In a previous question, I asked about how to improve the opening of my short novel. The following is the ending:

"Can I talk about something that makes me feel strange?" he asked while searching for a glass. She nodded and stared at him with her lips slightly open.

"A thousand years from now, this moment will no longer exist," he said, placing the glass on the bar. "Not even as a memory." She leaned her head slightly to one side. "Isn't that long enough?"

"It is for us," he replied. "But for the universe, it's only a fraction of fraction of a second." He poured some of the vodka into the glass, closed it, and returned it back to where he found it.

"And you know what's the strangest thing?" he said while repeating the same procedure with the next bottle. "If I close my eyes, I can see the empty space that is left after that happens. "

"How does it look like?" she asked.

"Just like the world as it is now, he said. "But without this. Without us." He put the second bottle back, and washed him hands, like a surgeon after an operation. He made sure that everything was in its right place, and then placed the glass in front of her. She thanked him, and picked the glass up with care. "How it is called?"

"Explosions in the sky," he answered. She took a sip, and complimented him.

"Why don't you look at it like this," she said, with her eyes fixed on her glass. "Like our minds and bodies, this moment will become stardust, and float through space." He looked at her, then sipped his drink. For some reason, he found it particularly strong this time.

"And exist forever?" he asked.

"Yeah," she said. "Just in a new form." They kept quiet, lost in their thoughts for a while, sipping their drinks. The neon sign was still flickering from time to time.

"I wonder why we are the only people here," he asked after after a moment. She looked around. All the seats were empty, and there was total silence.

"Maybe this moment already turned into stardust a long time ago," she said. "And right now, it is being played somehow. Like a movie." She made a pause, and started drawing imaginary circles on the glass with her index finger.

"But because it's based on my memory," she continued. "There is only you and me."

He looked at her with a smile on his face. "It could be based on mine too." She smiled back, and placed her hand on his. He closed his eyes, and imagined the moment turning into stardust. Every image. Every sound disintegrating, and floating forever in the vast universe.

It is my first attempt of writing a story so I would like to know how to improve this last scene (which consist basically in dialogue).

Sometimes I get confused about whether start an 'action tag' in a new line or right after the double quotes.

I also want to know if there are any writing mistakes.

Thanks in advance.

Disclaimer: I'm not a native English speaker

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    Dude, if your entire story can fit into two SE questions, that's not a novel. It's flash fiction. Apr 10, 2012 at 15:09
  • Who said this is the entire story?? EDIT: LMAO I just read it more carefully and realized it picked up where the last scene left off. That is so funny, I can't stop laughing. Yeah, (s)he's totally right. In English, a novel is generally ~120,000 words or more. EDIT2: @LaurenIpsum I just want to take this opportunity this one time to say I love your profile quote. Apr 10, 2012 at 16:02
  • @Aerovistae: thank you! I love Mark Twain. And I'm a lady person. :) Apr 10, 2012 at 16:13
  • Ah! Finally cleared that up. I'd been wondering. Apr 10, 2012 at 16:14
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    Alexchenco, you haven't given us a specific goal for critique - you're just asking "how to improve this last scene." I'm afraid that, as per guidelines, I have to close this - please edit, give us a specific focus, and we'll reopen. You've always been great with this before, sorry for the sudden close. Thanks :)
    – Standback
    Apr 11, 2012 at 17:48

2 Answers 2


1) As far as concept, there's nothing to improve. I like this quite a bit. The mystery and the philosophy dovetail nicely. There isn't a lot of action, and whatever "happens" is occurring in dialogue. This works really well.

2) Action tags can be almost anywhere you like; it's mostly a choice of style. As long as it's clear to whom the action belongs, there's no particular rule. I suggested one spot to fix below, but otherwise all your action tags are clear.

3) Minor fixes:

her lips slightly parted

Mouths are open, lips are parted, because there are two and they are parted from one another.

I would put a line break before "She leaned her head..." so that it's clear that the next line of dialogue is hers.

closed the bottle

You can't close a glass, and he wouldn't be returning the glass to the shelf.


"What does it look like?"


"How does it look?"

washed his hands


was in the right place


was in its place

What's this drink called?

That's important, so that we know she means the drink and not the philosophical concept he's discussing.

started drawing circles

They're not imaginary because she's drawing them on the glass, even if she's not writing them with ink.

she continued, "there is

Comma instead of period, lowercase T

  • 1
    Thanks. This is exactly the feedback need. Sometimes I feel I should pay for this.
    – wyc
    Apr 10, 2012 at 15:30
  • Lauren missed one-- "How it is called?" makes no sense whatsoever. I'm not completely sure what this was supposed to be, but judging from his response I'm going to infer that she was asking "How does it happen?" Also, just seconding Lauren's opinion-- I really, really like this concept. I'm amazed you write this well in a second language. You must have worked hard. Apr 10, 2012 at 16:09
  • No I didn't -- I wrote it as "What's this drink called?" and highlighted your very confusion. :) Apr 10, 2012 at 16:10
  • @alexchenco: If you write a full book, you can hire me as your editor. :) Seriously, that's one of my jobs. Apr 10, 2012 at 16:11
  • So the drink is called Explosions in the Sky, eh? On second read I guess that is indeed so. Funny. Apr 10, 2012 at 16:11

The dialogue is OK, but I was distracted by the constant mentions of glass. For me, it disrupts the flow of conversation.You use it in almost every paragraph. Try to make bartending and drinking more interesting.

"The neon sign was still flickering from time to time." Flickering neon is a beaten-to-death cliche. Maybe add some man playing sad song on the piano, while you're at it :)?

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