Folded Between Pages

Tahereh Mafi, in Shatter Me, wrote ‘I spent my life folded between the pages of books. In the absence of human relationships I formed bonds with paper characters. I lived love and loss through stories threaded in history; I experienced adolescence by association. My world is one interwoven web of words, stringing limb to limb, bone to sinew, thoughts and images all together. I am a being comprised of letters, a character created by sentences, a figment of imagination formed through fiction.’

Interwoven web of words, comprised of letters, created by sentences. So many things in that quote resonate with me. Can’t you feel that complete immersion in the story?

For those of you who love books, doesn’t this make you remember a favorite, maybe from when you were a child, that opened the world of stories for you?

And for those of you who, like me, spent so much time in the story world as a child, teenager, young woman, don’t you recognize yourself in some of her phrases? While I didn’t live with the absence of human relationships, I do realize now, looking back, how  life passed by without me seeing the real world for the imaginary.

I came across this quote in Goodreads. I haven’t read Shatter Me but since Ms. Mafi just looked into my storied soul, I am going to.

Mt Baring

Lost Dogs and Writing

Some of you have heard part of this before. Several years ago my son asked if he could go hiking with a friend. He also wanted to take along his dog, Arwen, who was not yet full-grown. My response was yes, with the qualifier that they could not go up the Lookout Point trail because it was too steep for Arwen at her age.

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At obedience class

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Still my favorite photo of Arwen

So of course, being young and immortal, that’s exactly where they went. And they also went bushwhacking off trail. Along the way Arwen ended up stuck on a boulder outcropping. Both us mothers filled out backpacks with equipment but it quickly became obvious that a rescue attempt would be dangerous.

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View from Lookout Point trail

To make a long story short, we spent a horrible, sleepless night, imagining Arwen out there alone. With the sunrise though, rock climbers and friends gathered and she was rescued.

The boys of course were grounded.

The fellow-mother came up with a great idea afterward when we were calmer. She asked each of us to write our version of what happened. It was wonderful to see the same drama from different points of view and to see what each of us found important enough to record.

My son wrote his in story form. I was thrilled. A writer was born!

Then nothing.

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Until a couple of years ago when he asked me a question about a specific piece of writing craft. I tried not to scare him off with my excitement. I simply sent him home with this GIANT three-ring binder full of resources on craft.

Last night he asked me to edit something he’d written on world-building for a science fiction piece he’s working on.

I calmly assured him I’d be more than happy to give him an honest opinion.

I managed to wait until he pulled out of the driveway before celebrating. I think I had the piece edited and sent off before he got home.

There’s a fine line between supporting him and pushing something on him that he may not want. Or overwhelming him.

But I keep going back to that story he wrote when Arwen was lost in the woods. Little does he know I still have it. Maybe some day I’ll point to it and say ‘this was the beginning’.

a story about dragons


As some of you know, when I start a book, I may have only a vague idea of the story as a whole, but I’ll have definitive knowledge of the ending. I know not only what is going to happen at the end, but what the very last line of the book will be. Writing then becomes a process of how to get to the end.

I admit, I get lost along the way. Wandering off onto roads less traveled that end up going nowhere, and then having to find my way back to the story. But always, the ending is there as my map.

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Roads guaranteed to lead me astray. What’s around that bend?

There is a lot of emphasis out there on all the work a beginning must do. If you write, you’ve heard it by now. Beginnings must raise questions, hook the reader, introduce characters and setting, and so on. And yes, beginnings are extremely important. A good beginning instantly transports me into the story world and if that doesn’t happen I’m not going to wade through hoping for a good ending.

Endings have a lot to do, too, such as tying up all the plot threads, answering all the questions, etc. But this quote from John Irving says it all for me. Here, he’s talking about epilogues, which do a different job from endings, but the quote still works for me with regards to endings.

‘An epilogue is more than a body count. An epilogue, in the disguise of wrapping up the past, is really a way of warning us about the future.’

I don’t mean here that the ending of a book should be a cliffhanger, and I don’t think Irving means that, either. I don’t like books that leave you hanging simply because it usually takes a while before the next book comes out. I want to be satisfied at the ending. I don’t want to wait months because, honestly, by the time another book comes out I’ll have read many in between and forgotten what cliff I was hanging from.

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It’s hard being a mom on the ground in the midst of a cliffhanger

What I do like about a good ending though, is when it plants a tiny seed. When the last few paragraphs, or the last line leaves one minuscule question. Not a cliffhanger. No big question that will torment you at nights. Just something that allows you to daydream about what comes next. To continue the story in your own imagination. To spend a little more time with the characters you’ve come to like, and possibly not be ready to leave.

I’m not talking about a plot question that won’t get answered until the next book. That’s as bad as a cliffhanger with too much prolonged suspense. I mean something not directly connected to the plot, something that you will find out more about in the next book, but doesn’t necessarily have to be in the next book.

It’s a fine balance between too much teasing of the reader, and giving them just a little bit more time with the story. And I love the challenge of finding just that perfect balance. Most of the time, that ending that I already know, has little, if anything, to do with the main plot. Because, like I said, it’s not a cliffhanger or teaser.

It’s just a little gift to open after the story has ended.