Disclaimer: I'm not an native English speaker

Here is the first part of a short novel I'm writing. For the description I wanted the reader to have an idea of the place first and then let him know that there is people in there (and that they are alone).

The darkness made the bar look bigger than it was. A flickering neon sign was barely illuminating the place. Sitting in the bar, a young man and a girl were having their drinks. There was no other human presence around.

"I think you need a refill," he said, pointing her glass with his.

She looked at it, then around. "I don't see the bartender."

"No problem," he said. "I can mix something for you."

He grabbed her glass, stood up, and walked towards the liquor shelf. Before she could say anything, he was already behind the bar.

"Ask for any drink you want," he said.

She shook her head while smiling at him. "The one you know best."

"Got it." He went through the variety of bottles as if examining animal specimens.

He finally decided for a black bottle.

"Can I talk about a thought that is making me feel lonely?" he asked while searching for a glass. "Hope you don't find it weird."

I would like to know if this will grab the reader's attention. I would also like to know how can I improve it. Thanks in advance!

2 Answers 2


You are definitely improving from your previous work. :)

Minor fixes: My corrections are in italics; do not add the italics to your story.

  • "No other human presence" makes me wonder: is there a non-human presence? An animal? Something supernatural?
  • pointing at her glass
  • then glanced around (the parallel grammar is technically correct, but a native speaker would not make that particular elision there)
  • "Any drink you want," he said. (ask for is unnecessary)
  • decided on a black bottle
  • "Can talk about something which..."

Grabbing attention: I am intrigued by the idea that they are alone in the bar, mostly because you highlight "no other human." That's hinting at some kind of supernatural or post-apocalypse setting. Or separately, that they've broken into the bar and shouldn't be there. I'm just interested enough to want to see what your setup is.

However, generally speaking, men don't talk about what makes them feel lonely, so you really need to be going somewhere with that for me to accept it.

  • 5
    I completely agree with that last bit-- it's very unrealistic for a male to say something like that. Otherwise, I think your dialogue isn't too bad. I'm wondering why the bar is empty/deserted as well. Make sure to deliver! Commented Apr 9, 2012 at 17:00
  • For "Any drink you want": I'd offer that "What'll you have?" is more colloquial, and sounds like something an experienced bartender would say.
    – Kit Z. Fox
    Commented Apr 10, 2012 at 0:05
  • It doesn't sound like the young main IS an experienced bartender, though. He's not an employee assuming that a patron will purchase a drink; he's trying to impress his lady friend with his mixology knowledge. He's saying, "you can ask for any drink you want, and I will know how to make it." Commented Apr 10, 2012 at 1:46
  • Thanks for the feedback. I'm in the fiction writing class, but I feel I'm learning more with you guys.
    – wyc
    Commented Apr 10, 2012 at 3:10

It does very much depend on where you are going - how important the location is. But if you want to let people "have an idea of the place first and then let him know that there is people in there", you could spend more time on the place...

"In the darkness, the room seemed larger than it was, the walls disappearing into the distance. The single flickering neon light seemed suspended in nothingness. Occasional reflections show that it is a bar, with reflections off the bottles arrayed there, and the scattered debris of a tidy but not scrupulous bartender, of whom there was no sign. Only on careful examination did it become clear that there were two people, a boy and a girl, sitting at the bar."

The idea is to describe the building and focus from the building down to the couple.

  • 2
    That'd be perfect if we later discover this is the bar where Rosencrantz and Guildenstern went to drink while they were offstage. ;) Commented Apr 9, 2012 at 18:43
  • It is only a suggestion. The thing is to show the bar, then show the people. If there is anything relevant about the bar for later, it can be hinted at here. And, @LaurenIpsum it probably is their personal bar. Ha. ;) Commented Apr 10, 2012 at 8:49
  • It's such a relief when someone gets one of my obscure English major jokes. :D Commented Apr 10, 2012 at 16:15

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