The end of the beginning …

Writers enjoy pretending to be someone, somewhere in their dreams and those dreams become their stories. An encounter barely remembered, the face of a stranger, that first moment when the fire begins to burn.

The time and place … the who, what, where, and when of the story.

The when puts the reader in the moment. Be it historical fiction or memoir, the when brings your reader into your world.

cat

Writer's Humor

As a baby boomer, I might have a proclivity towards the time in which I was born.

My other bent has been the time in which my children grew, those we coined Generation X.

I might posit a story that took place hundreds of years ago, or a hundred years into the unknowable future.

I read a post on Anne R. Allen’s blog asking readers to put in the last 49 words of their first chapter. The post was about the importance of chapter endings.

In other posts, I have read about the importance of beginnings … that first page, paragraph … the opening sentence.

darkandstormy_5013

Graphic Credit

Today, my mind wanders back the years of my childhood, my formative years and to an experiment with openings.

This snippet is one of three possible openings for Sunset Park, a collection of short stories. This one waxes poetic, nostalgic, and introduces the story of my alter-ego, Antoinette, who she is and where she came from.

The beat of a different drum …

They were urchins running in the open fields behind the factories; a vacant lot became their playground, exploring the Brooklyn docks their adventure.

But like the children on both sides of the border, they identified most with Sunset Park, her long hills and hundred year-old oak trees, the wide turquoise pool and the circular brick wall surrounding the flagpole where they watched a hundred sunsets.

They were the product of blue-collar, first generation dreams.

They played stickball, punch ball, ring-a-lievio, Johnny on the pony, handball, stoopball, and kick the can. They leapfrogged over hydrants and climbed up telephone poles.

A cardboard refrigerator box became a temporary “club house,” orange crates became scooters, and soda caps filled with melted candle wax became a popular street game called Skully or Skelsies.

They were street kids. No one missed them if they left their houses after breakfast and did not return until supper time. The rule was … be in the house before the street lights come on.

With nothing between them and concrete and asphalt, they raced along the sidewalk on solid steel skates, scooters or fat wheeled bikes.

No one monitored their behavior or organized play groups. They were not required to wear helmets or knees protectors. And when they fell, they got up and kept riding. On cheap skates or on homemade scooters pushed by bargain Keds on uneven sidewalks, they explored their world.

Without adult supervision or interference, they created a caste system for selecting kids for stick ball or taking turns to play “stoop” ball.

As teenagers, in mixed-gender groups resembling roaming marauders, they walked everywhere to save bus or subway money. A fun night was sitting at the local ice cream parlor drinking a cherry-coke or an egg-cream and listening to the jukebox.

When the last full moon of their youth waned, the kids left Sunset Park. They got married and raised their kids in safer places. Some crossed the country to settle on the west coast, others never moved more than five miles from the house where they were born. A few went to Woodstock, a few more to Vietnam

They stored their old forty-five records, packed away their short skirts, opened bank accounts, and contributed to the economy.

The street kids of New York City lived and played through the innocence of the fifties, worked and protested and died during the turmoil of the sixties, and survived to become senior citizens in the new millennium.

Yet, somewhere in their memory those moments still live. And on a rainy day or when they miss their kids and grandkids, or need to reconnect to the caste system that molded them …

they take out their old black and white or early “Kodak” moments from shoe boxes or photo albums and remember the time of their life.

########

Do you struggle with how to

begin or end your stories?

Or are you one of those who is plagued with

The sagging center?

fOIS In The City


					
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15 Comments

Filed under Random Thoughts

15 responses to “The end of the beginning …

  1. What a beautiful and evocative opening for your short story collection!

    I grew up like you, home “before the street lights come on.” We thought nothing of riding 15 miles to the beach along the L.A. River bed and back on a summer day. Those were the days. (Come to think of it, I only live 10 miles from the beach now, but seldom even drive it because traffic is so bad.)

    Thanks for the trip down memory lane, Florence. If this is just the first of three, can’t wait to read the others! (BTW, Anne R. Allen did a great piece on chapter endings this week, too.)

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks, Debra. It was a time we all froze in our memory … as Simon said … “It was a time, a time of innocence, a time of confidences.” Yeah, and I am certain none of us walk, run or bike the long distances we used to back in the day …

      Oh, BTW … I meant that comment for Anne’s blog. I’ll correct it now 🙂

      Like

  2. Love beginnings, Florence! This is a great one!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I’ve changed the beginning sentences of my first chapter a million times, Florence. Since we have about 17 sentences to hook the reader, it’s a very hard call, isn’t it? What I’m getting now from agents is that they like my work but can’t sell it in today’s market! What to do? It’s so frustrating. I don’t follow the market so I guess I’m doomed!
    Patti

    Liked by 1 person

    • Patti, I think no one is truly certain about today’s market. It is a turkey shoot for publishers, so agents get nervous. Who knows what the future will bring. I think you should stay true to your voice and keep the story you love. I think if we love what we write, we will find readers that love it as well 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Usually dialogue sets off my stories. Some people don’t like that; some do. I think we’re instantly with a character, so I keep it.

    I love how you reminisce about your young years. We played til the street light came on. We lived on an “L” shaped street and it was small. Lots of kids playing hide n go seek on that block, kids of all ages. A lot of fun.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yes, Vicki … I sometimes start chapters with dialogue. I think it’s a great way to start a book as well. Remember where “it was a dark and stormy night” was used? It is the opening of A Wrinkle in Time and decades after it was published, it continues to out sell all her other books.

      Whoever wrote the rules that say you should or shouldn’t do a dozen things in the opening … never factored the reader into their crooked formulas.

      If you start great with opening dialogue, readers will enjoy it 🙂

      Like

  5. christicorbett

    I have trouble with my middles because that’s where everything needs to slow down. Character arcs and storylines need to carry on but only in hints and foreshadows for the dramatic ending, so too much can’t be given away but at the same time something must be hinted at in order for the ending to make sense. It’s a balance that I struggle with 😀

    Christi

    Liked by 1 person

    • OMG … yes, Christi. I think the sagging middle gives most of us more headaches than the beginning or the end. How far to take them? When to let the reader go to the other side of the arc? It’s a puzzlement 🙂 Of course, your story will win out in the end 🙂

      Like

  6. annerallen

    Fantastic opener, Florence! Took me time-traveling…

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks, Anne. That is exactly what I want to do for my reader. Whether they are boomers or GenX’ers … I want to take them on a travel through time to meet Antoinette and her friends and family. Glad you liked this version 🙂

      And once again, excuse me for not following the rules of your contest, but this book is very strange and Chapter One does have three endings … one for each main character 🙂

      Like

  7. annerallen

    I just entered the first one. I think it has a good shot. 😉

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Love this post. Last night I was reading Hemingway and a comment he wrote really stuck with me and it’s something you do so well. I’ll paraphrase . . . as I write, I believe the story. When I believe the story really happened, my reader must believe. Those are the best stories. . .

    Liked by 1 person

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