Catching the Reader Unawares

Read the following short narrative. It has been constructed so that there are a number of points that are unclear, e.g.

  • Who is the narrator?
  • What has happened?
  • Who else is involved?

The final paragraph is missing.

Work with a partner to construct a paragraph of approximately 100 words which effectively ends the story but with a surprise. You may highlight some of the points you wish to ‘answer’. The surprise can ‘answer’ one or more of the points above.

Then discuss your idea with others to see the range of ideas. You can ask a number of different questions and be able to justify your own ideas, e.g.

  • What made you think .......... ?
  • Why did you include ........... ?
  • What words made you think it was about .......... ?
  • Did you think of different ideas?
  • What convinced you to select the final idea?

Finally, click to see the author's original final paragraph.

I come alive at night. The hours of darkness are my playground and the web of streets that surround my home are my territory. I am in control. Nothing can happen without my knowing. Nothing can move without my hearing. Nothing escapes my notice. I am supreme. However, although it may appear to be so from my opening comments, I am not arrogant, just realistic – acutely aware of my power and skill, in tune with my own body and every inch of the ground I survey.

Take tonight for instance, the moon is my friend for it is hidden in the clouds and masks me from everyone and everything. I almost feel sorry, it’s hardly fair to have such an advantage but where did fairness ever get you in life? I must be getting soft in my old age! Of course, age is all relative. In myself, I feel as fresh and agile as in my youth but I have to be careful. I used to prowl these streets with pride and could challenge anyone at any time. No longer.

The shrouded moon makes me feel comfortable and I decide to take a walk. I leave the garden through the gap in the hedge that never grew properly again after the motorbike that crashed years ago. It is quick and convenient – just what I like. The air is cool and I sense that tonight may be the night for which I have been waiting a long time. Too long. In my ears a cacophony of noise assaults my brain; it may be a silent world for some but for me it is filled with the sound of endless possibilities.

The park was always my favourite place to play. Now and then I used to see others I knew but never became close. We acknowledged each other's existence but avoided close contact and communication. We knew what we were about. We knew what we wanted. Sharing with others was never part of the deal, just not in our characters. Everyone knew this and everyone respected the rule – we kept our distance. Only family could never be close.

Author's final paragraph

Scurrying feet catch my attention. I quickly register the distance and direction before running swiftly to the point of contact. There it is - so blissfully unaware of my approach that the kill will be easy. It is. The soft pulsing body yields quickly to my grasp and I feel the life disappear like frost in sunlight. Just a little taste of blood is enough to satisfy my appetite. It’s the thrill of the chase that brings me out on the streets. Time for home. Time for the comforts of a warm sofa, a cool drink and the touch of a human hand. I purr with joy and wipe the last traces of blood from my whiskers.

Comment

The original writer’s idea was that the first-person narrator was the voice of a cat. Students may have considered a number of human characters or other birds or animals.

This is very difficult to achieve under the pressure of an examination but can be very successful. It may be similar to some of those discussed – or it may not! What matters is that the reader is possibly misled by the majority of the narrative into thinking about a different subject.