Story Ending Ethology: Endings Beyond Freytagian Resolution or Joycean Epiphany
Dustin M. Hoffman and Wendell Mayo | May 2018
Dustin M. Hoffman and Wendell Mayo
Nearly a decade ago, for the first workshop of my MFA at Bowling Green State University, I submitted a ridiculously long roving point of view story about a teenager named Elvis who stole romance novels, his crass scavenger uncle, and a flea market salesman with an amputated arm. I ended up hacking off the first ten pages or so to get in medias res, cleaned up the prose, developed the characters—all easy enough. What was much harder was the ending. Well, sort of. The original ending was embarrassingly clichéd junk, and I wasn’t prepared as a writer yet to adopt the ending I needed. Wendell Mayo led the workshop, and afterward I found, to my horror, that he had handwritten a new ending for me. On the back of the final page of my story was Wendell’s feverish cursive scratch. He’d written at the bottom: You can use this. But, how could I? Wouldn’t that make me a cheater, a hack at the beginning of my writing career? I fretted over this for days, but then realized I could indeed use it. Wendell’s paragraph modeled the kind of ending my story needed. His cruelly perfect rewriting of my needed ending asked me to meet my story on its own terms, to discover a sense of an ending, (borrowing the sense of the apocalyptic and title of Frank Kermode’s landmark study1), a pattern, a kind of structural archetype that I could work with on my terms—my language.
So, this is what Wendell and I set about to do in this ethology: present senses of endings, animals of many stripes, all behaviors, not to be prescriptive, but to lay bare some interesting patterns that fiction writers have discovered in their most trying moments of achieving the Herculean: ways to leap into a speeding narrative and stop it in just a few pages. That’s why we call this an ethology. We identify species and study behaviors of story endings, rather than claiming a best practice, because one doesn’t exist. Every story calls for a different ending, an ending that speaks the language of the rest of the story, from its first sentence.
We’re not the first ones to do something like this; Elissa Schappell has a keen essay called “Endings: Parting Is Such Sweet Sorrow” in Tin House Books’ Writer’s Notebook II.2 But what we attempt here is a bit different: to identify rather than to advise. Even one of the most practical texts ever, Pamela Painter and Anne Bernays’s What If? Writing Exercises for Fiction Writers, presents over two-hundred pages of great exercises to inspire beginnings, middles, and polishing of narratives, but only six pages on “Resolution and Final Meaning.”3 In his essay on endings in Behind the Short Story, Jarret Keene proposes four types: “Consequences,” “The Inevitable End,” “Dead Ends” (wherein our protagonist expires), and “Inspiration.”4 While these categories of endings are teachable in classrooms, they seem too broad when we consider the amazing diversity of species prowling the wilds of the writing world—seventeen in all, classified thus far!
We didn’t include cliffhangers or twists in our definitions, because they are what we consider the most common missteps that early writers stumble into because they haven’t found their stories yet. A story isn’t a story without knowing its entirety. As Russell Banks says in his interview with the Paris Review, “The ending only makes sense if you can remember the beginning. I think the proper length for a short story is to go as far as you can without going so far that you have forgotten the beginning.”5 Twists and cliffhangers ignore or betray story beginnings. They often rely on surprising the reader without resolution.
Similarly, we also aimed to avoid boiling things down to that pileup at the end of the slide down Freytag’s pyramid, whether you call that resolution or dénouement or catastrophe. Freytag’s theory is wonderfully concise and often correct, but we wanted to dig further. Joyce’s epiphany ending model has also dominated discussions of story endings for probably longer than even he would’ve preferred. Our ethology of species definitions seeks to go beyond Freytag and Joyce.
But this isn’t an essay against twist or Freytag or epiphany (Charles Baxter already brilliantly argued in his “Against Epiphanies”6). And some of our types are good old standbys, such as those of irony and self-irony, but we think we’ve added a good deal in this ethology of story endings. So, what follows are the species we’ve currently classified. Of course, this list is non-exhaustive and is ever-evolving. In that spirit, we’d also like to thank Wendell’s graduate creative writing students for their valuable and enthusiastic contributions over the years, all of whom you’ll find attributed.
And so, let’s open the laboratory and see what these critters are up to!
- Highly Charged Symbol Ending: As the title suggests, this species of ending is not a reductive creature, but charged with all the emotions and tensions that have filled the story. The symbol is messy, never a one-for-one equation between meaning and object. The symbol ending thrives on its complexity, on its ability to tangle many themes together. Examples: Consider the song, the blues, the “cup of trembling” (fear and salvation) at the end of “Sonny’s Blues” by James Baldwin.7 Also, observe Grandmother’s regalia and the solitary yellow bead in Sherman Alexie’s “What You Pawn I Will Redeem,” which allows the narrator to recover identity and stop the city with his dance. 8
- Symbolic Confrontation Ending: This one is related to the Highly Charged Symbol Ending, yet this ending brings into vital, confrontational, and dramatic relationship key symbols, imagery, and action, and the result of such a collision is illumination. Examples: In “Children on Their Birthdays,” Truman Capote entwines all the symbols of latent dreams townspeople have of getting out of their small town (flowers, yellow moons, rainbows, roses) and all collide with the scapegoat of the story—the town bus literally and figuratively runs into precocious Miss Bobbit and results in nothing—no progress, no escape, only the story (Reighart9).10 Another example is D.H. Lawrence’s “The Blind Man,” when the blind man puts his hands on Bertie’s face and Bertie is reduced to the shallow intellect that he is; the hands are symbols of blood knowledge, a darker knowledge that penetrate Bertie’s face, his façade.11 Donald Ray Pollock’s story “Real Life” has the narrator sucking dried blood off his fingers, blood from the boy he fought at his father’s urging that night. Meanwhile, a storm breaks loose outside and the boy can hear his parents having sex nearby.12 Another work bearing on this is The Scarlet Letter; corralling all those followers of Calvin into that gruesome public arena near the end, including the good guilty reverend with his own special letter ‘A.’13
- Self-Ironic Ending: Here a final utterance resonates dramatically and ironically with the unselfconsciousness of the utterer, yet contains the very nature of the central, profound truth that the speaker (and reader) seeks. This can occur in dialogue or narration, but requires an attempt from a speaker to make sense of a complex matter, yet the speaker’s attempt falls short. Examples: We’ve the eternally resonant “It was really something” in Raymond Carver’s “Cathedral.”14 The speaker’s “‘—here, here! Tear up the planks!—here, here!—it is the beating of his hideous heart!’” in Edgar Allen Poe’s “Tell-Tale Heart” is another (Woggon15).16 In Ernest Hemingway’s “Hills Like White Elephants,” Jig says, “‘I feel fine. There’s nothing wrong with me. I feel fine.’”17 In Alice Munro’s “Boys and Girls,” after the father says, “She’s only a girl,” the narrator thinks, “I didn’t protest that, even in my heart. Maybe it was true.”18
- Ironic Ending: In this classic ending, a character, usually the protagonist, speaks or takes some action which has less significance for the character than the reader, who holds ultimate emotional authority. Examples: When taxi driver Iona Potapov in Anton Chekhov’s “Misery” whispers his grief over his son’s death into his horse’s ear and is “carried away,” the reader cannot help feeling transported as well, though not in relief, but in ironic memory of how Iona’s abusive fares ignored his need to speak to them of his grief.19 Phil Klay’s “Redeployment” takes the narrator to the inevitable action of shooting his sickly dog. It’s clearly an important action for the narrator, but he avoids emotional impact by distracting his interiority with anatomy and training, and the last line emphasizes his distance from the significant act: “I couldn’t remember what I was going to do with the body.”20
- Mythic Ending: In some ways, this is another example of an ironic ending in which the story, seemingly stonewalled by a narrator who cannot articulate for the reader the significance of events, can proceed to closing only when the writer reaches for myth or an archetype (as given tone and sense by the speaker or POV character) that suddenly illuminates all other events. Here, collective consciousness swoops in to supplant meaning. Where the individual muddles sense-making, the archetypal story lights a path. Examples: One is water and its association with cleansing of sin (of Cain on Abel fame) at end of “Good-Bye, My Brother” by John Cheever. When the narrator’s wife and sister—Helen and Diana—walk out of the sea, they are “naked, unshy, beautiful and full of grace.”21 James Baldwin’s “Sonny’s Blues” also seems to fit here with its biblical “cup of trembling.”22 The heavenly vision at the end of Flannery O’Connor’s “Revelation” contributes to Mrs. Turpin’s illusion of self-righteousness.23
- Shifting Sensibility (Character) Ending: Slightly similar to Mythic Ending, this type reaches toward an outside source. In this ending, the narrator, usually third person, painted into a corner, has “lost” the POV character (through death, say, or “spiritual paralysis”), and reaches to find the perfect sensibility to end the story with. Examples: One is Karen Russell’s “Vampires in the Lemon Grove,” in which the possibly dying vampire narrator swoops into his wife Magreb’s thoughts.24 In Djuna Barnes’s Nightwood, a persona creates narrative and metaphor to fill in “gaps,” then exhausts itself, and shifts (Alexander25).26 In Tobias Wolff’s “Bullet in the Brain,” the final section shifts toward a more distanced omniscient sensibility that can reflect on its access to the main character’s memory.27
- Sacrificial Erasure: A particularly intriguing pattern of ending is the Sacrificial Erasure, when a character or narrator attempts to repair tragedy through self-sacrifice. Though this move is often attached to an outside action, these endings tend to take place internally. We often find something like a life-flashing-before-one’s-eyes moment, in which a character cycles back through memory as the story nears conclusion. This type of ending may be the modern replacement for the death ending paradigm; however, while identity diminishes in these endings, physical death of character is avoided. Examples: In George Saunders’s “Offloading for Mrs. Schwartz,” the narrator sells off his memories and we cycle through his most touching moments.28 Connie’s final view of land she doesn’t recognize marks a wiping of her old identity in Joyce Carol Oates’s “Where Are You Going, Where have You Been?”29 The narrator of Charles Yu’s “Standard Loneliness Package” assumes his love interest’s memory and his sense of self blends into her and his coworker.30
- Narrator Taking Charge Ending: In a reversal of the Shifting Sensibility Ending, in this species of ending the speaker seizes the reins and, with perfect language, finishes the story. This is closer to the traditional epiphany ending, when a character realizes the significance of the story and makes sense of the character’s arc. Examples: James Joyce’s “The Dead” concludes when Gabriel is paralyzed spiritually by all events of the party and betrayal of history when he fully grasps the significance of his wife’s emotional infidelity.31 At the end of Richard Bausch’s “The Man Who Knew Belle Starr,” McRae is finally able to accept his doom and articulate his lost identity.32
- Narrator Shrugs Ending: Like the Narrator Taking Charge Ending, the obverse Narrator Shrugs Ending stays with the narrator and her sensibility to finish the story. But rather than epiphany and perfect language, in this ending the narrator overtly doesn’t understand or doesn’t quite understand or avoids understanding. In a moment of anti-epiphany, a character’s missing realization floods the resolution. This ending sometimes functions with self-irony, as the reader is usually granted a greater clarity through the narrator’s internal tossing up of hands in defeat. But the unknowing is explicit rather than ironic. Narrators are aware they don’t understand. Examples: ZZ Packer gives a version of this in “Brownies,” when her narrator slips into vague language, confessing that she “suddenly knew there was something mean in the world that I could not stop.”33 Following this realization, the young narrator then allows the other children to take over her story’s resolution. In George Saunders’s “Sea Oak” the narrator has no answer for Aunt Bernie in his dreams, no answer for the world: “Every time I say I don’t know. And I don’t.”34
- Time Narrated and Time of Narration Colliding Ending: Sometimes timelines collide, and such is the nature of this species. The protagonist, having learned some new truth by virtue of narrating the story, suddenly speaks in the time of narration, and suddenly articulates this new knowledge. This specific act of retelling leads the narrator to revelation. Examples: There’s Nick Carraway at the end of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby,35 and the speaker at the end of Robert Penn Warren’s “Blackberry Winter.”36 Denis Johnson’s “Car Crash while Hitchhiking” confronts us with the final line: “And you, you ridiculous people, you expect me to help you.”37 Johnson’s narrator, Fuckhead, confronts an ambiguous audience in the present, implying the emergence of a new knowledge he refuses to share. Richard Yates’s “Oh, Joseph, I’m so Tired” possesses this sort of ending as well. The narrator’s adult self at the time of narration possesses a more acute imagination, and therefore can re-imagine scenes for fuller revelation than can the younger narrator (Engberg38).39Yet another variation is when these two times of narrative collide. There is a return to normalcy in the time of narration that creates an awareness of how extraordinary and revelatory the time narrated really was, for instance, in “The Elephant Vanishes” by Haruki Murakami (Cherry40).41
- Look to Future Ending: This type of ending tends to come about when the character projects what the next day, week, year, lifetime may be like. Often we find these endings sprawling out from tight timelines in the rest of the story. The story’s day-like-no-other catalyzes an altered lifetime ahead, and this ending fantasizes possibilities. These endings are often narrated in the future tense and can slip into lyrical prose. Examples: Jimmy Cross in Tim O’Brien’s “The Things They Carried” plans out how he will lead in the future—more machinelike and less human.42 In John Barth’s “Lost in the Funhouse,” Ambrose tries to imagine his future as a “regular person” and then fantasizes about operating his own funhouse.43 Other sorts of look to future seem to stem from a modern ilk: To the Lighthouse might be read as the artist’s piecing her life together out of scraps of Victorian mores and Lily Briscoe’s final stroke on her canvas at the end carries the reader into a new future (as Cam and James tend to represent a next generation).44
- The Ending of Misdirection: This ending takes a reader on a meandering path that leads, at last, to a startlingly direct, accurate assessment of what all these meanderings mean. For these stories, the end is the key to release tension in a reader who frets over the seeming pointlessness. Examples: Wendell Mayo’s “Who Made You” makes use of a liturgical-styled catechism that suddenly veers into a state of palpable hell.45 One might also see this in a novel like Atonement by Ian McEwan, in which the narrator confesses a truth about an intentionally misdirected narrative (Nicholson46).47
- Woven Ending: Sometimes a writer can discover a kind of third, surprising and true ‘term’ that arises out of drawing bits of language from earlier in the narrative, like raw strands of wool weaving an ending together. Such a sinuous and intimate weaving, such a new rhythm, sound, and sense emerging from the weaving can get you where you may need to go in the Woven Ending. Examples: Italo Calvino’s “All at One Point” seems to go that way, for instance, that blend of language drawn from opening, its cosmic space language; and middle portions, a close sense of Mrs. PH(i)Nk0 and her noodles: “a true outburst of general love . . . making possible billions and billions of suns, and of planets, and fields of wheat, and Mrs. PH(i)Nk0s scattered through continents of planets, kneading with floury, oil-shiny, generous arms, and she lost at that very moment, and we, mourning her loss.”48 Also, note the shift in psychic distance in the narration; it’s been very close to the reader (dough, flour, eggs, noodles, all that ‘kneading’) but as we approach the ending, the cosmos comes into focus and such language tends to push the reader back a bit, asks to look at a bigger picture—a kind of kneading the cosmos (Cummins49). Another example is Lorrie Moore’s “Dance in America,” when the narrator, in the second-to-last paragraph, weaves her language of dance into a discussion of life and death to create the final new tapestry: “[W]e say with motion, in space, This is what life’s done so far down here; this is all and what and everything it’s managed—this body, these bodies, that body—so what do you think, Heaven? What do you fucking think?”50 Lyrical language merges with colloquial speech patterns. Through weaving motifs and language, Moore combines the sacred and profane.
- Chiasmus Ending: This species tends to behave, as we expect, in a crossing pattern: In the end, characters swap key traits. The ending leaves a reader with a final image or gesture (usually something concrete) that fully realizes the “crossing over” and/or full understanding of the two opposite aspects within each character—without reducing them to a single one. Often one or both of the characters will be unaware of the shift, though the reader will realize the internal swapping of roles. Examples: In “Everything that Rises Must Converge” by Flannery O’Connor, Julian’s mother, an intractable racist, is eventually kindly, albeit condescending, when she insists on giving a black boy a nickel, prompting the boy’s indignant mother to knock her to the sidewalk with her purse. Julian, a progressive liberal, eventually acts most unkindly, telling his mother, “‘You got exactly what you deserved.’”51 His mother’s apparent stroke at the end tends to freeze both characters in negative and positive lights without resolution. In Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s “Yellow Wallpaper,” the husband, John, faints at the sight of his wife, and she creeps over her unconscious husband, striking a stark power shift in their relationship.52
- Stew Ending: Many ingredients tossed into the mix finally come together at the end for a perfect final slurp. Motifs, themes, and recurring language, objects, memories, and actions meld together in a purposeful way that allows us to understand why each element was brought up. Similar to the Ending of Misdirection, here the reader has often spent some time wondering what X, Y, and Z have to do with each other. This ending juxtaposes all the elements so they complement, interact, and enhance each other. We might also consider this a common ending for the roving or braided point-of-view story. The multiple points of view finally converge in a final section that marries all the elements together. Examples: In “Stone Animals” by Kelly Link, Henry the father returns to his newly bought haunted home. Link synthesizes a complex final section made of all the story’s previous elements: faceless dinner guests, hauntings, painted rooms, dreams, miscommunication, pregnancy and parenthood, and magical rabbit infestations.53 Anthony Doerr’s “The Caretaker” spends the last pages elegantly combining all previous motifs and themes: sign language, silence, solitude, grief, mother, gardening, whales, dust, and this leads to a new final tasting of that idea of home that has been impossible until this point in the story.54
- Home Note Ending: This ending returns to an image, gesture, or language that started off the story. There’s a cyclical quality, but rather than simply repeating, by the time the reader returns to this note that started the song, the note has new, significant, evolved meaning. Examples: In “Silver Water” by Amy Bloom the story begins and ends with a memory of the narrator’s sister’s voice.55 Stuart Dybek’s “We Didn’t” cycles back to the “we didn’t” lyrical repetition found in the first lines of the story.56 In Daniel Orozco’s “Orientation” the final paragraph spins into a banal list of directions, very similar to the first paragraph, yet contextually altered at the end.57
- Deus ex Machina Ending: Though writers instinctively avoid the Deus ex Machina Ending, it can be used to good effect. In these endings, an outside force comes to save the day. However, unlike historical use of this type of ending, dating back to Greek tragedies, in more recent incarnations of this sort of ending, the outside savior is hardly satisfying and often surreal. The final rescuing force is ironic or at least absurd, which the author uses to at least partly point out the inability of story resolution resolving anything. Examples: The gerbil at the end of Barthelme’s “The School” certainly won’t save the day or explain death and may actually be in grave danger, but this outside force serves to shift the story’s tone and set the children and the reader into cheers.58 The giant land lamprey in Kurt Vonnegut’s dystopic story “The Big Space Fuck” devours the sheriff and the Hooblers—the entire cast of the story and all its dramatic conflict—leaving their TV to countdown in an empty room.59
Wendell Mayois author of five story collections, recently, Survival House, released in April 2018. He is the recipient of an NEA and Fulbright to Lithuania. Over one hundred of his stories have appeared in magazines and anthologies. https://wmayo2.wixsite.com/wendellmayo
Dustin M. Hoffman is the author of the story collection One-Hundred-Knuckled Fist, winner of the 2015 Prairie Schooner Book Prize. He painted houses for ten years in Michigan, and he now teaches writing at Winthrop University. dustinmhoffman.com
- Frank Kermode, The Sense of an Ending: Studies in the Theory of Fiction (Oxford: Oxford UP, 1968).
Elissa Schappell, “Endings: Parting Is Such Sweet Sorrow,” The Writer’s Notebook II (Portland: Tin House Books, 2012), p. 217-236.
- Anne Bernays and Pamela Painter, What If? Writing Exercises for Fiction Writers (New York: HarperPerennial, 1991), p. 131.
- Jarret Keene, “Keene on Story Endings,” Behind the Short Story: From First to Final Draft, ed. Ryan G. Van Cleave and Todd James Pierce (New York: Pearson and Longman, 2007), p. 106-109.
- Russell Banks, interview by Robert Faggen, The Art of Fiction No. 152, The Paris Review, 1998.
- Charles Baxter, “Against Epiphanies,” Burning Down the House: Essays on Fiction (Saint Paul: Graywolf, 2008), p. 41.
- James Baldwin, “Sonny’s Blues,” Going to Meet the Man (1965. New York: Penguin, 1991), p. 142.
- Sherman Alexie, “What You Pawn I Will Redeem,” The New Yorker, 21 Apr. 2003. http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2003/04/21/what-you-pawn-i-will-redeem.
- Renee Reighart, personal conversation, September 2005.
- Truman Capote, “Children on Their Birthdays,” Truman Capote: The Complete Stories. (New York: Penguin, 1995), p. 135-154.
- D.H. Lawrence, “The Blind Man,” England, My England and Other Stories, (Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1990), p. 46-63.
- Donald Ray Pollock, “Real Life,” Knockemstiff (New York: Doubleday, 2008), p. 1-12.
- Nathaniel Hawthorne, The Scarlett Letter: A Romance (New York: Penguin, 2016).
- Raymond Carver, “Cathedral,” Where I’m Calling From: Selected Stories (New York: Atlantic Monthly Press, 1991), p. 242.
- Aaron Woggon, personal conversation, June 2007.
- Edgar Allen Poe, “The Tell-Tale Heart,” The Tell-Tale Heart and Other Writings (New York: Bantam, 2004), p. 7.
- Ernest Hemingway, “Hills Like White Elephants,” The Complete Short Stories of Ernest Hemingway (New York: Scribner, 1998), p. 214.
- Alice Munro, “Boys and Girls,” Dance of the Happy Shades and Other Stories (New York: Vintage International, 1998),p. 127.
- Anton Chekhov, “Grief,” Anton Chekhov’s Collected Stories, ed. Cathy Popkin (New York: W. W. Norton, 2014), p. 46.
- Phil Klay, “Redeployment,” Redeployment (New York: Penguin, 2014), p. 16.
- John Cheever, “Goodbye, My Brother,” The Stories of John Cheever (New York: Knopf, 1978), p. 21.
- Flannery O’Connor, “Revelation,” The Complete Short Stories (New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1971), p. 488-509.
- Karen Russell, “Vampires in the Lemon Grove,” Vampires in the Lemon Grove and Other Stories (New York: Vintage, 2013), p. 3-22.
- Jessica Alexander, personal conversation, June 2007.
- Djuna Barnes, Nightwood. (New York: New Directions, 2006).
- Tobias Wolff, “Bullet in the Brain,” The Night in Question: Stories (New York: Vintage, 1997), p. 200-206.
- George Saunders, “Offloading for Mrs. Schwarz,” Civilwarland in Bad Decline (New York: Riverhead, 1997), p. 65-77.
- Joyce Carol Oates, “Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?” Small Avalanches and Other Stories (New York: HarperCollins, 2004), p. 1-32.
- Charles Yu, “Standard Loneliness Package,” Sorry Please Thank You: Stories (New York: Vintage, 2012), p. 3-34.
- James Joyce, “The Dead,” Dubliners (New York: Penguin, 2000).
- Richard Bausch, “The Man Who Knew Belle Starr,” The Stories of Richard Bausch (New York: HarperPerennial, 2003), p. 156-177.
- ZZ Packer, “Brownies,” Drinking Coffee Elsewhere: Stories (New York: Riverhead, 2003), p. 28.
- George Saunders, “Sea Oak,” Pastoralia (New York: Riverhead, 2001), p. 125.
- Fitzgerald, F. Scott. The Great Gatsby. (New York: Scribner, 2004).
- Robert Penn Warren, “Blackberry Winter,” The Circus in the Attic and Other Stories (New York: Harcourt, Brace, and Company, 1947), p. 63-87.
- Denis Johnson, “Car Crash While Hitchhiking,” Jesus’ Son (New York: HarperPerennial, 1993), p. 12.
- Melissa Engberg, personal conversation, September 2006.
- Richard Yates, “Oh, Joseph, I’m So Tired,” The Collected Stories of Richard Yates (New York: Picador, 2002), p. 177-199.
- Michael Cherry, personal conversation, June 2007.
- Haruki Murakami, “The Elephant Vanishes,” The Elephant Vanishes: Stories, translated by Jay Rubin and Alfred Birnbaum (New York: Knopf, 1993), p. 307-327.
- Tim O’Brien, “The Things They Carried,” The Things They Carried (New York: First Mariner Books, 2009) p. 1-25.
- John Barth, “Lost in the Funhouse,” Lost in the Funhouse (New York: Anchor Books, 1988), p.72-97.
- Virginia Woolf, To the Lighthouse (New York: Mariner, 2005).
- Wendell Mayo, “Who Made You,” B. Horror and Other Stories (Livingston, AL: Livingston Press, 1999), p. 56-67.
- Debbie Nicholson, personal conversation, September 2006.
- Ian McEwan, Atonement (New York: Anchor Books, 2003).
- Italo Calvino, “All at One Point,” The Complete Cosmicomics (New York: Mariner, 2015), p. 48.
- Jacqueline Cummins, personal conversation, September 2013.
- Lorrie Moore, “Dance in America,” Birds of America (New York: Picador, 1998). p. 57.
- Flannery O’Connor, “Everything that Rises Must Converge,” The Complete Short Stories (New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1971), p. 419.
- Charlotte Perkins Gilman, “The Yellow Wallpaper,” The Yellow Wallpaper and Other Stories (Mineola, NY: Dover Thrift Editions, 1997), p. 1-16.
- Kelly Link, “Stone Animals,” Magic for Beginners: Stories (New York: Random House Trade Paperbacks, 2014), p. 77-130.
- Anthony Doerr, “The Caretaker,” The Shell Collector (New York: Scribner, 2002), p. 130-173.
- Amy Bloom, “Silver Water,” Come to Me: Stories (New York: HarperCollins, 1993), p. 87-99.
- Stuart Dybek, “We Didn’t,” I Sailed with Magellan (New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2003), p. 233-246.
- Daniel Orozco, “Orientation,” Orientation and Other Stories (New York: Faber and Faber, 2011), p. 1-10.
- Donald Barthelme, “The School,” Sixty Stories (New York: Penguin, 2003), p. 304-307.
- Kurt Vonnegut, “The Big Space Fuck,” Palm Sunday: An Autobiographical Collage (New York: Dial Press Trade Paperbacks, 1981), p. 207-214.