Fun In 500 Words

Always jot down your story ideas. Flesh them out later when you can, but write them down. Here’s one of mine.


Coffee With Spies


“Do you always bring a gun to breakfast?” I nodded at the bulge on the side of her jacket.

“No, I don’t.” The colonel straightened up, adjusting her charcoal coat. “I also don’t much appreciate jokes.”


Pulling a cigarette from a long, thin pack, she tapped the end on the white linen tablecloth. “When I was new, my trainer took me to a meeting similar to this one. He was old school, my T-2. Used to help spooks after the Cold War. Relocation, new identities, stuff like that.”

She put the cigarette between her lips and waited. I reached over and picked up her lighter, flipping it open and snapping the flame to life. The colonel leaned forward and took a draw, the tip of her cigarette glowing orange. Leaning back in her chair, she blew a stream of white at the sky.

“He said back then everybody was constantly changing sides. A new American Congress would get elected, and they’d go in and change the rules. Chaps we were fighting on Monday were our allies with on Tuesday. On Wednesday, the yanks would change their minds again and the field agents went right back into the fray. You saw that rubbish in the 80’s with the Contras.”

I toyed with the lighter. It was heavy. Expensive. Apparently, the colonel liked nice things.

She looked good after so many years of what had to be nonstop stress. Trim figure, perfect posture, stylish hair . . . and sharp eyes. She had the impeccable British manners, but I could see how that body had been an asset to her in this job. The only thing that really hinted at her age was the wrinkles around her eyes, and when she wore her sunglasses even those weren’t visible.

“So I’m sitting there listening to him tell me this when I realize he’s referring to our companion. The three of us are having dinner at this fancy restaurant in Prague, but it’s a Tuesday, so they were allies, right? These two men were trying to kill each other a few months earlier, but now we had to sit down and hammer out this deal. I was new. It made me quite nervous, but the trainer smiled, and so did the other fellow, so we had our meeting. Afterward, our companion invited us to his flat for coffee. We meet his wife and daughter, the works. Nice guy. They got along well, like old friends. It was the darndest thing.”

“Huh.” I nodded. “That must’ve been something else, being—”

“You didn’t let me finish.” She folded her arms and sat back in her chair, pointing the cigarette at me. “My trainer said if he got a text in the middle of coffee saying the rules had switched back, he would pull out his .45 and shoot our new friend right between the eyes in front of his wife and child and then sit back down and finish his coffee.”

Her face was the same as it been at the start of the story. Calm. Cool. Expressionless. Like she’d just told me the train schedule.

I laid her lighter down on the tablecloth.

“That.” The colonel took another drag on her cigarette. “Is the kind of people we’re dealing with, Mr. Lamonte.”

That was about 552 words, but I only have one question:

If this were the opening of a novel, the first page,

would you be interested in reading more?

Below is the original idea I scratched out in Notepad on my cell phone.


“Do you always carry a gun to coffee?” I nodded at the bulge in his jacket.


“No, I don’t.” The colonel straightened his jacket. “I also don’t much appreciate jokes.”




“I was having coffee with a guy he was a trainer of mine and he told me about the old days when he used to help guys after the war. Cold War stuff. Spy protection.


“He said everybody was always changing sides. Each Congress would come in and change the rules and then the guys we were fighting against on Monday we were allies with on Tuesday. On Wednesday, the Congress might change their mind again and we were right back into the fray.


“So I’m sitting here having coffee with him and he explained that he was having coffee with somebody over from the other side one time. But it was a during a time when they were allies. And I actually had to sit down—these two guys who were trying to kill each other a few months earlier, I had to sit down and hammer out this deal. Work together. He said it was the darndest thing.”


“I must’ve been something else.”


“You  didn’t let me finish. He said if you got a text saying the rules it switched back, he would pull that it’s 45 a shoot the guy right between the eyes in front of his wife and kid, then sit down and finish this coffee. That’s the kind of guys we’re dealing with.



Published by Dan Alatorre AUTHOR

International bestselling author Dan Alatorre has 17 titles published in over a dozen languages. From Romance in Poggibonsi to action and adventure in the sci-fi thriller The Navigators, to comedies like Night Of The Colonoscopy: A Horror Story (Sort Of) and the heartwarming and humorous anecdotes about parenting in the popular Savvy Stories series, his knack for surprising audiences and making you laugh or cry - or hang onto the edge of your seat - has been enjoyed by audiences around the world. And you are guaranteed to get a page turner every time. “That’s my style,” Dan says. “Grab you on page one and then send you on a roller coaster ride, regardless of the story or genre.” Readers agree, making his string of #1 bestsellers popular across the globe. He will make you chuckle or shed tears, sometimes on the same page. His novels always contain twists and turns, and his nonfiction will stay in your heart forever. Dan resides in the Tampa area with his wife and daughter. You can find him blogging away almost every day on www.DanAlatorre or watch his hilarious YouTube show every week Writers Off Task With Friends. Dan’s marketing book 25 eBook Marketing Tips You Wish You Knew has been a valuable tool for new authors (it’s free if you subscribe to his newsletter) and his dedication to helping other authors is evident in his helpful blog.

26 thoughts on “Fun In 500 Words

    1. I find if I catch the idea and throw it down somewhere, fleshing out out just enough so when I come back I know what I meant, then I can create basically a little mini scene. Later, when I have time to sort through all my partial thoughts that would be stories, if that scene doesn’t make me want to write more, it’s probably not a great idea. If it doe, it is!

  1. It’s more padded than my notes but I do the same. I met a silk recently who’s demeanour was wonderful, I noted almost verbatum and wished I had a tape to record the boom of her voice. Oh Dan as to your question … I’d want to read it. 😇

                  1. Most of which caught me out when visiting my sister. “Never mind keep your pecker up” to a man who was swaying over his beer about his cat dying… that was only one faux par!

                    1. Holy cow. One day I’ll tell you about the coronary my British friend nearly had when the drug store cashier got on the public address system and asked if fanny packs were still on sale.

  2. I would definitely read your story. I write ideas down in my notebook when I am at home. But when I am away from home I use one note on my cellphone to write different story ideas or write a story.

  3. That is an intriguing start. At first I thought, no, I wouldn’t because I don’t like spy/espionage/type books. Then I read it again and thought, well, maybe. I definitely agree that ideas need to be written even if we don’t know where the story is going. Interesting that the character changed from male to female.

    1. I was considering what would make it a bigger surprise. A man sitting down with the gun was less surprising then a woman sitting down with a gun. Especially since women’s clothing tends to be a little more form fitting.

      The whole key is going to be having a “spy” story that appeals to people who don’t like spy stories. Because I certainly would never pick up a spy story. So the title, the cover, the blurb, and the opening all have to really really set a stage that this is going to be unconventional spy story and bring in other eyeballs. I will need your guys help with that!

  4. Notebooks and pens are more important to me then fancy under duds… I’ll start a line of haiku possibles in Office and go through them throughout the week to see which of them is ready to expand. Sometimes they are and sometimes they aren’t. My magazine articles will start much the same way. I have learned to step back more. Although there are some works that write themselves with me as the secretary. Read the story? Most likely. 🙂 The female Colonel made it more interesting.

    1. Thank you!

      I’m kind of kicking around a plot. I’ve got some great ideas for the background upon which this story is going to unfold, and some ideas about how these two characters are going to interact, but I have yet to figure out what exactly it is that takes the reader from start to middle to finish.

      Once I have that, I’m going to put these characters of the tree and throw rock after rock after rock!

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