Posted by: jeannineatkins | August 11, 2009


Today in the post office I was reminded that when you’re writing, it’s not just what you say, but what you don’t say. My neighbor who lives down the hill but through some woods picked up her mail and asked, “Has Stinky been bothering you lately?”

Okay, we’re neighbors, but besides partner and children there are dogs, cats, 28 (at last count) chickens, roosters, peacocks, goats, and horses. I’ve kind of lost track of everyone’s name and didn’t want to ask. Besides, no one had been bothering. I just said, “No.”

“That’s good,” M. said, “because Stinky was chasing Uncle Wayne on his tractor, and Bobby in his car, and he got into the neighbor’s garden.”

I was nodding at other escapades until she said, “And he sometimes gets the other goats to follow.”

So Stinky is a goat. And when I was walking my dogs today, and M. was checking the fences, I got a little more information. “He’s really just stinky four months of the year.”

I’m tempted to cram everything I can into a first sentence, and then spill more in Chapter One. But I was reminded, as I was wondering exactly who had been chasing the tractor, that readers have imaginations, and it’s good to let them work.



  1. Well, you just gave this reader’s imagination a workout! Thank you for the laugh.

  2. 🙂

  3. Yes, first sentences should definitely stir the imagination!!
    Those long rambling ones usually have me pointing to one lower on the page and saying – he should have started right here.

  4. Dear Neighbor: Thank you for the lesson on story.

  5. This story just made me laugh, Jeannine! And what a good reminder for us to remember how smart readers are.
    I’m still smiling about Stinky. 🙂

  6. I love this. And what great advice. Thanks. 🙂

  7. .. yes, we can’t just read like normal people. We read and think .. start here… and stop there.

  8. I love this. I love that it was enough to keep you “reading” and waiting for more. And, frankly, I’m dying to know WHICH four months and WHY?

  9. I wondered, too. And this may be a case when the wondering is more satisifying than the answer. As M went on, it became clear it had something to do with the goat being in heat. Ew, I say, as a non-farmer. And while it seemed funny to hear of the goat chasing people and vehicles, I must admit — if it were me, would I be laughing?
    Maybe M. better fix her fences!

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