Trying to find that elusive Sonuvabitch moment.

For me, Atticus Finch losing his case in To Kill A Mockingbird was a sonuvabitch moment. I didn't see it coming. I read the book again to see if he might win the second time around.
For me, Atticus Finch losing his case in To Kill A Mockingbird was a sonuvabitch moment. I didn’t see it coming. I read the book again to see if he might win the second time around.

THE MUSE CAME BY about midnight. He had been out on the town and was on his way home, wherever that happens to be.

He found me at my machine.

“What are you doing?” he said.

“Writing,” I said.

“I was here this morning,” he said.

I nodded.

“You were writing then,” he said.

I nodded again.

“Do you write all the time?” the Muse asked.

“It’s what I do.”

“Why are you writing so late?” he asked.

“I’m working on my novel,” I said.

“Do you have the novel outlined?” he asked.

“No.”

“Do you have the chapter outlined?” he asked.

“I don’t,” I said.

“Do you know what you’re gonna write?” he asked.

“I have the opening to the scene in my head,” I said.

“That’s all?”

“I pretty much know what the first sentence is,” I said.

“When do you figure out the second sentence?” he asked.

“When the character speaks it,” I said. “Then, as long as he or she keeps talking, I keep following along and listening.”

“What if they have nothing important to say?”

“I kill him off,” I said.

“What if it’s a woman?”

“If she promises a love scene or two, I keep her around.”

“That’s sexist,” he said.

“That’s smart writing,” I said. “Everybody likes a little romance.”

“Do they live happily ever after?”

“Most don’t live happily ’til morning.”

“What’s the most important thing to have in a chapter?” he asked.

“A hook,” I said. “Something has to happen. The plot has to move somewhere. The characters have to make a revelation they don’t expect to make.”

“When do you know what that is?” the Muse asked.

“When it happens,” I said.

“What are you shooting for?”

“I believe every chapter has to provide a sonuvabitch moment,” I said.

“What’s that?” he wanted to know.

“When the reader reads the last sentence, I want him or her to look up and say, ‘Well, I’ll be a sonuvabitch. I didn’t see that coming.’ There’s no way they can see it coming. I sure don’t.”

“What are you gonna do when you finish the chapter?” the Muse asked.

“Write my blog for tomorrow,” I said.

“Do you ever try to get ahead?”

“No.”

“Why not?” he asked.

“I dig deadlines,” I said.

“How long have you been writing?” the Muse wondered.

“All my life.”

“Do you know how to do anything else?”

“No.”

“What’ll you do if you ever stop writing?” he asked.

“Die,” I said.

He nodded and leaned over the machine.

“See where you put that period,” he said.

“I do.”

“Knock it out.”

“Why?”

“Put in a comma.”

“Why should I do that?”

“It’ll give you a reason to keep writing,” he said.

I knocked out the period.

I added the comma.

I at least had one more phrase to write, and – who knows – that might lead me into a scene I didn’t know was coming.

So why do I write?

Before I quit at night, I want to read the last sentence I’ve written, sit back, prop my boots up, and say, “Well, I’ll be a sonuvabitch.”

Caleb Pirtle III is the author of Little Lies.

Little Lies Final Cover LL Mar 13

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