Mood: Unsure

Currently listening to: Sometime Around Midnight by The Airborne Toxic Event (on repeat)

Still sitting here, rereading my last scene, trying to figure out if I’m at the end.

So, when in doubt, & since I’m in doubt, turn to the craft books.

#1: Plot & Structure: Techniques & Exercises for Crafting a Plot That Grips Readers from Start to Finish by James Scott Bell

According to Bell, there are 3 basic endings:

“…(1) the Lead gets his objective, a positive ending; (2) we don’t know if the Lead will get his desire, an ambiguous ending; and (3) the Lead loses his objective, a negative ending.”

At this point my ending would fall under #2. And for an ambiguous ending, he recommends that for it to be good it “causes strong feeling, feels right, and can generate discussion.” I think my current “ending” meets the 2nd & 3rd criteria. As for the 1st, not sure. I think it does. At least for me.

Bell also recommends that as your near the end of your first draft, you should stop and think up 10 alternate endings. Yikes. 10? Well, maybe if I’m still hesitating tomorrow. I guess I’ve already come up with 2. The one I thought I was going to write & the one I just did. Not sure where I would get 8 more. I’ll give this exercise some thought. Definitely a good idea for the 2nd draft.

#2: Fiction Writer’s Workshop by Josip Novakovich

Novakovich writes:

“Give us another look, or angle, or thought, on what has just taken place in your fiction, something that will put it all in perspective.”

I think I’ve done that. He goes on to add:

“When you are about to end a piece, decide which image or thought you want your reader to carry as the last impression…. endings with striking sensory images are often preferable to abstract ones.”

Hmmm…I agree with this. I think I have done this to a certain degree, but I could definitely do more with the sensory image. It’s somewhat there, but could definitely be filled out, beefed up. He also recommends that the writer end while the action is still going on. I would say I’ve done that. My MC has come to an emotional epiphany, but there is still much action going on around her.

Novakovich elaborates on this further when he talks about the Open Ending and how a successful example of this “answers some psychological questions and yet leaves off without resolving the action.” It lets the reader get involved in imagining what came next in terms of the action, but they’re given a sense of what the character’s state-of-mind is now so that they have a better idea of what the character might have actually done. This is definitely where my ending is.

#3: A Writer’s Guide to Fiction by Elizabeth Lyon

Lyon writes:

“One of the most popular endings is the epiphany. This means that the character ‘comes to realize’ something fundamental about self or life. In an illuminating moment, the protagonist gains perspective on his or her life–the past, the struggle of the plot events that they have just finished, and of the potential for the future.”

As I’ve already realized & said, my ending definitely falls in this category. Not so thrilled that it’s one of the most popular types of endings, but what can you do. It is what it is. Lyon suggests ending your story in the same settings where it began. I like this idea, and in the ending I thought I was going to have, that was what I was going to do. While I haven’t done that here, there are parallels between the beginning setting and the ending setting & I can probably further develop the parallels to really tie it together better. She also mentions ending from the point of view of your main character and with “a sense of peace & hope.” I’ve done both. Definitely the former; I guess the latter is subjective.

#4: Your First Novel by Ann Rittenberg & Laura Whitcomb

Rittenberg writes:

“As you finish your first draft, slow down when you get to the last page or two. The words you use to end your story flavor the whole novel…. Bring together all the power and beauty of your storytelling as you say goodbye to your readers. Show them where they’ve been–remind them what it’s all about–and save the best for last.”

Hmmm…well given that this is my first draft & that those 70,000+ words between the beginning & the end are of questionable quality, I do think the end is better than the rest. Some of the lines, maybe even paragraphs, might survive in the 2nd draft. While the exact words of the last sentence aren’t as powerful as I want them to be, for now, I can live with the fact that I’ve come to the place–physically & emotionally–that I need my MC to be at to feel that this is the end of this draft.

#5: Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott

Maybe when all is said and done, Lamott says it best. She’s titled her chapter on endings, How Do You Know When You’re Done? And then in the second line of the chapter answers the question.

“You just do.”

I guess I just do.

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