Those of you who frequent the Eloisa James/Julia Quinn Bulletin Board know all about drabbles. They’re mini-stories of not more than 500 words, with a specific quote inserted spoken by a character. Each week there’s a new quote and a new challenge. I got hooked as a regular visitor on the board once I wrote my first drabble, and lots of good things have come from that first attempt: FanLit, online friendship and writing support, reading tips, prizes, this blog (I hope you think the latter is a good thing!).

I haven’t been drabbling much lately, because I’m trying to write for real, and sometimes the quotes don’t inspire me. But I’ve always tried to use them in a unique way, and I couldn’t resist this one:

Parting is all we know of heaven and all we need of hell. ~Emily Dickinson

What do you think of when you read that? Yeah, me too. The lovers are separating, perhaps never to see each other again. Dickinson is my favorite poet, and in those 13 words she has encapsulated anguish and longing. And knowing Emily, in the context of the poem she’s probably talking about death, anyway, but I haven’t looked it up.

So, did I write a moving, angst-laced drabble this week? Nope. I took that quote and poor Emily is spinning in her grave. The challenge for me is to see exactly how much fun I can have, turning the expected into the unexpected.

Hair Today, Groom Tomorrow

Sandra slipped the plastic apron around her last customer of the day, Rick Somebody. The salon just used people’s first names when they signed in, and she’d never seen him before. She’d remember. Her hands shook a little as she fastened the Velcro around his nape. Man, he was hot. The temperature in the shop must’ve gone up ten degrees when he walked in, not to mention Sandra’s hormone levels. He was tall, dark and handsome. Chiseled cheekbones. Full lips. A killer smile. And his jeans fit him just right.

So, his hair was receding a little. Well, a lot. She could fix that. Put some layers in. Try out the new product the UPS guy brought in this morning. She was very good with her hands. And other parts of her, too, although she hadn’t been around the block in a long while.

“So, what would you like me to do?” she asked, her voice ridiculously breathy. Her eyes met his in the mirror.

“Take it off.”

“E-excuse me?”

Rick grinned at her. “My hair. It’s time. Bruce Willis and me—parting is all we know of heaven and all we need of hell. There’s no point trying. Give me a Britney, Sandy.”

So, he’d read the framed certificate at her station and jumped to conclusions. “It’s Sandra.”

“You look like a Sandy. Cute.”

Sandra blushed. “Thanks, I guess. I’ll tell my mom and dad they made a mistake.”

“No they didn’t. Looks like they got it just right to me.” He leaned back, looking relaxed while she plugged in the clippers.

“Are you absolutely sure?”

“Look, Sandy, I’m a guy who knows his own mind. When I say something, I mean it.”

“O-okay.” She got to work. This wouldn’t take long at all. Which was a shame, because working on Rick’s head was a heady experience. He smelled so good, clean with a little waft of mint.

“Want some?”

“What?” she asked, startled, almost nicking his ear. She sure did, whatever it was he had.

“A Lifesaver, Sandy.” He was holding a roll out to her.

“Uh, sure.” She put the razor down and took one. What do you think?”

“I think I want to take you out to dinner. If you don’t have plans.”

“I’m free.” She saw his bad-boy grin in the mirror and set him straight. “But not cheap.”

“You look worth every penny, Sandy.” Rick rubbed his bare head. “I can get used to this. But I don’t think I’ll ever get used to you. Is it kosher to tip the woman you’re going to marry?”

“You’re crazy!”

“Am I? I mean what I say, Sandy. I knew the minute I sat down in the chair this was it.”

“I think we should have dinner first. Then we’ll see.” Sandra picked up the broom, feeling like Cinderella, before and after. Prince Charming looked good bald, too. She wondered what her last name was going to be happily ever after.

Granted, it’s not perfect. I did it in about 20 minutes. And if I were Sandy, I’d be very afraid. Drabbling has reminded me to take nothing at face value. That sometimes when you are writing in the hero’s POV, it really should be in the heroine’s. Flip stuff around. Take a chance.

I recently got this feedback from a contest I finaled in: The first page presents a well-worn plot device. To hook me into the story, I need to read something different, unexpected. I’m wondering how I finaled now, but no matter. *g* What do you do to set yourself apart from the pack, either in your writing or real life? What’s the hook to your book?