Chris Gardner

The joys of self-publishing.

Writing Challenge–Write a paragraph beginning with ‘It was a dark and stormy night’.


I’ve just started writing short stories again and, in the pursuit of a topic, I was trying to think of a random first line. Years ago I was in a class for short story writing and the teacher used to give us a line, usually before our coffee break. It was great fun to see what different stories everyone came up with, starting with that same line. Trying to think of a line myself, that old favourite from the 19th century, ‘It was a dark and stormy night’ kept popping into my head, so I thought okay, why not? I wrote what I think is not a bad story and I thought it would be fun to see how many of you would like to join in the challenge. Maybe just a paragraph but don’t be surprised if it turns into a story. Here’s mine. (Search my archived posts for more writing challenges.)


It was a dark and stormy night . . . Lorna pushed the delete button and chuckled out loud. I really am getting desperate, she thought. She pushed her chair back from the desk and stretched her arms above her head.  Definitely time for a coffee break. It wasn’t dark and neither was it stormy. It was late morning and the sun was shining brilliantly. That was a large part of the problem, she thought, as she topped up the kettle and rinsed her coffee cup. She needed dark and stormy. Who could write on such a glorious day? Her novel was meant to be full of horror, with evil and a good deal of gore thrown in for good measure. Trixie weaved himself around and through Lorna’s legs, looking for attention, and she bent down and picked him up. “I’m not finished though, Trix. Just because I’m not at the computer doesn’t mean I can sit down with you for the rest of the day.”

She did sit down with him, though, on their favourite armchair by the big window overlooking the lake. He curled up on her lap and she sipped her coffee, staring vacantly out the window and stroking the big tomcat with her spare hand. Trixie had turned up on her doorstep as a young cat—not a kitten exactly, but not full grown either. More like a teenager, Lorna told everyone. For some reason she’d thought he was female, perhaps because, once she’d cleaned him up and brushed his long, matted ginger fur, he was just so pretty. So she’d called him Trixie and when he’d turned out to be male, well, he wasn’t worried, so why would she be?

Lorna’s life had taken a sudden turn for the better a year ago when her partner had decided to fly the coop. Their relationship had become—not violent—but certainly fiery.  Lorna admitted she had a tendency to take things too far sometimes; she was hard to please, a perfectionist, and was better off living alone. She and Trixie got along well. On the spur of the moment she’d decided to quit her job as well as the flat they’d shared and look for a house in the country. She was only a couple of years short of pension age but she cashed in her super and some investments she had and bought a brand new computer and a nice little cottage; she had enough to live on for a couple of years if she was careful. She was going to be a professional writer, just as she’d always wanted.

Everything was set up, but her life now was too easy. She was too content. She wanted to write about murder and mayhem but the sun was shining, the birds were singing and she couldn’t, just couldn’t, think murder and mayhem on such a day. There was a knock on the door and she put down a reluctant cat. It was very unusual to get visitors out here in the summer. It was a cottage meant for the snow season and somewhat isolated in the summer, which was why Lorna chose it. She wanted to be alone while she waited for the inspiration she knew would come. Eventually. A young man stood at the door, car keys dangling in his hand. He smiled, showing sparkling white teeth; he was well dressed and nice-looking, with neatly trimmed hair. So Lorna ignored the little niggling warning bell in her brain and said of course he could come in and use the phone. His car had broken down a kilometre away and hers was the first house he’d come across.

“I can’t tell you how relieved I am, Miss . . . Mrs?”

“Lorna will do fine.”

He held his hand out. “I’m Pete. Pete Woodross. I just came up for a look around. On holidays, you know, down in the village.”

She nodded. “Not much to do around here in the summer.” “

You’re telling me!” He looked around the bright and airy room. “Nice place you’ve got here though.”

She nodded again. “I like it.” She gestured to the phone on the wall beside the little entrance table. “The phone’s over there. You don’t have a mobile?”

He took it out of his pocket to show her. “Yes, for all the use it is. No reception up here at all.”

“Really? Maybe you should change providers. Mine seems to work all right.” She reached her hand out but he put the phone back in his pocket. “You go ahead and make your call.” She still held her half empty cup in her hand and felt obliged to ask, “Would you like a coffee . . . or tea?”

He grinned. “I’d kill for a cup of tea, thanks.”

She tipped her now lukewarm coffee out and made them both a cup of tea; she put them on the kitchen table and then got the tin of cookies out of the pantry and put a few on a plate. She could hear him talking on the phone in the foyer.

“Hello. Yes. I’m a member.” He said a rather long number and then gave the street name nearby where he said his car was. Then, “An hour? But . . . surely . . . It’s not that isolated! How busy can they be?”

Lorna sat at the table and at last he came out and joined her. “How did you go?” she asked.

“Oh, okay,” he answered, his mouth full of homemade choc chip cookie. “Be a while though. At least an hour.” He looked around the room again. “Mind if I hang out here? I won’t get in your way.”

She frowned, not knowing what to say.

“I could just sit there and watch TV, if that’s okay? Or read a book? Got any good books?”

She nodded slowly. “Probably. What sort of books do you like?”

He flashed his teeth again, now slightly less white, with the remains of the chocolate chips showing here and there between them. “Murder’s my thing. Probably not yours though, I’m guessing. You look more like the romance type.”

Lorna shook her head vigorously. “Definitely not. I’m far too level-headed for that; seen far too much of life.”

He nodded slowly, looking at her carefully. “That’s good,” he said quietly. “Excellent.”

For some reason disturbed, Lorna got up hastily and went to the bookshelf in the lounge area partitioned off from the kitchen only by a wall unit. The young man followed close behind her but she didn’t look back. Not even when she felt his breath on her neck did she turn around. Instead she closed her eyes, not wanting to see the bright airy room, not wanting to look at Trixie, who still sat on the armchair, watching his mistress and the visitor. As the young man’s hands went around her neck and squeezed the life from her it started raining outside and everything became black; there was thunder too, or was it just in her head? No matter. Her last thought before she lost consciousness was ‘It was a dark and stormy night’.

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Author: cmsgardnerblog

I'm a writer of fiction and non-fiction, for teens and adults. I live in Central Victoria, Australia and my books are available at

51 thoughts on “Writing Challenge–Write a paragraph beginning with ‘It was a dark and stormy night’.

  1. It’s very good! I’m not a mystery/murder stories person, but I like this one. If I was to write a story starting with the sentence you suggested, I’m sure I’d come up with something entirely different, as you said. Anyway, I’d end it with her killing him, as I’m for empowering women…
    TY for sharing.

  2. This is a bit longer than a paragraph?……here’s mine…. It was a dark and stormy night, the best kind of night to hunt my next victim, I thought to myself logging on to Linkedin. Social networks are full of people willing to befriend a stranger and if you are a writer, like myself, It is so easy to find a local, a newcomer that is willing to not only to chat but visit for any free advice. Who would ever suspect? Is there really any better way to be able to describe the music of screams and the ever changing colour of blood under different lighting? Anyone want to join my network? .

    I thought this was a challenge that you posted on Linkedin.

  3. Well THIS was a nice short story to stumble upon. Thanks for sharing it. 🙂 I personally would have voted for Trixie to do the killing… 😉

  4. So very real! I think I’m glad I don’t live in an isolated cottage!

  5. It was a dark and stormy night, or so it seemed.

    Truth is the ‘dark and stormy’ was the reaction of my inner self to the insensitivity of our erstwhile mailman, who once again defied the laws of physics by crushing beyond recognition an enormous parcel into my mailbox at the street. I think he must have spent all of five minutes applying brute strength, a substantial ‘degree of glee’ and a couldn’t care less approach for the integrity of my mailbox design. It was as if his mainstay approach to life was to defy reason, oppress his inner joy and give insanity and willfulness precedence over everything good we mortals cherish in our daily lives.

    I’ve often wondered if hiding behind my mailman’s churlish, impenetrable attitude lies a sensitive soul afraid to show his refined, tactful and compassionate inner self. Or perhaps he no longer cherishes the ‘gift of giving’ the mail each day, but rather views it as the perfect medium for a try-out role as Wannabee the Destroyer in the movie Armageddon.

    I used a brain surgeon approach to begin delicately extracting from my mailbox what was left of a Crystal Decanter I had ordered. I pondered for a moment if the death penalty applies to the destruction of crystal decanters. At the very least I thought I might introduce Jimmy our Mailman to a new life as a self-propelled Priority Overnight Express Package when I next spy him in my street, as usual braking and accelerating violently between mailboxes with no regard for his vehicle. A suitable response to my dark and stormy mood.

    As luck would have it my next door neighbor walked by me at the mailbox, told me sarcastically that he ‘was sorry for my loss’ but not for the monstrosity of an outhouse he’d just built against our adjoining fence. He is presently in the OR recovering from what appears to be an accidental head on collision with my crystal decanter which suddenly released itself from my mailbox as a result of my increased fervor in attempting to extract it.

    The sun began to shine on my dark and stormy mood.

  6. As one of the readers I must say that ” L’histoire est curieux!”

  7. It was dark and stormy night; I had just missed my bus and was waiting for the next one. I didn’t know when the next bus will come or if there was a next one at all. I was desperate to leave this cold wretched place; there was no sign of another living thing for miles around. Then, I saw this figure moving in the mist, coming towards me. The figure – a man in his mid-forties, wearing a worn out hat and long coat – stopped near the bench, barely visible under the flickering streetlight. He slowly turned his bearded face towards me and said in a hollow voice, “Will you listen to my story?”

    I could now see this man’s face in the gloomy light; his eyes were glowing red, his face expressionless. “Yeah sure, but who are you buddy?”
    The man looked at me and then sat on the bench, his head bowed down; slowly lifting his head the man fixed his gaze on him.

    “My name is Devil, Diablo or you can call me by any of the thousand names that I have. I sit here today both proud and heartbroken. Proud, because I stood my ground and did what I believed in. Heartbroken, because I have to turn against everything I loved and have to leave all that I have gained after millions of years of struggle and hard work. I had to indulge in things that I never wanted to and I had to turn against those that I loved the most. And the worst part is that it is not over yet. I don’t know how much longer I have to go through this. I really don’t”.

    “You may not find my story interesting but rather disgusting. That is what everyone thinks of me, maybe because they don’t understand my pain. But why should they? Why should anyone try to understand their enemy? Yet I do, I really do. And you are not my enemy. Yes I am fighting against you, but you are not my enemy, believe me you are not. No one is”.

    “I must warn you this is not a beautiful story. This is a disgusting and disturbing story of a person doing disgusting things. But maybe, just maybe, you will be able to see beyond all this and catch a glimpse of who I really am. That is my hope, my only hope”.

    I was looking at him – Diablo or whatever he was – my mouth wide open, still recovering from the shock of enduring this unexpected monologue. Before I could say or do anything I heard the bus coming. Yes, the bus was here, I grabbed my bag, ran towards the bus, signaling it to stop. The bus slowed down and stopped besides the pavement. As soon as the door opened I quickly leaped inside and was on my way home – at last.

  8. I loved the story. What initially caught my eye was the reference to, “it was a dark and stormy night”, I laughed out loud, primarily because I think I took the same class way back in the day.
    I think you should expand the story, loved the imagery. Curious as to what happed to Trixie, just kidding.

    Be Well
    RK McLean

    • Trixie went feral–became enormous and spent the rest of his life seeking revenge on Pete. When he caught up with him he was already in jail and Trix became a happy jail house cat. But every morning Pete woke up with deep and bloody scratches all over his face.

  9. It was a dark and stormy night, and I couldn’t get my typewriter to make the “ding” sound, when reaching the end of a line. Sure, I could type and it wasn’t the thunder and wind rattling my windows that distracted me. She hadn’t called me yet. And because she ignored me more six months, no words made it through the traffic in my head. But then, there was the package–from her father, that came six days before the last time I spoke with her. Having been challenged in liking her dad, I was afraid to open it.

    …Add on what you like.

  10. Pingback: Response to Writing Prompt: “It Was a Dark and Stormy Night” | rcostellowrites

  11. This is very good, Chris. It made me think about the American ABC-TV drama “Revenge” which will return for another season in September, as well as the old classic “Misty” starring Clint Eastwood–a dark film indeed. I could visualize your story perfectly, the way I’d see it on film or television, even stage. Society likes to stereotype single women with cats, but it works for this story since cats are such window”look out” creatures…on the prowl and curious…and the story is sounding like a “cat tale”. If only that cat could describe Lorna’s attacker. Wow-wee! ;D

    My attempt at a lead goes like this: It was a dark and stormy night, and Richard Billings along with his son Ryan had just pulled into his two-car garage townhouse after leaving a Friday football game that had become rained out. Ryan was an excellent kicker and linebacker for William Gates Technical High School. He dreamed someday of going pro while pursuing an architecture degree. His dad depended on him and he on his dad for friendship and guidance. Tonight would be no different for their bond. Tonight would test their manhood and their spiritual consciousness.

    Well Ryan, you almost got through a completed game until that lightning struck the field. “Yeah, dad…(interrupted by a noise inside the house, they both pause and give each other a spooked look). (Whispering now) Did you hear talking?” “Wait here Ryan while I check something out”. “Heck naw, I’m comin’, too”.

  12. Thanks for stopping by my blog! I enjoyed your short story. I thought the setup was a great way to fulfill the dark and stormy requirement. I like the stranger at the door. I wanted to scream “Don’t answer the door!”

  13. Love the way you’ve used the writer’s besetting sin of procrastination (making that cup of coffee, sitting down with the cat, anything to put off writing a bit longer) as the hook to hang your story on, before the darkness closes in – and even then the reader’s not sure for a bit whether it’s leading to romance or horror. Good story!

    • Thanks Helen. Probably put a bit of myself in there! I’ve even been known to do housework as a diversion, but now there’s so much I can waste time on right here I don’t need to leave my chair to procrastinate . . .

  14. I love it 🙂

  15. It was a dark and stormy night. Jess decided to go up on the roof for some fresh air. She had been couped-up in the lab far too long and desperately needed to get outside, even if it was just on the roof. She grabbed a raincoat from the closet, a pair of binoculars, and her favorite semi-automatic .410 gauge shotgun. Eddy was asleep in the next room and Tom, Cindy, Maxine, and Wolf were sleeping soundly in their makeshift accomodations in the break room. Wolf wagged his tail as Jess passed him. “Shhhh”, she whispered, “I won’t be gone long.”

    She looked through the small window in the stairway door to make sure that it was safe, then quickly unlocked the door with her key. Once in the stairway she immediately relocked the door. She had previously turned off the motion sensors between the lab and the roof so as not to wake anyone. “I doubt that they will coming down from the roof tonight,” she thought. Zs weren’t known for their climbing ability.

    She quickly climbed the several flights of stairs to the roof door. She looked out the small window, but it was too dark to see anything. “Never been a problem before,” she thought. She turned on the flashlight and laser sight, which were mounted below the barrel of her shotgun, unlocked the door and silently stepped outside.

    The wind was cold and damp blowing in from the Gulf. The salt smell of the sea was full in her nostrils, clean and fresh, unlike the filtered and re-filtered air of the lab. She scanned the roof with the flash light. “All clear,” she noted mentally. The door opened onto the roof just under the backup generator platform. At this elevation the possibility of flooding was nil and there were no known hurricane force winds that could damage them. The generators were well anchored. She stepped out from under the generator platform and looked up to see the full moon “sailing” through the low scudding clouds. Every so often a wave of light rain washed over her, pushed on by the wind.

    Jess walked over to the edge of the railing and scanned the beach with the binoculars. Nothing. She scanned the streets surrounding the lab building, following them back to the beach. Nothing. “Wonder where they are sleeping tonight?” she mused. The fact that Zs had been seen on the parking garage security cameras several times in the past few days was cause for concern. She made sure to check the garage cameras before going out, but it was still disconcerting.

    After several minutes, Jess heard a distant wailing cry. It sounded like it was several miles away. The shrieking grew as other voices joined it and rose and fell in volume as it was carried by the wind. It could have been a pack of coyotes or wolves, but these were all too obviously human voices. The sound sent a chill up and down Jess’s spine. It was suddenly too cold to be outside.

    Jess turned and walked briskly back to the stairwell. “Enough fresh air for tonight,” she thought to herself as she closed and locked the door behind her and descended the stairs to the lab.

  16. Pingback: A Dark and Stormy Night | Contrafactual

  17. It was a dark and stormy night. No umbrella, no flashlight.
    It will not always be stormy,
    It will not always be dark.
    In fact it has passed, yes it was.
    Now what? what’s next?
    It is a clear and brighter day. No shade in sight.

  18. Great post. Dark story. I loved the little clues of what was about to happen that you put into the dialogue. So I had a go myself, and I don’t know where this came from, but here’s my paragraph. Completely different to anything else I’ve written, so thanks for the exercise. This may also be a contender for the paragraph with the most amount of punctuation in it(!)

    It was a dark and stormy night. Which was odd. Because it had been a dark and stormy night when I went to bed. And it was still a dark and stormy night at… what time was it anyway? Oh dear. It was nine-thirty in the morning. Where was the sun? Where were the cars, the streetlamps, the people? Come to think of it, where was Mrs Peabody who should’ve been sitting on her porch sipping tea and watching the world slip by. Where were the twins who should’ve been scooting along on their way to school? Why was there no sun? What had happened? Oh no. What was this? What did it mean? Judgement day? Catastrophic climate change? An alien invasion? I knew it. You see? I bloody well knew it. I had told them in the dayroom only last week that the end of the world is nigh. Ha ha! Now I bet they are laughing on the other side of their insane faces! This is it. We are all going to die. I told you, but you wouldn’t listen! I told you! I told you! I told y… Hey. Hold on. Who are you? Why are you in my room? Let go of me. Ow! That hurts, take that thing out or my arm… Actually. Don’t. That’s quite nice. I think… I’ll go back… to bed now. Ah look: What a lovely bright and sunny morning…

  19. Very nice… the end reminds me of Dan Brown^s style. very well done!

  20. I love this kind of short story. There is not enough good short stories around. All the great authors cut their teeth on short stories and some of the best modern authors still do. Everyone loves a good murder too, so I look forward to reading more from you soon.

  21. Very fun challenge. I will try my hand at It was a dark and stormy night …. this weekend.

  22. It was a dark and stormy night. Around the campfire sat robbers brave and robbers bold. One of them said, “Igor, tell us a hair raising story;” and so Igor began. “It was a dark and stormy night. Around the campfire sat robbers brave and robbers bold. One of them said, “Igor, tell us a hair raising story;” and so Igor began.

  23. It was a dark and stormy night. There he lay in his blanket, tucked up like a spider wraps its prey, with seemingly not a care in the world. The fact it was cold, and the doorstep was hard, seemed to give him far less concern than the eyes that looked down at him, wondering how this child had appeared at the foot of the door. Regardless of the reasons, this was not a night to leave a child on the doorstep, however inconvenient it might be, so, begrudgingly it was lifted from the snow covered doorstep – slowly as not to disturb, brought inside and the door shut tight once again.

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