Day 2 – Hallie Ephron Is Mysterious

The Prompt

Suppose your character returns home from work, parks their car, rides up in the elevator, walks down the hall. Usually, by now the dog is barking and scratching at the door, but today he’s not. As they get closer, they realize the door to their apartment is ajar. They inch closer, listening. Silence. Write the story, and what happens next.

The Author

 Hallie Ephron is the New York Times bestselling author of Writing & Selling Your Mystery .Novel: How To Knock’Em Dead With Style. A suspense writer, she is An Edgar Award finalist and a four-time finalist for the Mary Higgins Clark Award.

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Hallie Ephron's Mystery handbook cover



Leave a comment to let us know what you wrote about today, and how it went!

39 thoughts on “Day 2 – Hallie Ephron Is Mysterious”

  1. September 2020
    Thank you for this prompt! I wrote an outline for this in May and I am using this opportunity to revisit it and write a second draft. I have been meaning to get back to it as it will fit into my novel. Absolutely delighted to be back with it again.

  2. This was a really fun prompt for me! I am not a dog lover so I would never have written a story about one. I used the prompt to take a perspective opposite to my own. The prompt was more of a jumping off point, I didn’t follow it to a tee. My story is set in 2062. 772 words is a very rough first draft telling the story of Mar, her dog Buttoms and Mar’s good friend Auggie. In this version of 2062, pets have been outlawed and Mar uses her veterinary training to “debark” dogs so dog lovers can keep them as pets. Buttoms and Auggie both go missing and Mar sets out to find them both. I can see myself really expanding on this story with Mar’s efforts to find her two friends without being caught by the Canine Unit of the police.

  3. Nearly finished yesterday’s story, 500 words so far, just need to end it. John arrived home late one night to find someone else other than his wife in his bed. His confusion expanded but it could turn into a longer story, or it may need a touch of editing!

  4. Coming up against my perfectionism today.

    Yesterday I wrote a short story for another comp and the beginning of a story from yesterday’s prompt.

    Today I wrote a page riffing off this second prompt, with the beginnings of an idea around the dog kidnapping its owner, as a way of protesting being kept at home too much. But I just had an idea now writing this: maybe instead an alien from the planet Dogstar has broken in to take her dog for a walk and give her a talking to as the humanoid descendent of this dog from the future 🙂

    It’s a fun idea I feel excited to go on with 🙂

    I have ME, and I knew my health issues would make it difficult to do as much as I’d like with this challenge. But rather than get bogged down feeling I haven’t done enough, I’m just going to be okay with what I have done. I just really would have liked to have found a conclusion for yesterday’s. It feels messy leaving it unoutlined.

  5. Done! Same method as yesterday: framework in the morning, rough draft at night before bed. Another rather short draft, but I definitely feel good about how I can develop it. In my story, the main character returns home to find her estranged father asleep on her couch, with her dog curled up on his chest, also sleeping. He crashes at her place for the weekend and they spend some time together, and then he leaves without warning on Monday while she’s at work, and she’s left to grapple with how she can give herself what she needs, instead of always depending on her father for love and support, and always being disappointed.

  6. I’m running a day late on these, but at least I’m writing every day!

    I like this prompt, although yesterday’s fired up my imagination more 🙂

    But anyway. I haven’t finished writing yet, but the idea I came up with is that the dog finds a friend (another dog or a cat – I haven’t completely decided yet), and they’re peacefully sleeping when the protagonist gets home…

    I had thought of a mystery/thriller starting with the dog dead, but that made me cry, so a sweet animal friendship story it is!

  7. I enjoyed this prompt and played with it. Tired, foul-mouthed cop coming off-shift finds the door to his apartment open. His dog Bisquit and a fridge magnet of local restaurant Insomniac’s Dream are missing. Cop he has a crush on arrives with her sniffer dog Cedric. Turns out the note from his sister slipped under the fridge. Guess who stays for dinner!

  8. Hallie Ephron’s prompt opened me up to furthering what I hoped would be a mystery. I am off to a great start, setting afternoon time for writing. I am focused on the one short story and Ms. Ephron sparked my insight into my main character by bringing in dialogue between characters to advance the story. I did pay a price for claiming Saturday afternoon for myself, I was compelled to watch two Downton Abbey episodes from season 5 tonight. My wife is so happy that I am back writing again that I don’t think she missed me…or maybe that is why she is happy? Hmmmmmm. Thank you for this opportunity to get back to the keyboard.

  9. I had a bit of difficulty figuring out a plot for this one. Once I did, it grew a bit away from the original prompt, but I completed a short story first draft with 1.983 words and… It feels good.

    And I think it’s an interesting idea, so it might be usable with a bit of polish and editing.

  10. My goal is to write a complete story every day, no matter how short and silly. (Actually, I prefer silly!)
    Protag arrives home to find the dog has shredded her underwear. She follows the soggy (dog slobber) shreds to find her dog and the perp.

  11. I enjoyed this prompt. I wrote without any idea of what was going to happen and the story unfold by itself. A thief is trying to get hold of an algorithm improving dramatically AI possibility. I am now thinking of creating a blog to post those stories.

  12. I really liked this prompt! Today I wrote over 1,000 words for what I thought could be a flash fiction piece but ended up being more of an opening to what will be a longer story which I did outline before taking a break from it to comment here. I may return to it later today or maybe at a future prompt.

  13. I caught up (late) on Prompt No. 1, and then got to do this one on time …
    I wrote about 800-900 words on the beginning of a story that I plan to finish, and like others here, mine also took an unexpected twist, too.
    My protag’s dog was “dognapped” to blackmail my protag into helping the dognappers with a bigger crime at his job (like leaving a door unlocked, or giving them the access codes … I’m still working out details)>
    I love what everyone is doing … what a broad range of ideas and execution!

  14. My story took a twist that I did not expect. A doctor, who left the city to set up practice in a rural area, returns home to help in the ER during a pandemic. He was staying at a hotel. Returning after a long shift, he notices the door was open and immediately worried that the dog escaped. Startled when he entered the room to see a man, back to the door, and dog resting at his feet. The man slowly turns and says “Thank you for healing my city”. The doctor replies “You’re welcome, Santa”

  15. I ended up with erotic-horror… A first for me, but I am pleased with the Lovecraftian vibe it gives off. Really impressed with everyone getting around 2,000 words! Good job guys. Mine was roughly 500 hundred.

      1. :] thanks for takin the time to read all the comments and reply to so many. That makes the whole thing feel more communal.

  16. I had fun writing a 1,000-word story about a couple who comes home to find their clones in the apartment, and then another set of clones shows up, or is the original couple really the clones? 🙂 Not sure it has a completely logical resolution yet, but I enjoyed the twists and turns…

  17. I did such a different thing with this. When she bursts in to confront whoever left her door open and killed her dog (her assumption – she has only pepper spray so also not necessarily the brightest bulb) – she finds her dog in quiet conversation with a faerie. They then turn out to be required (the MC and her dog) to help the fae by re-opening the portal from Fae to Earth, which is in the park they usually play at. She always believed there were faeries nearby in that park, so she is only a bit surprised, asks her dog some funny questions with even funnier answers, and then they get to the business of saving the portal from the evil Fae Squirrel King. But seriously, it’s not a “kid’s” story, though kids could read it.

  18. Great prompt. I started out murder mystery directed and ended up with a campy humor piece. What a journey!

  19. This prompt led me in a different, and unexpected, direction — to explore the backstory of the main character of my current work-in-progress. It called up a scene from her past when she comes home from school to find that her mom, who has been ill for some time, has been rushed to the hospital. Despite her overwhelming desire to go to the hospital — a sense that she needs to say goodbye — her dad and aunt insist that it is better that she wait, reassuring her that she will get to see her mother later. But there is no later. Mari is left yelling at her father over the phone for lying to her and denying her a chance to say goodbye to her mother, and crying inconsolably into her mother’s pillow as her aunt strokes her hair.

    This is a part of the story I had been wanting to explore for a while, but I hadn’t found a way in. The part of the prompt about the door being slightly ajar and the silence took me there. Thank you!

  20. I found this an interesting prompt to write on. Managed to rough out an outline about her ex-boyfriend breaking in and letting, unintentionally, the dog out. Have got something here I can work on – thank you.

  21. A wonderful prompt which has again filled in a gap in my novel.

    The mother of my main character finally flips and has disappeared by the time he arrives at his parents house. He finds his father, semi-conscious, at the foot of the stairs. The knocking at the door and shouting had roused him. His son had then gone round the back to find chaos and devastation in the garden and kitchen. Following the groaning he was led into the hall. Things then turn into a missing person mystery with twists and turns.

    So far, an outline of 1000 words.

    This is a very rough summary of where my story has gone. I’ve had a block about this part of my novel and this prompt was just the trigger I needed Thank you so much.

    1. I used it the same way. I tried to make it a complete short story but it’s going to end up being part of something climactic in the current novel. Got me straight to the heart (and emotion) of the scene-to-be.

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