Jake stood back, a little to one side of the left-hand margin. It paid to be cautious these days. He studied the page carefully, ready for action if it was necessary.
He risked taking a few steps closer. It looked like an ordinary paragraph from here. But these days stories started quite fast. That opening paragraph could contain anything from a poisonous letter in a non-descript envelope to a whole cadre of suicidal terrorists.
Jake wasn’t fooled easily. It looked like an innocent paragraph, maybe even containing some scene-setting description.
But you couldn’t be too careful.
Jake was – as far as he knew – the protagonist. But that wasn’t as reassuring as it once was. Not since the fashion for killing off otherwise essential central characters had become popular. Readers liked that sort of thing. They didn’t like their fictional characters getting too heroic, not these days.
Jake felt around his body. He was not carrying a gun. So at least that ruled out some of the more action-orientated thrillers.
Or did it?
It could be a mystery?
It could be a whodunit. He could be the victim. The murderer could hide in that paragraph, behind a convenient descriptive sentence. Jake could wander in there, past some description of the gazebo – whatever that was, and be bludgeoned to death with a dibber by a crazed gardener.
It could be a romance; it was hard to tell from just an opening paragraph.
Jake ran a hand through his hair. It was thick, wavy. He glanced down. His body didn’t look too bad. Perhaps it was erotica. However, his clothes didn’t look expensive enough for a sexy billionaire to wear… so maybe not erotica, then.
He ought to go down there, get stuck into the opening paragraph. It was time to find out what was going on before the writer had other ideas, or – god forbid – got any literary pretensions.
The last thing Jake wanted was to end up in one of those literary novels where nothing ever happened. If he wasn’t careful, he could end up on a reading list, or in some book club discussion. He’d heard what they said about fictional characters in those book clubs. He didn’t want his private life discussed like that.
He had his pride.
As least, he thought, he had his pride. Pride was problematic, though. It was a character flaw sometimes – too much pride. That paragraph could be hiding his downfall.
Anyway, time to get on with it.
Jake took a breath as he approached the opening paragraph. It didn’t seem that big a paragraph. There couldn’t be too many surprises.
Jake made his way past the two brief opening sentences and felt himself relax. The sentences didn’t say much beyond a brief description of this city street around midnight. It was raining though, which was a bit of a worry.
Bad things happen in the rain.
Then out of the next few sentences, a figure appeared at the end of the street. Jake readied himself.
The figure raised a hand towards Jake. It was then, at the sound of the gunshot that killed him, that Jake discovered he was only a minor character after all.
‘’Oh, bugger,’ he croaked as he fell to the bottom of the rain-soaked paragraph and died in its final sentence.