One of the most popular writing prompts I’ve posted here on The Sensitive, Bookish Type is also my favorite: The Opening Line. Today, we’re doing basically the same thing but instead of working with a novel’s first line, we’re working with the novel’s last line.
At random, I reached onto my shelf and grabbed Babbitt by Sinclair Lewis. This will be interesting for me because I haven’t actually read it yet–excepting, of course, the back cover. But that doesn’t matter because I’m not trying to extend the story itself. I’m simply borrowing its last line.
Arms about each other’s shoulders, the Babbitt men marched into the living-room and faced the swooping family.
Now, without planning ahead, I’ve come across a perfect example of the theory upon which this exercise is based: the end of a novel should always read somewhat like a beginning. Unless everyone dies at the end (which would be a very poor ending, in my opinion–not even Shakespeare had EVERYONE die) the end of one story is always the beginning of another. So now I shall use this last line to start a paragraph of my own. In this case, I’m going to replace the last name with the name of a family in the novel on which I’m currently writing. My exercise, below, might not be the beginning of a story, but certainly the beginning of a chapter.
Arms about each other’s shoulders, the Larkin men marched into the living-room and faced the swooping family.
“She can stay with us,” Pete said. “We’ve got room in the garage and she’ll be out of the way there.”
Ellen looked at Patty. Her eyes weren’t focusing on anything in particular, their lenses glazed with whatever toxins she’d ingested. The bruise on her cheek seemed to be spreading, a web of broken capillaries creeping up the bridge of her nose.
She looked at her father. She’d never seen his eyes so dark, his brow so furrowed. He looked like a different person–he looked more like Pete. And yet here Pete was, helping Grayson get his mother to her feet, playing the helper while his brother stood and scowled. He didn’t aim his scowl at anyone in particular but Ellen was certain it was meant for her. She had brought Patty here. Not just Patty, but a boy at three in the morning. She had woken the whole house. She had asked too much.