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At Least...

Exercise #109 : "At Least..."

In his Fictional International essay "To Begin, To Begin," Clark Blaise writes: "The most interesting thing about a story is not its climax or denouement - both dated terms - not even its style or characterization. It is its beginning, its first paragraph, often its first sentence... the story seeks its beginning, the story many times is its beginning, amplified."

Opening a piece with "At least" is to open in medias res, that is, in the middle of the action. For example:

At least the cake was white.


At least they approved of the groom's gerbil.

The exercise is this: Pick one of these lines (or one of your own, beginning with "at least") and continue writing.


For this exercise, I decided to pair it with an image prompt. I headed on over to Google Search, typed in "at least,"and rifled through the first page of pictures. What I got was this:

So I guess we'll go with that! :) Let's begin, shall we?

"At least we're not all dead," said the petite blonde girl who was twisting fresh blood out of her skirt.

"Right," the large man sitting next to her said. He was entirely still with his eyes closed, and he was covered in dirt and blood.

The two of them were huddled around a small bonfire along with several other people who were equally as soiled as they.

"Of course," she said, "we are a bit worse for the wear, but I bet we'll be back up and running by tomorrow afternoon."

The man took a deep breath and opened his eyes. "Right," he said.

"At any rate," she continued, "we're alive. That's all that matters."

The young girl decided that her skirt was dry enough to leave alone, so she dropped it. It fell heavily to her ankles and made a thump sound.

One of the people sitting across the fire from them stirred, a slight sob falling from their lips.

"Tsk," said the girl. "What do you tell someone who just lost everything?" She began to bundle her hair behind her head.

"Nothing," said the man. He pulled a cigarette box out of his pocket and lit up.

The girl dropped the golden tendrils. "Huh?"

"You say nothing."

"You can't just say nothing." She waved a hand in front of her face.

"Sure you can."

Turning her face away, the little girl said, "If I had just lost everything, I'd like someone to talk to."

The man took a long drag on the cigarette, put it out on the ground beside him and leaned forward. "You did just lose everything."

5 minutes up.

Hmm... I'm not sure how I feel about that one. I want to know what happened. That's one thing that frustrates me about these exercises. I sit here and write stream of consciousness for 5 minutes (or at least I try to do that...), and I come up with all of these new and interesting ideas! hah I guess that's the point, though. I'll have to keep this one in mind for later.

Did anyone else do this exercise? What did you come up with?



Beth said…
That is very interesting indeed. I am curious to see what happens. Good job!
JujuJuniper said…
What does it mean when you automatically think of Fallout 3 or World War Z whenever I read this sort of thing?

I am intrigued with this story, though. You should keep writing it. :)

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