Back to the topic of beginnings and endings, I thought I'd leave you with some of the best, in my opinion. Beginnings and endings are my favourite things to write. There's something satisfying about laying out the bread, buttering it up, and figuring out how it holds the insides together.
I will begin by giving you an example from one of the masters of short fiction, and my personal favourite, Raymond Carver. This excerpt is from one of his best, "Tell the Women We're Going." Carver was an incredible writer; he had a way of showing so much in few words. You can find this story in its entirety in various anthologies. It was originally published in What We Talk About When We Talk About Love--an absolute must-read. You can also see it in Robert Altman's fantastic film, Short Cuts, which is an adaptation of some of Carver's short stories.
Beginning: Bill Jamison had always been best friends with Jerry Roberts. The two grew up in the south area, near the old fairgrounds, went through grade school and junior high together, and then on to Eisenhower, where they took as many of the same teachers as they could manage, wore each other's shirts and sweaters and pegged pants, and dated and banged the same girls--whichever came up as a matter of course.
Ending: He never knew what Jerry wanted. But it started and ended with a rock. Jerry used the same rock on both girls, first on the girl called Sharon and then on the one that was supposed to be Bill's.
A chilling ending. That story gives me goosebumps.
Next, I will show you an example from a novel that blew my mind. I wrote the final essay of my literature degree on William Faulkner's The Sound and the Fury. It devoured me--the book, and the process of writing the paper. I felt like I wasn't myself at that time. I was some sort of mad scientist locked inside a lab (the library). This was a cool assignment because, for the first time, I was asked not to use sources. Although scary at first, this was the perfect novel for which to rely only on my mind--my ideas--particularly because the book made me lose sleep. I would wake up in the middle of the night to underline passages that I had to know more about. It was a great opportunity to exploit my craziness to its full potential.
Beginning: Through the fence, between the curling flower spaces, I could see them hitting. They were coming toward where the flag was and I went along the fence. Luster was hunting in the grass by the flower tree. They took the flag out, and they were hitting. They put the flag back and they went to the table, and he hit and the other hit. Then they went on, and I went along the fence. Luster came away from the flower tree and we went along the fence and they stopped and we stopped and I looked through the fence while Luster was hunting in the grass.
If you haven't read the book, I'm sure that was fairly confusing. I read several passages from that book over and over. It's not an easy read, but it is an incredible novel that continues to seep into my mind from time to time. Actually, the topic of beginnings and endings is interesting in terms of The Sound and the Fury, because the whole story is preoccupied with time and the past. It's difficult for both the reader and the characters to determine what is actually happening, and when.
Last, I will give you a snippet from one of the big guns--a novel that everyone should read because it really is as good as you've heard. I had the pleasure of studying F. Scott Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby in university and had not read the book until that time. Gatsby instantly became one of my favourites. If Faulkner didn't steal me away with his brilliance, I would have written my final essay for American Lit on Gatsby's Nick Carraway, who is probably my all-time-favourite narrator. I will now shut up, and leave you with this:
Ending: So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.
Okay, that just has to be the best last line of a novel. Ever. It is so concise, yet is the perfect ending to the story.
I would give more examples, but I can't follow that with anything. The above photo will give you an idea of some of my favourites.
I have attached the essay I wrote on The Sound and the Fury for those interested in reading. It probably won't make sense if you haven't read the novel and, even if you have, it still may not. Be kind, though. And, remember, I received an A on the paper. ;)
Mind the formatting. For whatever reason, there's a blank page after the title page. Like I've said before, I'm a gumshoe when it comes to technology.
I'm finally doing it--pulling my insides out and splattering them around for all to see. Here we go!