Focus on the opening, ending & title
- Write a sketchy first draft today. Tear through it. Get the story written.
- Then go back and craft an opening line that contains a strong sense of who is telling the story, when it is set, where it is set and what kind of story it’s going to be (Is it going to be a murder mystery? Get the body into the first line. Is it a historical romance? Give me gas lamps and corsetry!)
- Next, work on your ending. Echo the opening scene with a similar-but-different scene, symbolizing your character’s growth/change. Or leave us with an open-ended question, but make sure we know enough about your character to have an idea what their next action might be. Or use a poetic line that sums up the theme of the story.
- Finally write a title that doesn’t tell me what your story is about but intrigues me with an unusual idea, phrase, pun or twist on an old saying or song title. Remember the title is the sizzle that sells the story.
Some of my favorite short story titles:
- Vampires in the Lemon Grove
- Baby’s First Kill
- ‘Gator Butchering for Beginners
- An Open Letter To The Person Who Took My Smoothie From The Breakroom Fridge
- Stop — because if you’re paying attention, it represents two different meanings of the word
- The Lady Astronaut of Mars
- A Perimenopausal Jacqueline Kennedy, Two Years After the Assassination, Aboard the M/Y Christina, off Eubeoa, Bound for the Island of Alonnisos, Devastated by a Recent Earthquake, Drinks Her Fourth Bloody Mary with Mrs. Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Jr. — a fine example of how to circumvent the word-count limit in flash fiction!
- Afterthought, Aftermath, Aftershock
- The Worshipful Society of Glovers
- A List of Forty-Nine Lies
I’d love it if you’d leave your opening and ending lines and title, below!
Leave a comment and let us know how it went today.
23 thoughts on “2019 Day 14 – Openings, Endings & Titles”
I haven’t finished the story, but have an outline of what I want to write. Haven’t completed the ending but here is the beginning:
She was running and walking. Alternating between the two, looking over her shoulder, feeling as lost as she truly was in this forest of trees. It felt as if the trees had a life of their own, they see to be rustling and swaying, as if passing messages to each other, whispering about her.
Title: An alien in the world of Greenia
Gladys paced up and down the kitchen wringing her hands. She was visibly worried, shaking and white as a sheet. The ambulance should’ve been here by now!
She felt his strong arm around her waist, guiding her gently around the floor. They moved as one to the music of Glen Miller and fifty six years slipped away. A new life was dawning for her. After all, age is only a number!
AGE IS ONLY A NUMBER
I kind of cheated. I went back to my dialogue, which I had wanted to work on some more, and changed a few things around and gave it a new opening line and title.
Title: To Protect & Serve
1st line: Sgt. Williams approached the car with just his badge and his savior complex; the young woman reminded him of his sister, but they all did.
Last line: And once again he said, “It’s O.K., Sis, I’m going to get you home safely.
I”d read this.
Opening lines: “You take your ooglie-booglie shit and shove it where the sun don’t shine.”
Closing line: Natalia didn’t ask about his pain. She knew.
Title: The Right Question
I struggled with this prompt. I took the story I wrote for yesterday’s prompt and wrote a opening and an ending for it. I chose a title, but I’m not very happy with it. I’ve always had trouble thinking of a title to anything I write!
This is the prologue and epilogue from the book I am currently writing entitled The Shaman Boy.
Some say a story is a living thing, passed down from father to son as a way of teaching them, guiding them in the paths of righteousness and truth. Being a storyteller by trade means that I claim no place on this earth as my home. I am not a Native American, but I respect their oral tradition where the story can change with the storyteller as well as the audience. We, the people of the western tradition, believe that all stories of morality must be written down, which is why we rely so heavily on our Bible. But take a moment to pause. The objection of the Native Tradition is that once a story is written down, the story becomes a captive of those words whereas to these people, a story is a living thing and as such must be left to live freely in the winds. Sounds rather poetic, but their storytellers will say the story will find you at a time when you need it most.
In a short stopover while I was in Harrisburg, I happened to take a detour to a historic place that only lives in memory. The Indian Industrial School in Carlisle, now just a museum of sorts, is a reminder of a day long ago that was much darker, made darker by the cemetery in the back of the school. There you will see the headstones of the children who died after encountering disease for which they had no defense. This quiet place is a sad reminder of the legacy of this school.
An old man paused at one of the headstones. He stood by the headstone and removed a small pouch from his overcoat and he sat in the snow removing each of the fetishes from his leather pouch. He bowed his head, sitting in the dusting of snow covering the peaceful place. When he was finished, he carefully placed each of the small items back in his bag, closing it with a leather drawstring. When he stood and brushed the snow off, I could see that he was wearing traditional clothing of animal skins with beads sewn into the material in such a colorfully patterned design. Captivated by his ritual in front of the headstone, I introduced myself. He was accommodating as he nodded and said, “My name is Joseph Big Sky. And this man here was my great uncle. In his short life, he became known as Shaman Boy. They say his magic was powerful and since I am a medicine man back at Pine Ridge, I thought I would come here and become one with him.”
I was totally taken by his devotion, but then he went on to say, “All of these children died at this school.” He outstretched his arms to include all of the headstones that dotted the snow white field like blooms fighting against the coming of winter. “He came here many years ago to help rescue them and while it appears he did not succeed, he was able to take them on their journey into the next world.”
“But his headstone is right there. He died as a boy.” I pointed to the headstone.
“I have been told that your Jesus was one of the greatest teachers who ever walked the earth and his ministry only lasted three years.” Joseph looked at me with deep dark eyes that seemed to absorb me. “If you were to say a few prayers here and leave this.”
He handed me a small bauble of roughly cut figure of a coyote. My questioning expression made him smile and gently say, “He loved the symbol of the coyote. It came to him in a vision quest before he left for this place. You see, his father too was a medicine man. And his father, Manto Watakpe, rode into the Great Victory against the Bluecoats led by Sitting Bull. His father took him to the sweat lodge where they both went many days without food, and in his weakened state, he saw himself as a coyote, free to wander the vast plains where the ghosts of the buffalo cried out to be saved. You put that on his headstone and he will come to you. Perhaps as a coyote.” He offered a simple shrug and smile as he went on his way, leaving me to stand there at the headstone of Hotah Big Sky (1872-1884) Shaman Boy.
As a light snow filled the chilly air, I knelt and placed the coyote on his headstone. I gasped, for I felt as though I had been embraced and when I turned to leave, I saw a strange animal in the clearing, a white coyote. I know that coyotes are not creatures seen here except in zoos, but I knew that Joseph was telling the truth.
Now the rest is up to me, I am a storyteller who will tell you the story of the Shaman boy, who came here a long time ago, long before I ventured here perchance. But I felt the magic and his magic was very powerful indeed.
No one knows what happened to Hotah Big Sky that day. There were no witnesses or first hand accounts of his disappearance just hearsay stories that border on feasible legendary magic well within the realm of a powerful shaman. The shaman, depending on his skills and ability, can be the source of very powerful magic. In the records I was able to glean a sense that his magic was as powerful as any shaman of his time, even his own father.
Having grown up Catholic, one of the main tenets of my belief is that Jesus Christ rose from his tomb after being dead for three days. What if this power of resurrection was not exclusive to just Him as I was led to believe? Who is to say what the real story is when there are so many versions all attempting to tell the story of where we have come from and where we are going?
All I do know is that this place is sacred in so many ways. The snow has stopped falling and I take a quick picture of the headstone with the camera on my cell phone. People will tell me that this place does not exist, because it tells the story of subjugation of the Native people assimilation as we learned in school. These headstones, however, tell a different story. The children who occupy these silent graves where the snow has made them a merciful blanket, covering them with the frozen tears of God, were victims of the well intentioned effort that became nothing more than an acceptable genocide framed in a much different context to those who now lie here.
I feel like an intruder. I feel like a perpetrator. When I write my story about my visit here, I will feel like a thief as I have stolen their story, but then I know there is no one left who can tell it. For whatever reason, I feel he, the Shaman Boy has chosen me to tell this story. I can only hope this is correct.
Hotah Big Sky was sent to this school and became known as the Shaman Boy. It was said that he used to turn himself into a coyote and carry the souls of the children who died of various illnesses while attending the Industrial Indian School of Carlisle up to the Great Spirit who welcomed them with a warm smile and open arms. As I slowly walk to my car, I have no reason to doubt any of it. None at all.
Title: “Teacher’s Pet Hate”.
Opening: Elly Clarkson had a premonition of her impending death on the first day she set foot on the front steps of Mortirae Secondary College on a sweltering morning in February.
Ending: Elly Clarkson lay, with mouth open and legs splayed, at the base of the front steps of Mortirae Secondary College on the last day of school in mid-December. Attempts by ambulance officers to revive her were futile.
(Note: I live in Australia. The new school year in Australia begins in February and ends in December.)
That was fun!
The Perils of Prosody
I discovered the true power of words, and their limits, when one of my poems sat down with me for dinner.
We shaped each other in our time, and though we remain close we tread carefully, stepping around the lacunae in our lives, the silences that words would only amplify.
Love this. Makes me want to read the whole thing.
My title is ‘A Pair of Blue Eyes’
The prospect of a new life in a new country brought Julie a surge of excitement as the train approached Berlin. Annoyingly, this turned to apprehension as she heard her mother’s parting words echoing in her mind. Words she had chosen to ignore.
The case of mistaken identity was nobody’s fault. It really did not need an explanation, but Julie was expected to give one.
However, she was totally unaware of this. She heard nothing. She was locked in the arms of the blue eyed man and all they could hear was the beat of each other’s heart.
Title: The Extra Pillow
First line: Miranda stared at the crossword puzzle. “Aphrodite,” Alan said, bouncing into bed.
Ending: Miranda held on tight to Alan. If she kept holding on he couldn’t leave her like last time. When she opened her eyes it was dark and she was all alone clutching the extra pillow.
The title of my story is: The mystery of the missing money
It was mother’s day tomorrow, and I wanted to do something special for mummy. She is the best mummy in the world and I wanted to make this day her happiest day and show her how much I loved her. I knew what she wanted, and I had a plan on how I’ll spring the surprise on her.
And so, I couldn’t get mummy what I had planned earlier, but she told me she had the best mother’s day anyway!!
All right, here’s the result:
Title: Level of Peace
First Line: Fires morphed the sand into glass, quickly creating a coffin a la Snow White’s.
Last Line: Each passing wave grasped a part of the sandcastle, freeing the sea life underneath.
Had some fun with this one. Of course it’s not finished, but yay for having fun!
Title: Medievals Are Killing Witchcraft With Their Turnip Toast Triangles
First line: Mahree knew her final exam was one of the papers currently doing a jitterbug behind the teacher’s desk, but the exams would not allow any student to catch them.
This sounds amazing!
OK looks like I am ahead of the prompts, so this one is off prompt – here is my Day 14 Story – http://afstoryaday.blogspot.com/2019/05/day-14-dice-days-continued-party-forms.html
Enjoy, as this you could say is the fourth installment of the dice days quintuple.
Story is done. My MC is a pretty nasty individual. My first line: To be assassinated you have to be of a certain status and piss the right people off. Hunter had accomplished both with beautiful chaos. Ending line is : Chaos squelched. I don’t like it though. The title is THE HIT for now…still working on a list. A Miss is as Good As a Loss is another option.
Challenging Prompt! Here’s my attempt, it’s a very short story. I had the hardest time with the title, it’s either really good or really bad, I haven’t decided yet.
Title: A Woman Stands
Opening: A woman stands in a beautiful white gown on a gorgeous autumn afternoon. The wind blows her veil lightly as she exults in the moment – “I wont be alone anymore.”
Ending: The woman stands in a lovely white kitchen on a nice autumn evening. The scream rattles her anxious nerves as she returns to the present moment – “I’m never alone anymore.”
Opening: “You’ve suffered a great loss,” Dr. Allan says. She crosses her legs primly, readjusting her notebook across her lap. “It is understandable there would be some confusion.”
“And what loss is that? My wife or my sanity?” I ask her. Annoyance flickers across her face before she smooths it away. She thinks I am joking, but I am not. I can never remember which one she is. Which reality she is from.
Ending: “I know what you are now.”
Neither answers me. But that’s alright. My answer lies in the rose garden on the east lawn and the plaque nearly buried within the thick blooms.
In Memory of Dr. Theodore Richards
Sorry this post is late today (messed up the timing). Embrace the extra challenge of writing extra-quickly today 😉