Story In Reverse | StoryADay 2024 Day 21

Fun that was

day 21 cover

The Prompt

Start your story at the end. Write about a character who must do something they really, really don’t want to do in order to get out of a sticky situation.

Things To Consider

For readers of a certain age, I can simply cite the opening of the Tobey Macguire Spiderman movie (Falls off a building. Freezeframe, voice over: “Yup, that’s me. You’re probably wondering how I ended up in this situation…”).

Starting at the moment of peak drama and then jumping back in time to tell the rest of the story is a great and time-honored way of telling a story, and probably the easiest to do on a day like this, when you only have one day to craft the story. S

ome other options for telling a story backwards include literally telling it backwards.

In Courttia Newland’s 2017 story “Reversible”, the narrator shows us the victim of a crime and then tells the story as if it was a film, running in reverse (people back away down the alley and get into cars and reverse away at high speeds).

It’s a clever technique and ends up packing a huge emotional punch as we follow the victim back through his morning and into an average morning. (This is an idea that will take a bit of time to work out, so if you don’t have a lot of time to write today, file this idea away for later!)

Another clever-but-potentially-time-consuming idea, is to tell a palindromic story, in which you tell the story once in one direction and then reverse the direction and tell it again, but in the other direction.

Further Reading:

Here’s an example of a palindromic story and here’s a children’s story that does this very effectively

Here’s a collection where you can read Courttia Newland’s “Reversible”.

Leave a comment and let us know how it went!

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17 thoughts on “Story In Reverse | StoryADay 2024 Day 21”

  1. I had written this story forwards before, and then found an endpoint for starting the story. I think it is stronger than before, because it makes one wonder about the first paragraph – why is she is special?
    Vong sat by the window at the front of the bus, feeling like she was in an exalted position above the crowd of the villagers, who had come to see her off. She was the first person in their village to go to university. They were laughing and yelling out wishes to her, instead of the jeering and disrespectful words they had thrown at her in the past. Now they yelled “to our scholar” the nai ban yelled “show those city folk what villagers are capable of! Tell them the strengths of our village.”

    She thought of the fear she felt in front of the university professors when they met with village committee to decide on the scholarship students. They had read her paper on the conversations of women and the analysis of women’s work, and had chosen her for the one scholarship person from their village.

    While at first, some people were upset. “How was she chosen? A cripple? What good would her education be?” For years, those same people had called her “stupid” and “cripple” as she dragged herself to school on a board that she had outfitted with wheels. Years before, the nai ban had talked to her parents about keeping her hidden in the house so other people are not scared of her, or catch the same disease that she had.

    But she persevered. Every day, she went to school and the teacher helped her to sit up in the back of the classroom. She learned to read and write, and started to write the stories of the women in the village.

    Her big breakthrough in life was the day an outside organization came to the village and she had positioned herself at the edge of the village meeting. A foreign woman and a Lao doctor looked at her and gave advice to her parents about physical therapy and then gave her a wheelchair which opened her life.

    The driver got on the bus and started the engine. He turned to her and said, “Are you comfortable? there are many curves on the road, do you need a rope to prevent you from falling over?”

    She answered. “I think I will be fine.”

    “Let’s see, if you have trouble, yell out to me and I’ll attach a seat beat.”

    “How do you know that I might have trouble?”

    “I’ve brought many people with your kind of problem on my bus. I make sure their wheelchairs are protected and also, that they sometimes have trouble sitting up straight on the curves.” He leaned over her and said in a whisper, “It’s a long ride to the capital, but I’ll make sure you’ll have help to get the rest room if you need it. And once we get to the city, I’ll arrange a tuk tuk for you to get to the school.

    She thanked him and felt tears welling in her eyes as the bus left the center of the village and she could finally see vistas that she had never seen before and never could have imagined.

    1. Changping, the first time I read this I didn’t get the significance behind why Vong could suddenly see vistas that she’d never seen before, but on my second reading I understood how not only was the bus driver helpful for her seeing things in a new way, but she was also just as responsible at coming to this point because of her constant perseverance. I like deep stories like this but sometimes I need to read them twice to get the message.

  2. Sorry, I got the prompt late. As I was busy yesterday. I didn’t exert myself much. Reading all those trash in my younger days turned out to be handy. Here is the story :
    The Loony – Who?!
    Believe you me, I didn’t want to do it….. I just wanted to teach the detestable… disgusting lad a lesson. I agree I was mad…incensed rather when I pushed him from behind. Time was running out for me. If I didn’t do something then, I’d have lived to regret this day for the rest of my life. As that horrid monster got thrown off balance, he tried to grope for something, his hands swimming in the air as he fell forward with a shriek that came right from the pit of his stomach.
    I’d already stepped away. One of the sentries down there could have seen me. Otherwise, I’d have seen him plunging headlong into the emptiness and down to the concrete some forty feet below from the open roof…..

    It all began when a relative called me to find out if her son, on his way to someplace up North, could drop in to meet us. My daughter, Tanya, and me. I saw nothing wrong with her request so, went out of my way to be really nice to him, a lad, probably in his late teens!
    He looked like any normal lad as he entered our apartment, dressed in jeans and a white shirt. Tanya was not at home, attending her classes. I took out some juice and sweets from the fridger and came out of the kitchen to offer him.

    He was not sitting on the sofa in the drawing room any more! He had slithed out and was standing near a photo of Tanya taken some months ago. Tanya, with her hair neatly plaited into a bun with that garland of Jasmine around it, looked serene in the dancing pose during the College Award Day. She was a very ravishingly beautiful.

    I kept the tray down on the tool and was about to sit down with my glass in hand when something made me turn my head in his direction again. The way he was staring at the photo, kind of ogling her from top to bottom – was just beyond me!

    Nothing wrong with that. Times have changed and today’s youths are far more open,advanced with a greater IQ, more introverted. He stumbled back on the sofa at my call.
    “So, tell me about yourself, Ronny.” I said just to break the ice.
    He kept gazing at the photo as if he was unaware of my presence in the drawing room!
    Tanya stepped in back from the college just then. You should have seen the change in his facial expression just then. But before I could say anything, the boy flew up to shake hands with her.
    “Hi, I’m Ronny.” He murmured in a voice which was anything but normal, gauging her up from face down!
    Looking at my daughter, I realised that she felt ill at ease as the bas—- kept in shaking her hand longer than necessary.
    A decent girl, she turned back to get to her room. The boy tried to stop her by hooking hands around her shoulders from behind! I know you might not find anything wrong with that, especially as he uttered :
    “What’s the hurry, Sis? I’ve barely met you.”
    I could have accepted the fact that he was ignoring me completely. His bad manners even. But there was something lewd, something obscene about the way he was holding her and muttering those words.
    Tanya, a member of the College Volleyball team, gently shook herself free from his hold and chirped:
    “I’m all stinky. Got to go up to the pool for a bath. Nice meeting you, bro.”

    “There’s a swimming pool up on the roof? Wao! Mind showing me that?”

    I couldn’t believe my ears! He was either brought up wrong or plain insane.

    “Yea, But aren’t you on your way to your girl friend’s? Enjoy the juice…” Tanya told him, smilingly.

    Some ten minutes later, she came out of her room in that swim swit, her kit slung over her shoulder.
    The son of a b—- was feasting on her. He still had his eyes on the door a couple of minutes after Tanya had banged it shut!
    I had never come across a lad of his age like that.
    “When are you supposed to get back to New Town?” I asked him, trying my best to bring him out of his drunkenness.
    Then he looked back at me as if noticing for the first time since he had got in.
    The look on his face was that of a murderer!

    I went to the gym every weekend and at 52 was as fit as a fiddle but the look of his face unnerved me like you won’t believe!
    “Uncle, I’ve to leave now. Be seeing you soon.” For the first time, he sounded normal at least. But by then, I could make out the reason why he wanted to get out.
    I nodded my head but there was no need really. He was not asking for my consent and darted out of the room in a flash.

    Through the crack in the door, I saw him heading to the lift. But he was obviously not going down. Filled with the sense of an impending doom, I knew I’d to do something sooner. Before anything happened to Tanya.

    Luckily, I found the adjacent lift coming down just then. There was no one inside! Rushing in, I pressed the button back up to the 23rd floor.

    My hands were shaking as the door swang open on reaching the top floor. The lunatic was crouching behind a pillar, his eyes glued to the swimming pool! I dashed along the passageway, worried that he might look back. The worry proved completely unfounded. But he had already gone out on to the roof, slithing his way to the swimming pool on the right. I moved fast and caught up with him.
    I had a scary feeling that Tanya might have seen me stalking him.
    Then I heard something in my head asking me to take it easy. I had to make it look like an accident. A suicide would be better though. A murder – far be it from my thoughts! Almost half a foot taller than the motherf—–, I could see the enclosed courtyard and the boulevard far below.

    Just then he turned his head. I froze behind. I didn’t know how he missed seeing me. Must have been due to the dim light in the passageway. He licked his licks like there was bits of honey stuck up. I was horrified by the intense look of hunger, desire… on his face.
    I pounced on him from the shadows and side-elbowed him just then….

    1. I missed reading this yesterday and came back to it after I read today’s story from the creep’s perspective. After seeing in his thoughts, I have no bad feelings about him being pushed off the roof. If I’d read just this, though, I’d have an interesting debate going on about WAS he really so bad or was the father an overprotective madman who’d just committed an unjustified murder? And now I’m thinking both things are true. Ronny was evil and planning to hurt Tanya, so I’m not really sad to see him die. (Sure, she’s not as innocent as her dad thinks she is, but that’s hardly a decent excuse to assault her. There are no decent excuses for that.) BUT Daddy Dear didn’t know what Ronny was planning. All he knew was he didn’t like the guy who was obviously interested in his daughter. Granted, she didn’t seem to return the interest and the guy was certainly weird, but if all Ronny had intended to do when he followed Tanya to the pool was tell her she’s pretty and ask if he could see her again, then killing him was completely unwarranted.

      I love stories where it’s hard to say who was in the wrong in the end.

      1. Andy B, this seems like an excellent translation. Thank you. I couldn’t figure Rathin’s story out so I asked him a short question about it and he explained it to me so that I got the main jist. But you explained it even better! Either you are a super smart person or I am just dumb! Good going.

  3. I already posted a story today regarding this prompt so I hope it’s ok that I drop in here again today. Just now I took a story I’d written a few prompts ago and redid it using this prompt. It worked! It may be a stronger story now. I’ve always wondered how writers could flip around time like they do and now I know. It’s cool!

  4. It did not go well. I dreamt up a good story-ending image to start it with, and created an outline (using the patented StADa framework), but did not crank out the words. One thought: I chose a fairly grim, not so much realistic as noir final scene. Writing on deadline like this, a goofy premise would have been much easier to deal with. Wait, didn’t Julie suggest something like that?

  5. So, confession… I despise the “Let’s flashback to how we got here!” trope. Occasionally it’s funny and/or clever, but most of the time it just feels like a lazy way to get away with the start of the story being dull and unlikely to hook many people. So I didn’t do that so much as told the story in a strange order.

    Half of the story is actually yesterday’s story.

    Yesterday, I sort of failed the prompt. Rather than retelling events three times like I set out to do, I wound up telling it through alternating stream-of-conscious looks at the three people involved with the plot failing to reset by more than a few moments at a time.

    Today, I I did the same thing, starting with a year later (two of them are getting married and one of them is very bitter about it) and working back with clusters from every few months. Then I took the segments from yesterday’s story and reversed 3-POV segments of it so that the story ends with, “I’m doing it. I’m going to talk to that guy I’m obsessing over for no good reason even though we haven’t spoken yet.”

    I’m not sure how much I like it and how much it’s an unholy mess. It’s certainly interesting, though. I think I may wind up using it as an outline for a more traditional story.

    1. And I didn’t forget it, but the thing a person didn’t want to do didn’t wind up too important… Bitter Person doesn’t want to provide the flowers for the wedding. (And the couple don’t want him to, but their organizer didn’t realize there’s a history there. She just knows he usually has reasonable rates. She’s got no idea why he’s destroying stuff when he finds out who she’s working for.)

      1. Sounds interesting, Andrea! I’m wondering if you began your story with Bitter Person destroying stuff.

  6. I wrote about a man trying to break into a woman’s house. The woman is the MC. In following the prompt, I began the story by her letting him in the door then shooting him dead. I explained the reason she let him in. (Prompt said to have your MC do something they don’t want to do. She didn’t want to let him in but had a reason she needed to). I wrote out my story’s ending at the beginning of my story like the prompt said. Then I explained the situation and why she owns a gun. I had no idea when I began writing how I would end this story but a miracle occurred when I was finishing it up: I thought of a surprise ending that brought the reader back to the story’s ending, which I had used as the beginning of the story. 250 words. I’m going to see if I add details if it reads better, but I don’t want to take away from the punch of the story with too many details.

    I’m going to try writing another story using this prompt and see if I get a result I like again.

    An aside: I’d like to know where to publish stories. It seems like that was easier in the past. Or am I wrong.

  7. 701 words, finished just before the end of my hour limit. Grady is on a very, very bad date. Thought xe could get out of it by xemself, but looks like might need to call in reinforcements(which is where I started, then went back an hour to the beginning of the date).

  8. Well, I sort of cheated. I finished yesterday’s prompt about 12:30 this morning. I didn’t see the email for today’s. But I had to on the website to get it. I really liked this one. Started it at 5am. I’m almost finished. Heading to my doctor appointment.

    It starts/ and ends with my character entering her apartment on her birthday. Will there be a surprise waiting for her?

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