stories.

1. Do you know how this feels?

I’m seven years old, and the numbers in my math workbook are starting to swim in front of my face. I look up.

Everybody else’s head is down, including my teacher’s. Her name is Mrs. Kneff (pronounced Kuh-neff), and she is red-haired, portly, and sweet. She sits at her desk and cannot see me in my seat, squirming—no, vibrating—my arm in the air, straight as a pencil, my hand waving wildly.

I have to go. Now.

An eternity passes. My teeth are tingling. My left hand is holding on for dear life. “Yes, Cory?”

I’m out of my seat, bolting toward the door. “Can I go to the bathroom?”

“Can you wait five minutes?”

I turn to her to say no, but I don’t need to.

Read the rest here.

2. Do You Remember Your First Lunchbox?

I remember mine: a metal GI Joe box with a plastic white tab to hold it shut and a plastic yellow thermos inside. On the front, back, and sides, a battle scene in which members of GI Joe used machine guns and tanks and rocket launchers against their enemy combatants, Cobra.

Go Joe!

Each school day, I pulled my GI Joe lunchbox from my locker outside Mrs. Jensen’s classroom. Then I got in line with my best buddies. I remember their names with the same feeling of nostalgia I have for the pictures in *Goodnight Moon*: Chris, Randy, Mindy, Patti.

I would have loved to sit with them every day. But our principal, Mr. Sloan, had some very progressive ideas about lunch.

Read the rest here.

3. I Was a Giant Choir Nerd

I’m eleven years old. The sun has set, it’s cold outside, and I’m in my elementary school music classroom. Like the other boys in my grade, I’m grabbing a red bow tie and cummerbund from a plastic bag. Unlike the other boys in my grade, I know how to put them on. I know how to put them on because I am a choir kid, a certified music nerd.

On this night, I’ve convinced my music teacher to let me sing a solo in front of my entire school. I’ve chosen “O Holy Night”, the version with the extra-high note, two As above middle C. My greatest hope is to get the sort of applause usually reserved for my nemesis: Paul F.

Paul and I sing in a community boy choir together, and he’s the only untouchably great musician I know. He’s a rich kid with a soprano voice the likes of which I’ve only heard on recordings. When I was eight and all the choir nerds went out for the lead role in Oliver, most of us were nervous and timid. We slouched and squeaked-out half-hearted versions of Oliver’s signature song, “Where Is Love?” But Paul’s audition was like one of those America’s Got Talent moments where the judges drop their jaws and the teenage girls burst into tears.

I wanted to be Paul F.

And that December night, after three years of working and practicing and taking piano lessons...

Read the rest here.

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