On the importance of finishing a story
It’s the middle of summer and there’s a Fringe Festival happening in my city: a festival of comedy, music, burlesque and more.
I was excited to go to a comedy show last Sunday. This was a gig by comedienne Hannah Gadsby, whose humour I really appreciate, who knows how to quietly engage an audience, who is droll and witty, and whom I’ve been following for a few years.
My family and I drove into the city a little early to grab dinner before the show, forgetting that last weekend was also the Chinese Lunar New Year celebrations. Streets had been closed off, food trucks set up, and people had swarmed in for the festivities. I’m not a fan of crowds and was already frazzled by the road closures, but the joy of people watching trumped the anxiety of being in the middle of the crush of humanity.
Sweaty, with full bellies, and in a slightly agitated state we made our way to the comedy show. We were early enough that I could catch my breath. I wondered what the show would be about since the name was no clue: Nanette. Eventually, the clock ticked over and we shuffled in a generally orderly fashion into the theatre to find our seats. I had picked seats towards the very front so we’d have a great view of all her facial features as she spun her tales. We settled in, chatted politely to our neighbours, and then hushed as the lights came down.
Hannah Gadsby walked out on stage wearing her trademark men’s business suit and Converse sneakers. She stood, centre stage, bathed in blue light and started her story telling. My hopes for belly laughs fizzled rapidly. This was not a comedy show. This was her last show for the year, she said. My brain did a record-scratch, freeze-frame as I tilted my head in confusion. It was only January, how could this be her last show for the year? And then the tale of her time in the business unfolded.
“Jokes,” she said, “are just the beginning of a story. They are a set up and a punchline with no ending.”
The show was a conversation with the audience, injected with moments of humour, pathos, and great clarity. She spoke of the need to complete a story, the sense of peace and accomplishment that comes with that. I nodded along in understanding as a Rolodex of my unfinished stories whirred in my imagination. The familiarity of starting a story, reaching a peak, and then trailing off into the abyss was painfully real.
She was looking forward to completing her stories, to seeing them through beyond the punchline. And now, so was I. It wasn’t the evening of laughter that I’d expected, but it was the conversation about creating art and telling stories that I needed.
My challenge to you this week, is to really consider whether and how your story is complete, or whether you reach your punchline and simply stop.
Prompt Up is our optional weekly writing prompt for the fiction|poetry challenge! Here’s how it works: we choose a sentence prompt from last week’s winning nonfiction post and announce it in the kickoff. It’s your job to use that prompt in your poem or story. The prompt is just a springboard: feel free to use it as your first sentence, move it, change it, or float down it to other territories.
Hema celebrated a milestone with us in her post, 9 Years Later. This week’s prompt up taken from her essay is: “The fever had raised its hood again.”
Yeah write #304 fiction|poetry writing challenge is open for submissions!
Basic yeah write guidelines: 750 word limit; your entry can be dated no earlier than this past Sunday; fiction or poetry only.
How to submit and fully participate in the challenge:
- In the sidebar of this week’s post, please grab the code beneath the challenge grid badge and paste it into the HTML view of your entry
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- Your entry should appear immediately on the grid if you don’t receive an error message
- Please make the rounds to read all the entries in this week’s challenge
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Submissions for this week’s challenges will close on Wednesday at 10pm ET. Voting will then open immediately thereafter and close on Thursday at 10pm ET. The winners, as always, will be celebrated on Friday.