The First Two Pages: “Strong Stomach” by Zoë Z. Dean

In April 2015, B.K. Stevens debuted the blog series “The First Two Pages,” hosting craft essays by short story writers and novelists analyzing the openings of their own work. The series continued until just after her death in August 2017, and the full archive of those essays can be found at Bonnie’s website. In November 2017, the blog series relocated to my website, and the archive of this second stage of the series can be found here.

Zoë Z. Dean’s “The Getaway Girl,” from the November 2014 issue of Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine, won the 2015 Robert L. Fish Memorial Award for best first mystery story by an American author—a stellar debut for a writer of short mystery fiction. Three years later, her story “Charcoal and Cherry,” from EQMM‘s May/June 2017 issue, won the 2018 Thriller Award for Best Short Story. “Strong Stomach,” from EQMM‘s current issue, may be only her fourth story for the magazine, but she’s already a heavy hitter with a terrific batting average—and I’m honored to welcome her here today with an essay about the story’s opening and, in the process, about several aspects of storytelling: voice, memory, unlikable characters, unreliable narration, and more.

You can find our more about Dean at her website, by following her on Twitter, and by reading this interview with her at The Solute, offering additional insights into her fiction. Additionally, she writes regularly on film and television at both The Solute and at Looper—essays well worth reading too!

Please use the arrows and controls at the bottom of the embedded PDF to navigate through the essay. You can also download the essay to read off-line.