Sentence First, Verdict Afterwards

‘Let the jury consider their verdict,’ the King said, for about the twentieth time that day.

‘No, no!’ said the Queen. ‘Sentence first – verdict afterwards.’

‘Stuff and nonsense!’ said Alice loudly. ‘The idea of having the sentence first!’

‘Hold your tongue!’ said the Queen, turning purple.

‘I won’t!’ said Alice.

‘Off with her head!’ the Queen shouted at the top of her voice.

–Lewis Carroll, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland

You wouldn’t normally associate the Queen of Hearts with thoughtfulness, but Her Mad Majesty is on to something here, at least as it speaks to writers. Our first and most basic task is conceiving, birthing, nurturing–wait for it–a sentence. The noun plus verb kind.

And as Alice found Wonderland, sentence construction isn’t easy. The artiste in you wants Continue reading “Sentence First, Verdict Afterwards”

Setting Ablaze

Gone With the Wind, 1939Cue Scarlett O’Hara shambling beaten and ravenous into what’s left of Tara’s gardens. She roots in the dirt for anything, anything to eat. The music swells. Scarlett digs up a radish and tries to devour it raw. She wretches, gathers herself, and declares to a fiery sky that she’ll never go hungry again.

Like other movies turned pop culture shorthand, Gone with the Wind makes  common language to talk story mechanics, thank you Margaret Mitchell and Victor Fleming. We all know Scarlett and her arc, how this moment cues her shift in motivations come Act Two. We remember her Big Declaration as alive with Continue reading “Setting Ablaze”

Behind the Short Story: “Let It Burn”

First, a numbness. A chill that says you shouldn’t have gone and bit in, that something wicked this way comes. The heat does not flood in, yet. It builds. The nose starts to run, and your voice catches. Your body knows only to sweat. Because it’s too late to run. With Nashville hot chicken, the flames pause just that moment before they consume.

Prince’s hot chicken, courtesy of Wikipedia Commons

Lately, hot chicken has gone from cult food to kind of a thing. Even KFC is in on it–not authentically, mind you. Lest you think I’m the latest bandwagoneer, my 2015 “Let It Burn” submission to Alfred Hitchcock  beat KFC to the punch by some months. The publishing world is itself a sweet, slow burn.

 

I digress. Lester, the sorta-hero of “Burn,” describes hot chicken thusly: Continue reading “Behind the Short Story: “Let It Burn””

One Half of an Awkward Conversation: Table for Mr. Sinatra

Good evening, sir. A big ring-a-ding-ding to you, too. And mademoiselle! Welcome to Toots Shor’s. Yes, quite a swinging clam-bake tonight. I hear it always is.

Table for two? I see. We’ve nothing just now. Perhaps for quite some time.

Yes, I’m sure you are ready to wet your whistles. Unfortunately, as you say, the clams are really baking, aren’t they? What name shall I put your party under?

Could you spell that for me? S-I-N-A-P-R-A. Mr. Sinapra, if I could just get you to step aside–

Oh, Sina-TRA, is it? I beg your pardon. As you can see, Mr. Sinatra, we’re rather busy at the moment. Friday night, all of Midtown swinging. So have a seat, and I’ll call you when—

Seated now? I’m terribly sorry, sir. It’s quite impossible. These good people ahead of you have been waiting– Continue reading “One Half of an Awkward Conversation: Table for Mr. Sinatra”