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.
I’ve been readingPie and Whiskey, a collection of short stories, essays, poems, and recipes. (The pie crust recipe is spot on, by the way; Kate Lebo knows her stuff.) The creative work in the book comes from a wide variety of authors and covers a wide variety of subjects, but one thing strings them all together (well, two things):
Pie and whiskey.
So, having read a couple dozen short pieces in the past few days, filled with pie-makers and whiskey-drinkers, I’ve got pie and whiskey on the brain. So that’s this week’s prompt. Pie and whiskey. Wherever it takes you.
I am a controlled writer. I have often thought out the words before they hit the page–the first dozen, at least–and they unspool from there in a fairly metered way. I don’t suffer typos (a peeve my smartphone is trying to cure me of through exposure therapy) and I sometimes spend too long deliberating my diction. However, there are times when the writing flows without thinking. These are often the best times. Yes, they might need a bit of editing on the next read and when brought to workshop I have occasionally baffled readers with my oddball phrasing. No, these sentences might not end up in the final draft. But sometimes, whether the words end up working or not, I simply need to turn off my brain and let my fingers fly.
So that’s today’s challenge. Write without thinking. Set a timer for two minutes and simply begin. Don’t go back for typos, if you can help it. Just roll down the hill of your thoughts.
A lot of us write on our computers. A lot of us do so at a desk. A lot of us sit and stare and cannot find a subject for our writing.
So look around you. Find the closest office supply to you. Yes, I mean it–the stapler, the desk lamp, even the keyboard. Me, I’ve got a ruler near my left hand. So this morning, I shall write about a ruler. Putting ten minutes on the clock.
When I read a book, I can tell you whether or not I’ll like the writer, especially if it’s short stories. The sense of humor, the timing, the depth of the characters: they all reflect on the writer herself.
I’m not talking about “likeability,” a term that seems to imply characters must be nice. Screw nice. I want “interesting.”
I’ve probably bought twenty books so far this year, and I’m not talking about the ones I sell on Etsy. (I actually need to buy more of those–get the shop filled back up.) I’ve probably bought twenty books JUST FOR ME.
My therapist is about twenty and still believes in romance and unicorns and thinks the world is blue cotton candy so I sit on my hands when I talk to her and chew the inside of my cheek till it’s bloody and try not to rain down my acid pain except maybe drips and droplets because I don’t want to melt her, can’t imagine making her bitter when she’s just so sweet and rounded with flowers and even her voice is honeyed and can’t possibly understand that some cherries are sour some fruit withers on the vine some people will never be happy whether they chew or swallow the pills whether they exercise or buy the prettiest blouses at H&M and feel great about paying less for more out of small hungry hands that can’t protect even themselves against the darkness that comes out and snuffs the fluorescent bulbs and she clicks her computer like hey this isn’t right and the monsters wrap round her but she doesn’t feel them though they’ve ripped up her stockings and devoured her shoes and she says, Have you read YES PLEASE by Amy Poehler because that book will seriously change your life.