Knowing When To Stop

I had an epiphany last week while I was working on my story. I started late, and wasn’t writing much on a daily basis, but I thought I knew where I was going with it until I wrote a single line. With that line, everything changed.

I was done.

All of my thoughts on what was going to happen next were irrelevant. The story was finished and it was good. It didn’t need anything else. I could just stop right where I was and it was okay.

“Always leave them wanting more.” – P.T. Barnum

Sometimes it’s better to leave the readers hanging. When you leave the reader the task of answering the questions that are left hanging, believe me, they will do it. And they’ll think the story is better that way.

So I ended up with a short story of 568 words. One of the shortest I have ever written. But I think it works. And to show you what I mean, I’m going to share it with you here. (It’s just a first draft, so don’t expect greatness.)

The only thing left in the box was an old, dirty penny. Sam picked it up and peered at it, trying to make out the date through the grime. 1916. It was older than his grandpa. Might be worth something if he cleaned it up and took it to a coin shop.

He jerked his head up at a noise from the entrance to the alley. Four large boys sauntered along, eager for trouble. “Whatcha got there, runt?” the largest one called out, swinging his baseball bat against a garbage bag, tearing it open and scattering the contents across the alley in a wave of refuse. His posse hooted at the resulting mess.

Sam stood up, putting his hands on his hips and slipping the coin into his back pocket. “Nothin’,” he said. “There ain’t but trash up here. I’s jus’ leavin’.” He walked towards the others, but they closed in, trapping him on the wrong side of escape.

“No need to rush,” Joe said, wrapping his beefy arm around Sam’s shoulder. “Why don’t you stick around a bit so we can have some fun?” He wiped his bat on Sam’s shirt, leaving a greasy stain slanting across his chest.

Sam squirmed out of the larger boy’s grasp and backed away. “Cain’t do that, man,” he said. “I’s gotta get somewheres.”

“That so?” Joe asked. “And where is it that you gotta get to so quick?” He put the bat up on one shoulder, holding it loosely. He looked relaxed, but Sam knew that he could whip it down and start a beating in one quick second.

Sam thought fast. Things weren’t looking very good. He was just starting to get used to this town, but it wasn’t looking like he was going to be able to stick around much longer.

It was the same thing everywhere he went. He tried to stay out of trouble, under the radar. But it didn’t take long before someone cornered him, just like this, and forcing him to act. Then people would start looking at him funny, calling him a freak, and he would have to leave.

The longest he had managed to stay in one place was for a glorious three months in the mountains of Oregon. He had found a cave that summer, and was living off the wild, with only occasional trips into town to scavenge for supplies and remind himself that he wasn’t the only one left alive. That idyllic time had ended with a group of boys, just like Joe and his gang, cornering him in an alley.

And now here he was, thousands of miles away, once again about to fight for his life. No matter how far he ran, the people were always the same. They all had their idea of how the world worked, and it didn’t include him.

Screw it. He didn’t need this crap. And he certainly didn’t need a beating from these jerks. Sam was sick of living on the fringes of society, running from place to place and living off of garbage. It was time to do something about it, and there was no reason not to start right now.

A smile spread slowly across Sam’s face. Joe’s own grin wavered when he saw it, and his hand tightened on the handle of the bat. Sam didn’t care. It wouldn’t make any difference.

This was going to be fun.

See what I mean? I introduced you to a character, gave you a little of his history, and gave you a hint of what might come next. You’re dying to know how Sam is going to get out of his predicament, but since I didn’t provide the answers, you get to answer those questions yourself.

Go ahead and leave me a comment about what you think about the story. Remember that it’s just a first draft, so try not to get all caught up in the fine details. Just let me know if you think it works.

That’s it for today. It’s time for me to start thinking about my next installment for the Dirty Little Freaks collection. I’ll check in again on Wednesday with another update. See you then!

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2 Comments

Filed under Fiction, The Writing Experience

2 responses to “Knowing When To Stop

  1. I love this. However. I view it as a wonderful opening hook and not a short story. It’s great to leave the reader wanting more but this has too much potential to stop here. My two cents. 🙂

  2. Naomi Steele

    I would like to read more, but it does work the way it is.

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