Reading & Writing

Writing Exercise: Beginning with the End

Last night, I was watching A Christmas Story with my kids when bedtime hit. Right as I had to turn off the TV to start the bedtime routine, the narrator (adult Ralphie) uttered one of my favorite lines: “From then on, things were different between me and my mother.”

At first, I thought this would be a great opening line–for an exercise, perhaps, but not for an actual story. So I thought, perhaps I could use it as a last line–sort of like reverse engineering. I’ve heard of writers thinking this way (the one that comes to mind is Gilmore Girls and the six words Amy Sherman-Palladino swore would finish the series–six words she didn’t get to write until the follow-up episodes a few years ago) and while it might not be the very best way to work, it’s something I hadn’t tried.

Read my attempt below (there is sooo much more work to be done!) and share yours in the comments!

The shoes were gone. At some point in the evening, they’d come off my feet, then been set on the floor, then I’d walked away without them.

I could hear my mother: the sidewalk is filthy, there are drug addicts downtown, and what if you’d stepped on a needle?! I could hear my father: those shoes were expensive, when are you going to grow up and learn some responsibility?!

The concrete was cold and comforting, icing the balls of my feet. Jenny got on the bus but I kept walking, though I was likely to get mugged, raped, killed, and chopped into tiny pieces. I’d been reading too much about serial killers, watching too many documentaries. I half hoped something would happen to me, that someone would appear out of the darkness with a smile and a knife, because no one would care about my missing shoes.

But nothing did happen, except for the holes in my tights and the car that honked as it passed me. I walked alone, like you’re not supposed to, I got home just past my curfew.

My mother was watching TV when I got in–that series about Ted Bundy. She paused the show and looked at me, looked me up and down. She looked for a long time at my feet and a long time at my face.

“Are you okay?” she asked.

From then on, things were different between me and my mother.


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