Writers love reading. It’s through reading that we see how to begin and end stories, string words together to create an image, and make readers turn the page.
Before I write the beginning of any story, I reread Grace Paley’s “A Conversation with My Father” because the first paragraph is my favorite story beginning.
“My father is eighty-six years old and in bed. His heart, that bloody motor, is equally old and will not do certain jobs any more. It still floods his head with brainy light. But it won’t let his legs carry the weight of his body around the house. Despite my metaphors, this muscle failure is not due to his old heart, he says, but to a potassium shortage. Sitting on one pillow, leaning on three, he offers last-minute advice and makes a request.”
Paley could have just written “His heart is equally old…” but instead added “that bloody motor” to paint a more vivid picture. And the sentence, “It still floods his head with brainy light” seems unnecessary, but instead adds a clear sense of the father’s character. The last few words, “…he offers last-minute advice and makes a request”, leave me wondering about a dying father’s advice and request. I often marvel at an author’s ability to turn words into a reader’s tears. Envy is the sin of every writer.