I always like the end of the book. You’ve fallen in love with the characters a long time ago, you’ve seen what they’ve done and what has been done for them, all you need now is the catharsis, so you can walk away feeling empty or feeling fulfilled. I’ve read so many books where there’s no payoff and it sort of ends and you’re left with more questions than answers.
Like “The Handmaid’s Tale” by Margaret Atwood. It took me three years to finish that book because I could not feel anything for Offred. She downright infuriated me. But the premise of the book was fascinating, and that’s the only reason why I kept reading. I had to know the end, even if it was going to piss me off further.
Conversely, the Gemma Doyle trilogy was perfection to me. I had bought “A Great and Terrible Beauty” ages ago but never got around to reading it. During a particularly bad period of writer’s block, I decided to get out of my funk and read it. I was hooked immediately and bought “Rebel Angels” and “The Sweet Far Thing” before I was even done with half of “Beauty.” That’s how well I believe that they were written. I was emotionally – and monetarily – invested. I HAD to know what happened.
Historical fiction has always appealed to me, particularly the era in which Gemma’s story takes place. I believe there was so much potential in 19th-century life. The divide between classes, the stereotyped image we have of the Wild West that I’ve always had an affinity for, and all that fun stuff we like to idealize. If I had had enough sense to take that final semester of French sooner, I probably would’ve transferred to a school that specialized in 19th-century French literature.
But speaking from a history minor’s point of view, I cannot fantasize that life would be easier because it wouldn’t have been. The technological and medical advances in the 20th and 21st centuries are good enough to keep me grounded in this time. But it’s fun to play around with those idealizations.
They say you should never meet your heroes, they’ll only let you down. But what if you write them a letter asking for advice and they throw this blisteringly awesome observation in your face? You don’t have an excuse NOT to get into the arts anymore.
It’s like damn, dropped the mic on y’all.
Here is a lesson in creative writing.
First rule: Do not use semicolons. They are transvestite hermaphrodites representing absolutely nothing. All they do is show you’ve been to college.
And I realize some of you may be having trouble deciding whether I am kidding or not. So from now on I will tell you when I’m kidding.
For instance, join the National Guard or the Marines and teach democracy. I’m kidding.
We are about to be attacked by Al Qaeda. Wave flags if you have them. That always seems to scare them away. I’m kidding.
If you want to really hurt your parents, and you don’t have the nerve to be gay, the least you can do is go into the arts. I’m not kidding. The arts are not a way to make a living. They are a very human way of making life more bearable. Practicing an art, no matter how well or badly, is a way to make your soul grow, for heaven’s sake. Sing in the shower. Dance to the radio. Tell stories. Write a poem to a friend, even a lousy poem. Do it as well as you possibly can. You will get an enormous reward. You will have created something.
I’ll never be Vonnegut. I am me. I don’t write for the mainstream. I write for the dreamers, those who are off-kilter, for the kids who probably thought their whole life was doomed to be in the Upside Down. I probably won’t ever show up on the New York Times’ Bestseller List, and I’m okay with that. If my only goal was to be there, I could have written some piece of tripe a long time ago and been done with it. But I can’t and I won’t. I write for me.
Do you agree or disagree with Vonnegut? Let me know in the comments!
After death, I will grow and scatter myself and someone will say my name with love for the last time. Will they be male or female or someone in between? Will their declarations of love be for the People, or in front of the clouded bathroom mirror? Will the love they proclaim be eternal, will the next generation know my name as well as their own, will my name die on my lover’s tongue when they take their last breath?
This is my legacy. A death that may persist my Being to the next plane but I suppose I’ll never know if it will be remembered. I don’t have time for flowers and shit, but this is why I write. My legacy is the prose I will leave behind. Should I marry and bear children they will come of me but they will not be me. These words that I leave behind will be my inheritance. I apologize to my future children for admitting this but Nanay knows best.
Our culture will be downloaded and encoded in my words and they will be my Truth. I am that I that I announce. There is beauty in this dark and ugly world and I refuse to let it remain in the shadows.
I know I was banging on about flowers earlier but I suppose this whole exercise is flowers. I like sunflowers. I like anything with the word sun in their name. There’s something so humbling to know that at the inevitable end of the universe, the heat death that awaits us is contained and controlled by that large ball of gas in the sky. We call it the sun. How beautiful that something so far away could control us like an addiction. Like the firm grip of a mother’s hand to her child.
We are all children making steps to our heat deaths. Age moves like a waltz: dancing to a familiar beat. Let the beat drop. Open thyself to the warmth of the sun.
I miss the sun.
Your turn! Start a new piece with the words “after death” and see what happens. If you want to share your stuff in the comments below, I’d love to see it!
I found another freewriting piece. I think the prompt was to write an entire story with a clear beginning and end only on 1 page. It was an exercise in limiting yourself to a small space. It was for my humor class as well. We could choose any topic, and I chose the topic I was most comfortable with: the secret agent world.
I went through the Farm like it was a candy store. Top marks. My psych evals showed great temperament. Marksmanship? No scope, bitch. I trained hard. I got sent Over There because of my gift of tongues. I was thrilled. It didn’t occur to me until later that I was leaving my family behind and I might not come back. TDY was my rote answer. They didn’t question it. It wasn’t like they had the clearance. We shut down a money-laundering scheme from a certain enemy of the United States operating There. Can’t say more than that. Sorry. For my hard work, I got “awarded” a desk job. My cunning linguist skills were needed to translate any and all reports coming up over Echelon. I could feel my physical talents grow fallow. The guys at the gym noticed. It got back to my superiors. Went through a refresher course. Fails across the board. I lost my swag. I’d never seen so many red marks on a redacted report. Went home and cried like I lost my dog. The powers that be believed in me. They sent me abroad again. Something was different. I could feel it even as the agent scanned my passport of the woman with my face but not my name. I was pleased that my reflexes were quick. I saw the muzzled gun blast in the shadows of the Burj Khalifa. I feigned death. I always was a great actress. It was almost too easy. Whomever this guy was, he wasn’t very good. He didn’t do a very thorough investigation of my supposedly dead carcass. No double-tap. He sent proof to Them and buried my body in the desert. I let my training take over. Was buried for 12 hours before I thought I was safe. I went underground. I wasn’t mad they eliminated me. My name would go on their wall of fallen heroes. My family would get a nice funeral and the American flag for the mantle. If anything, it freed me to find a better version of me, one that wouldn’t fail. Their mistake.
If you got this same prompt, what would you write? Let me know in the comments!