Saturday, April 21, 2007

Death Scenes

Does someone die on-screen in your book or story? Find the exact sentence in which the death occurs. That's the last sentence of your submission. Your complete submission is a passage from your book of up to 150 words, ending with the previously chosen last sentence.

No one dies in your writings? Feel free to write a 150 (or fewer) word passage ending with a death. Let me know if your scene is from your works, or was specifically written for this post.

They must be submitted sometime Saturday. Once I have them, I'll determine whether it would be more entertaining to remove the last sentences and create a matching game, or to have you try to guess which are from people's books and which aren't.

You may email or send as a comment to this post.


Bernita said...

Well, crap.
Mine's about 250 words.

Evil Editor said...

No, no, count backwards 150 words from the death, not forward from the start of the scene.

Of course some will be a little over or under as you don't want to start in the middle of a paragraph, but if I request "scenes in which a death occurs," I'll get 2000-word scenes.

Dave said...

The death of Polonius in HAMLET

Go, go, you question with a wicked tongue.
Why, how now, Hamlet!
What's the matter now?
Have you forgot me?
No, by the rood, not so:
You are the queen, your husband's brother's wife;
And--would it were not so!--you are my mother.
Nay, then, I'll set those to you that can speak.
Come, come, and sit you down; you shall not budge;
You go not till I set you up a glass
Where you may see the inmost part of you.
What wilt thou do? thou wilt not murder me? Help, help, ho!
[Behind] What, ho! help, help, help!
[Drawing] How now! a rat? Dead, for a ducat, dead!
Makes a pass through the arras
[Behind] O, I am slain!
Falls and dies

Dave said...

MacBeth dies a REAL MAN's death:

Then yield thee, coward,
And live to be the show and gaze o' the time:
We'll have thee, as our rarer monsters are,
Painted on a pole, and underwrit,
'Here may you see the tyrant.'

I will not yield,
To kiss the ground before young Malcolm's feet,
And to be baited with the rabble's curse.
Though Birnam wood be come to Dunsinane,
And thou opposed, being of no woman born,
Yet I will try the last. Before my body
I throw my warlike shield. Lay on, Macduff,
And damn'd be him that first cries, 'Hold, enough!'

Dave said...

You haven't posted any old openings from novels in a while and as death scenes go, they rarely, truly open a novel. After all, once the dead shock you, unless they get up and do a military toe tap with sparklers, they're dead.

HOWEVER - here is one. I just received the book today. It's only 151 words and so tight.

Drive by James Sallis

Much later, as he sat with his back against an inside wall of a Motel 6 just north of Phoenix, watching the pool of blood lap toward him, Driver would wonder whether he had made a terrible mistake. Later still, of course, there'd be no doubt. But for now Driver is, as they say, in the moment. And the moment includes this blood lapping toward him, the pressure of dawn's late light at windows and door, traffic sounds from the interstate nearby, the sound of someone weeping in the next room.

The blood was coming from the woman, the one who called herself Blanche and claimed to be from New Orleans even when everything about her except her put-on accent screamed East Coast – Bensonhurst, maybe, or some other far reach of Brooklyn. Blanche's shoulders lay across the bathroom door's threshold. Not much of her head left in there: he knew that.

phoenix said...

After all, once the dead shock you, unless they get up and do a military toe tap with sparklers, they're dead.

I'm surprised, Dave. For a writer of speculative fiction, you have a very narrow view of death. Or, more precisely, the afterdeath/afterlife/afterwhatever. Paranormal works abound with vampires, revenants, ghosts, etc. Properly killed people who do pop up later, often doing the equivalent of a military toe tap. And if this entity happens to be a main character, their death could indeed open a novel.

In fact, from the number of first-person and third-person-limited POV death scenes submitted, I daresay we aren't seeing the last of many of these "dead" characters at all :o).

Robin S. said...


I noticed the link to James Sallis' work on Miss Snark's site.

This looks really good. Looks like my reading list will be growing again - but I think I want to start at the beginning of his series.

Dave said...

It was a comment made in jest but it does contain a grain of truth. James Sallis is writing Detective Noir in the style of the 40 pulp detective novels. So there are no vampires, angels, zombies, revenants, and whatevers in his novel. The point of my comment is that most death scenes are truly just that. The character never returns to life and speaks only in the memories of the living.

Two things that absolutely drive me crazy in speculative fiction, fantasy and Sci-Fi are (1) time travel and (b) a character returning from the dead after they've been killed. The death of a character means something to the novel. Death has emotional consequences in the novel. Returning the character to life cheats the reader in so many ways.

I dislike Tolkein's reincarnation of Gandalf the Gray as Gandalf the White. The reason is that the "gods" told Gandalf he didn't do his job and sent him back to earth. What a cheesy explanation after the immense emotional investment in Gandalf's death.