Alligators in the Library -A Selection of Story Openings

Hi, today I’ve been experimenting with different ways of opening with the same scene – a character sees an alligator in the library. I don’t know when I might use this scene, but it was too weird an idea to ignore. If you want to use this as a prompt, go ahead and write your own version in the comments!


It had all started with the alligators in the library. Or perhaps it had started before then, but that was when I noticed – really noticed, that something wasn’t quite right. One doesn’t tend to expect to see a green scaly reptile as one is browsing the fantasy section, trying to decide between an old favourite or a new find, when suddenly, bam! There’s an alligator.

There are several differences between a crocodile and an alligator. Crocodiles favour saltwater habitats, whereas alligators are more common in swamps and lakes. Their snouts are different shapes – the crocodile’s forms a sharp v, whereas alligators are more rounded and u-shaped. And there wasn’t a crocodile in the library.

When one is quietly browsing the fantasy section of a mid-city library in Toronto, Canada, one of the last things one expects to find there is an alligator. Perhaps not the last thing – a whale, or a live dinosaur might be even less expected – but it was definitely near the top of the list.

It looked exactly like you might expect an alligator in a library to look – that is, surprising and unexpected – although if you expect there to be an alligator in the library, you might want to check your level of sanity. It opened its mouth to reveal a grin that was in no way the kind of sweet, reassuring smile that you get from a librarian – that is to say, the kind of smile you expect in a library – and was in many ways a threatening, terrifying leer filled with razor-sharp teeth. The kind you might expect from an alligator.

Or: It smiled in exactly the way that a nice, sweet little librarian doesn’t.

I was quietly browsing the shelves of my mid-town library, looking for an interesting fantasy book to read when, as I was replacing a book on the shelf a flash of green caught my eye. Intrigued, I looked up – and saw the alligator. I blinked in surprise. It blinked back, then opened its mouth in a grin, or a yawn, displaying its razor-sharp teeth and wafting the scent of rotting meat towards me. I dropped the book, eyes wide in shock or surprise or awe. Then I ran.

A curious grunting sound tickled my consciousness from outside the depths of the book I had picked up and started to read at my local library. It was enough to intrigue me, so I looked up from the creamy page and watched in a distracted fashion as the alligator rounded the corner of the stacks and wandered off into the sci-fi and fantasy section. I blinked, bemused, then went back to reading. It was a good book, after all.

Hope you enjoyed!

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