You’ve seen that guy hunched over his laptop in the corner of the café. What is he writing? New York asked a few of these aspiring novelists (and present-day caffeine addicts) for their opening paragraphs. The future of American fiction? Judge for yourself.

Working title: Fill of Blue
Office: Cafe Pick Me Up, East Village
Opening lines: “Damien ignited a spliff of Blue Mountain ganja in Clifford’s van as we bounced over the road twenty yards from Jamaica’s tropical coast. Clifford was our Jamaican friend and he preferred to call us Ugly Americans, despite his several important missing teeth… . “

Working title: American Fifty
Office: Esperanto, West Village
Opening lines: “I DO NOT take Zoloft or its competitors. I am not even depressed. I do not bathe the wrinkled elderly women of my family in rosewater, or in any water… . My racial categorization does not require a hyphen. I have never been car-jacked, mugged, in a drive-by-shooting as even a bystander, or victim to police brutality… . No lover has ever dumped me and, to my knowledge, I have never broken a heart.”

Working title: Johnny Sketch
Office: Java and Wood, Greenpoint
Opening lines: “These seemed to be tough times in the big city. After a brutal day at The Daily Horror, John slowly pushed open the big heavy door of his skyscraper apartment and looked around at the mess that resembled his life… . His shoulders moped forward, each pointing apologetically to some dirty spot on the floor between his two limp feet.”

Working title: Bank
Café: Starbucks, West 87th Street
Opening lines: “There was a harrowing screech and a flash of orange before Abel’s well-groomed head struck the pavement. A blurred sun slowly took shape above as Abel blinked himself back to consciousness. The red ball hovered for a moment, then began to retreat, shrinking and surrounding itself with an alarmingly white face, a perma-smile, and errant purple curls. Abel was about to ask this figure what had happened when a scarred clown-hand was thrust in front of his face.”

Working title: The Book of Untimely Deaths
Office: Two Little Red Hens, Park Slope (where he dictates his work to his mother)
First words: “Let’s start with the big ones. It was 1962. Peter Mike was crossing the bridge next to the graveyard when he slipped and fell into a river of swords. At the same minute, John Hardbridge killed the woman he was married to because he needed the money. He put her body under his staircase. He never got rich. But he had his own haunted staircase crypt. Scary things are sometimes very violent.”