She hated all the characters, but felt compelled to finish…


Hi, a bunch of us are in a Literary Blog Relay.

Basically, one writer writes a 250 word post/story/fragment and then tags another writer, etc., etc. We can write whatever we want, so long as our posts begin with the last line of the previous post (in bold here) and are linked to a central theme; in this case, “A Stranger Comes to Town.”

The following is my post, using the last line (in bold) from Heather McDonald’s contribution. I found the line challenging because of its specificity, but I hope I did it proud.

Jackson Bliss is next.

She hated all the characters, but felt compelled to finish; she hated them less than her current circumstances.

In the train station, the Chinese characters garnished the Korean hangul. She eyed the Chinese character for mountain, three tines that pointed upwards like a pitchfork, scattered like confetti throughout the route maps of the rugged terrain. In the station itself, the character for mouth, hanging over exits, haunted her; a square, an opening, a silent scream. It made her never want to leave a room.

That was it. Those were all the Chinese “hanja” characters she knew. She knew the entire Korean alphabet, but knew not what she read most of the time. Her vocabulary was that of a small child. She smiled, her eyes sad. Today, she was a child. Mom. Mommy. Mommy.

Lucy made her way to the ticket counter at Seoul station and bought a roundtrip to Gyeongju. To the funeral, and back.

On the train, Lucy held her hand up, failing to shield her face from the late afternoon summer sunlight that outside motored the chlorophyll in some billion leaves of rice, but in her coach, streamed through the window so that she felt a brilliant and uncomfortable heat. A cupcake in an easy bake oven had an easier time of it, she thought.

Still, she watched, through squinting eyes, the landscape, a bright green that never was in Southern California, all the more green because of the red soil. The contrast sharpened the grief.

THE FULL LINE-UP, IN ORDER (Completed posts in bold)….

  1. Wah-Ming Chang:
  2. Jamey Hatley
  3. Stephanie Brown
  4. Andrew Whitacre
  5. Heather McDonald
  6. Christine Lee Zilka
  7. Jackson Bliss
  8. Jennifer Derilo posted at
  9. Alexander Chee
  10. Nova Ren Suma


  • Start with the last line of the previous entry.
  • Poetry, fiction, creative nonfiction.
  • 250 words.
  • Thematically linked.
  • Link to the next person on the list, as well as those who posted before you.
  • Post something within four or five days of the most recent piece.
  • Posts should start with an explanation, with links to the previous posts as well as the next.


Filed under Literary Blog Relay, Memes

10 responses to “She hated all the characters, but felt compelled to finish…

  1. Pingback: Literary Blog Relay: “A Stranger Comes to Town” « 80,000 words

  2. wmc

    Beautiful, heartbreaking, soulful. And what a gorgeous photo.

  3. The ink drops led me to the train station in Seoul. I’ll jumb on your wonderful last sentence and keep on traveling.

    • @wmc and @arachnomaria: thank you. what I needed to hear. 🙂

      and @arachnomaria: you’re welcome to use my last line in an individual post if you so desire.

  4. Pingback: It was the only day she didn’t need to hear his voice… « 80,000 words

  5. (I’m finally catching up!)

    I lovelovelove how you went with another meaning of “characters”. This is so grounded in place. (Have you ever read Dorothy Allison’s essay on place and how it’s not just “setting”? I’ll send it to you if you want.) I can see everything. Wonderful!

  6. Oh, and you know what? I also love how everyone in the relay has done something completely different, yet cohesive, to the previous post. So cool.

    • i love the literary relay bc it is fun and it pushes me in different directions–! i was imagining various topics on which to write, and your line had me ditching all of them to write something different. Like Iron Chef and the “secret ingredient.”

      and no i have not read Dorothy Allison’s essay on place and would love to! i think “setting” is one of my weaknesses as a writer, so would love to read it. 🙂 thank you.

  7. Pingback: A Stranger Comes to Town « Koreanish

  8. Pingback: Literary Blog Relay: A Stranger Comes to Town and Says, “I know your sister…” « distraction no. 99

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