For Every Beginning…

cowboy lizard

…there is an ending.

Completing a story is not as cut and dry as one might think.  You don’t necessarily want to put a bow on it.  “They lived happily ever after” worked for the brothers Grimm, but life in general doesn’t work out that way.

Like life, the ending is going to be influenced by everything that happened before.  Cowboys riding off into the sunset became a standard conclusion to a western movie, but it’s not the kind of thing that will make the reader close your book with satisfaction.  As the story was unfolding, did you make any promises about what might happen to Wrong-way Joe and his trusty mount?

When Joe takes the left fork instead of the right at the pass, he meets folks and does things he wasn’t expecting when his adventure began.  For a typical novel, you want to wrap up any loose threads and give some idea to what happens with the main characters.  If the reader cares about them at all, this information will be necessary.

Maybe he met a raven-haired gal with an unerring sense of direction.  If you do want them to ride off together into the sunset, she can redirect his courser to the south when Joe accidentally turns north.

But if he kisses her and she turns into a raven, the twist ending shouldn’t exist for the sake of making the reader exclaim “What the nevermore!”  That’s the sort of thing that can also make a reader declare, “I will nevermore read that author.”

If there’s going to be a surprise at the end, you must set up the logic to why it happened.  Earlier in the story the reader needs to discover something like she is the descendent of a legendary skin-walker in her tribe, and she has an affinity for shiny baubles.

An ending can also be a bit up in the air, and to what degree it is often depends on the length of the story.  Readers like having something left to their imaginations to a point, but short compositions lend themselves more to a conclusion that’s barely there.

In the abbreviated version, the tale might end with Raven watching Joe head the wrong way as he leaves her village to (attempt) getting to his original destination.  The reader is left wondering if she will set him straight or allow him to wander.

This type of ending also lends itself more to literary works or dilemmas that aren’t earth shattering.

And finally, returning to a novel (or series) length of story, a writer can double-dip on the ending by using an epilogue.  This takes place separated from the rest of the tale by time and/or distance, yet it ties to the consequence of that story.

What kind of epilogue could happen with Wrong-way Joe and Raven and his fiery steed?  I think I’ll leave that one to your imagination!

To First Line or Not?


I once read an article bemoaning that there is something of a “cult of the first line” that seems to have established itself in modern writing.  In other words, too much emphasis is being placed on concocting a first line that will grab the reader.  The author asserted there was nothing wrong with an opening that focused more on description or dialogue than action.

True, not every genre lends itself to a throat-grabbing first line.  There’s not much reason to begin a light romance with the words “Lulabelle screamed.”

Even adventurous stories can begin on a gentler note.  “In a hole there lived a hobbit” is a calm statement, yet there is a hook hidden within that benign bait.  What the heck is a hobbit?  The reader wants to find out more about this character, so it’s fitting to begin with a description of his home and personal quirks.

It’s quite possible modern writers are inclined to slap a reader in the face at the get-go because it’s drummed into us that people have shorter attention spans these days.  Instant gratification is taken for granted.  A workshop I once attended pointed out that people read faster than they used to.

It really boils down to what you’re trying to achieve in that particular piece.  Yes, that first line is important, but a whole story will follow and that is what will dictate how you should probably begin.  Don’t get hung up either way.

Lulabelle screamed.  Oh, excuse me, I thought I’d try an exciting last line….

Shank’s Nightmare

Action Wormhole

Forget what you’ve seen in the movies.

Traveling into the future was too expensive and risky.  The equipment had to go with you, so like you, it could never come back.  There was also no guarantee people wouldn’t find themselves in the middle of an apocalypse.  The future is a one-way trip, because you can’t physically return to the past.

So when researchers discovered there was an incorporeal means to visit former times, we historians hailed it as a momentous achievement.  At long last we could settle matters of dispute about what actually happened, and imagine the benefits our society would gain.  You’ve surely heard of Santayana’s quote, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”

We should have taken that statement to heart.

Academia had to wait its turn.  Officials considered crime investigation was a more practical use for the application, and then the lawyers got involved and challenged the veracity of these interdimensional forays.  Time travel needed to prove itself, and we were more than happy to help.

The method involved in unconventional.  You relax on a reclined chair with electronic attachments fastened to you while psychotropic drugs are administered.  By focusing on the event you wish to visit, the electrodes and pharmaceuticals cooperate with the synaptic pathway you’ve laid down.

You pass into a dream state where you feel like you’re falling in slow motion, and at first your vision becomes hazy, like you’re passing through the corona of an eclipsed sun.  Then you arrive at the time you set for destination.

Although the edges remain fuzzy and your hearing is a bit muffled, the details are all there, proving this is no mere flight of fancy.

You can walk wherever you want, but this is your only means of progression.  After all, you are immaterial, so you can pass through walls and people but also any means of conveyance.  Shank’s mare is an archaic term for walking, and we “lucky” few historians who were finally able to participate joked how modern technology left us with shank’s mare to get around.

I have witnessed colonial traitors sign the Declaration of Independence, ragged soldiers tromp through snow at Valley Forge, and the surrender of Cornwallis at Yorktown.  Our excursions can only last up to thirty minutes, however.  Any longer, the researchers warned, might cause irreparable damage to our neural physiology.

Some of us returned with reports that contradicted cherished beliefs.  We were accused of being liars by one faction, but there was also the camp that feared truth being brought to light.  The only thing the opponents agreed on was that these temporal excursions should be brought to an end.

And now something has gone terribly wrong.

I have been here for days.  While I suffer no thirst nor weariness, I am trapped within this agrarian society where people believe bloodletting is good for what ails you.  I have no means to communicate with them about my adversity.  I have no failsafe measure to draw me back to my own time.

I am a living ghost.  At least, as long as I’m here, my body must still be able to circulate blood and respire air.  But what happened?  Did a technological failure leave me stranded?  Did an inattentive assistant administer the wrong dosage?  Or did zealots invade our facility and interfere with my transference?  I may never find out.

Part of me fears I really did die, but this conscious part of me survived.  Have I been condemned to history, doomed to wander through eternity as a wraith with no purpose?  All I can do is keep walking, continuing my trek across the landscapes and through villages.  I have no effect upon history, and nothing here can harm me.

I am safe in this cage, but I would rather face the dangers inherent to freedom.

There must be a way to escape this situation.  There must be something I can discover that will help me to get back.  I have grown weary of existing in despair.  I have grown weary of not quite existing.

None of us know what time we have left, but I will take what I have and try to discover the way back to when I belong.


This month I decided to play around with a different style for the #BlogBattle prompt.  Be sure to check out all the other stories that were inspired by the word “corona.”  Is it me, or are the words getting more challenging each month?  But that’s what makes it fun…!