Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Moving our story along

The reader's attention span is limited.  It is our job as writers to hook our readers quickly and keep them with us. A compelling scene moves forward without extraneous information and unnecessary words. Memoir is the stuff of our lives and it should never be boring.

Following is an excerpt from my soon-to-be-published book, Again in a Heartbeat. I hope I have followed my own advice!

Later that afternoon I took the elevator to the hospital’s fifth floor, the cancer floor – the floor where sometimes people never left. John was recuperating from his second surgery. Tom Wayne had opened John up, seen the inoperable tumor and then closed John up again. Wayne had not put a timeline on how long John had.
John lay in bed reading The Sun Also Rises. I had brought our son, Alex, with me. Alex had just turned nine years old. He crept over to his father’s bedside.
“Hi, Dad.” He kissed his father’s stubble covered, sunken cheek. “How do you feel?”
“I’m good, son. I’ll be better once I get out of here.”
Suddenly, Alex started to cry, the sobs heaving his little chest. He shook his head and wiped away the tears with the back of his hand, but the tears still came. I watched as John patted the bed. Alex got up and sat next to his father. John crooked his arm around him.
“What is it, honey?” he asked softly.
Alex hiccupped. “I’m scared. Are you going to die, Dad?”
John and I looked at each other over Alex’s thick mat of dark brown hair. I felt faint as I looked at a bag drip colorless liquid into John’s arm. The room smelled of chlorine and sickness. A portable toilet was parked next to the bed.
John rubbed Alex’s head. “We’re all going to die someday, Alex.”
Alex nodded, still sniffling.
“But I can tell you one thing. I’m not going to die today and I’m not going to die tomorrow.”
Alex looked up at him and a grin split his tear-streaked face.
“That’s good, Dad. I’m sorry I cried.”
“Hey.” John said. “Look at me.”
Alex obediently lifted his head.
“Don’t ever let anyone tell you that you’re not a man if you cry, okay?”
Alex nodded. “Okay, Dad.”

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