Thursday, May 27, 2010

The Last Line of a Story

Discussions abound with respect to the first line in a story. I've even written about it here, but what about that last line? The parting gift you grant to your readers?

Whether you like to write stories that leave things a little open-ended or vague, for the reader to figure out, or you like to tie everything up with a neat bow, no one can dispute the importance of the last line. Be it a short story, novella, or novella, in my mind, that last line can make you love or hate a story. Lines like, "And Character X woke up" make most readers angry. The last line from Stephen King's short story, The Mist makes my heart leap every time I read it. No, I'm not including it here because I don't want to make Mr. King unhappy by using one of his lines without permission, and since I don't have his number on speed dial, I'm not taking that chance. My guess is he has a pretty good lawyer. :)

But I will share this link with you. I read a story published in ChiZine, Teddy Bears and Tea Parties by S. Boyd Taylor and the last line has been swimming in my head for over a week now. It pops up, recites itself, then nestles back down, but it won't leave. That, boys and girls, is an effective line. I hope you'll jump on over and read that story. I really do.

The last line is always much harder for me to write than the first. I'm struggling right now with one particular story, because I want the last line to have a certain impact. I've rewritten it a half-dozen times and expect to write it a half-dozen more before I pronounce it done. And yes, there is a little part of me that would really love it if it wormed its way into someone's head and wouldn't let go.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Stepping Outside the Box

Yes, I've neglected this blog for the past week, and for that, I apologize. I was busy with edits and writing and lots of other, non-writing things. I know it happens, and I also know there's no real need to apologize, but it is what it is. I did it anyway.

But now I have a story for you, so that should make up for it. The other day while driving, I had an image pop into my head. Then another and another, all haphazard and blurry at the edges with no real cohesion. Then a sentence took shape and another, and by the time I got home, my fingers were itching to be let loose on the keyboard. Although I had all these vivid images, I really had no idea where the story was going. After the first few sentences, though, I knew what the story was about, and it surprised me. Although it's dark, it is nothing like any other short story I've written before. I'm not even sure how I'd classify it. Perhaps speculative, perhaps dystopian, perhaps surreal, perhaps not.

At the end of the day, the genre, or lack thereof, really does not bother me. I like the story, both the first draft and the edited/revised version, and I like that my mind still holds surprises, even for me.

Okay, I lied. It was a story about a story. Ooops.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Lazy Days

Yesterday, I took the day off from writing and editing. Yes, that's right. Ms. Writes Every Single Day didn't yesterday. Instead, I did things like take the dog for a walk, read, take the dog to the lake (and he decided I needed to swim, too), and sit on the sofa watching old episodes of The Tudors. It was relaxing. Yes, even the unplanned dip in the water.

I sat down to check my email last night and felt a bit guilty that I hadn't written anything, so I looked at a paragraph in the WIP I'm editing and made a few small changes. But that was it.

I rarely take a day off from words. It felt strange, needless to say, but it was a nice break. I need to remind myself that it's okay to do that every once in a while. The words will not run away and hide. I fell asleep with a new short story idea growing in the back of my mind, one I'll let simmer for a few days until it demands to come out. Today I'm back to editing a manuscript and giving a few short stories a final read-thru. It feels good to get back to my wordcraft.

If you'd like to read a new poem (Well, new to you, boys and girls; I wrote it months ago.), you can find Our Disintegration on Every Day Poets.

Take care and Happy Monday!

Monday, May 10, 2010


And no, this post isn't about what you think. For those who don't know, I love animals. I don't watch much tv, but when I do, I can't watch those animal shelter commercials. You know the ones. All the little faces peeking out from behind the cages, all the animals that need homes, animals who may have been neglected or abused. It breaks my heart and makes me wish I could adopt them all. Except I'm pretty sure I'd need a bigger house and a bigger yard.

I have a rescued pit bull who was abandoned in my neighborhood when he was approximately four months old. He still had puppy teeth (and puppy breath). I don't know what kind of person could just abandon an animal, any animal, like that, but I know what kind of person could neglect or abuse an animal. Someone monstrous with no heart, no compassion, no sense of right and wrong, no...well, I'll stop there because I could go on and on.

Check the statistics. People who abuse animals usually end up (if they aren't already) abusing humans, too. And people who have such little regard for a living creature probably don't care too much about human rights or kindness. I don't believe that someone who abuses animals can be a good person, in any way. I also believe that penalties for abusing animals should be much, much stiffer.

But, back to Courage. He's a dog. An amazing one who has been through hell. If you haven't heard the story, he was left in a back yard without food and water for five weeks, eating dirt and rocks to survive. Yes, five weeks. And don't go thinking the house was abandoned. Oh no, the owner lived inside. Yes, she willingly starved her dog. Thanks to a Good Samaritan, he was found, rushed to a vet, and rescued from the edge of death. I'm not exaggerating. Read this article: A Dog Named Courage. Please, read it now.

And if you ever suspect an animal is being neglected or abused, don't just look away. No animal deserves such a fate. Help if you can, or call someone to help if you can't. Have a heart to do the right thing. Have courage.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Want to Read a Short Story?

My short story, Sorrow in the Shape of a Soldier's Smile, is online today at Danse Macabre. It's dark, but not horror, and was inspired by this photo:


Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Favorite Scenes in Books

I was inspired to write this by an exchange on Twitter the other day between another writer and I about It. I mentioned my favorite scene in the book and thought I'd share that, among others. These are scenes that stayed with me, long after I'd finished reading. I will try to keep these as spoiler-free as possible, in case you've not read the books.

It by S. King: Toward the end, when the main characters are walking out of a doorway and one character sees, in the glass, a reflection of the characters who died. The first time I read the scene, I got goosebumps and cried my eyes out. The second time? Same thing happened.

Shadowland by P. Straub: When Tom Flanagan is crucified and left to die, my hands hurt. Although it was a horrible scene, it was beautifully written. I blame Mr. Straub (in a good way, of course) for imprinting me with a major case of the heebie-jeebies whenever I read or see anything with hand trauma. Yes, even now.

I Who Have Never Known Men by J. Harpman: When the women emerge from their prison and step outside. Their fear, wonder, and confusion--breathtaking.

The Boys From Brazil by I. Levin: When Liebermann goes to the Wheelock residence and figures out the man he's talking to is not Mr. Wheelock at all. Chills and horror, that's all I can say.

Pluto, Animal Lover by L. Stover: When Pluto is a child and his parents go out. The scene with the aquarium. It's not the first scene that tells you something is a little off with Pluto, but it is a very defining moment in the book.

And because it's my favorite movie of all time, I thought I'd share my favorite moment in Alien: After the infamous chest-bursting scene, when the camera pans to Lambert (Veronica Cartwright). Take a good look at her face; her expression of fear, horror, and revulsion captures the essence of the entire scene beautifully.

So tell me, what's your favorite book scene?