Al Kratz, one of the editors at NEW FLASH FICTION REVIEW, has a craft essay on endings today that features my flash "Pretty Girl." In "Notes from the Slush Pile: Endings," he suggests that the ending is "the most important part of flash fiction: "A Choice is made. Something is realized. A character wins. A character loses. A character wins something even if it wasn’t the thing they originally wanted to win. Someone dies. Someone lives. Chekov’s gun goes off. Satisfaction. Expectation. Surprise. Resolution. Echo. The ending does all the work. The character’s balance has to be either restored or destroyed. The character does something different. They are taken to a place they weren’t at in the beginning, and therefore, the reader is moved as well." He has nice things to say about "Pretty Girl" and how the delayed ending works. I'm pleased because I feel it's always hard to end a story that involves danger and violence:
"Pretty Girl, by Jacqueline Doyle, was one of our Pushcart nominations this year at New Flash Fiction Review. It is a difficult story to read that pulls no punches. Right from the start, it’s going for your gut as hard as it can. It doesn’t take long to find where our character is or what her balance is or what’s at stake:
She has no idea how long it’s been since he came up behind her in the dark parking garage, one hand squeezing her throat, one holding a gun to her head, whispering “Don’t scream, pretty girl,” his breath hot on her neck.
For the next 800 words or so, we progressively learn that she is duct taped and lying on the floor of the back seat of her car (as far from balance as possible), driven by her attacker. It blends with memories of her life before (balance).
One of the punches not held back is the idea of how it will end for her. The reader is in the same spot as the protagonist: wanting to delay the inevitable ending. Wanting to see anything else. The only grace given is that delay. Everything that happens, every word is in balance with the mission.
She feels sick, she’s never had a headache this bad, she’s trembling from the cold, the grit on the floor cuts into her bare arms and legs, which are covered with goose bumps, and all she wants is to curl up beside her mom on the ratty brown couch in the family room with the green afghan wrapped around her, watching some dumb show on TV. Cramped on the floor of the back seat, twisting with her arms bound behind her, she watches streetlights on the freeway whiz by outside the car window above her, then nothing, telephone poles, an increasingly emptier night sky, hazy, with hardly any stars. She can’t remember ever looking at the sky for this long before."