Monday, January 19, 2015

The Trouble With Endings

A couple of weeks ago I wrote about finishing Draft One of The Most Awesome Thing Ever*. I thought I was done. For all intents and purposes, I was. There was a beginning, a middle, and an end. Character arcs, plot points, between-the-lines jokes. It was all there.

Except, well, it wasn’t actually done. I thought it was done, but after reading over those final scenes yet again, I realized that I was wrong. It was far from done. The ending I’d written was too much and not enough. It was unsatisfying. Worse, I had no idea how to fix it.

So I did what any self-respecting aspiring writer would do. I peaked over my shoulder to make sure no one was looking and typed quickly: Dear Google, I said, how the heck do you end a novel?

The results were interesting. Some of them were compilations of the Best and Worse endings to books and movies. I opened a bunch of links and scanned them for something – ANYTHING – I could use. I was desperate. I’d already told people I was done, and it felt like lying to jump back in and keep writing. I needed advice.

Then I stumbled upon an article from Writer’s Digest. The writer presents a great argument for thinking of an ending not as the final two pages, but as the final chapters of a book. One of the lines from the article has really stuck with me over the past few days: “Does the Closer leave us feeling a sense of wonder?”

Readers remember exciting plot points, sure, but mostly they remember emotions. I turned my brain inside out, trying to think of just what kind of ending would result in wonder. It took a few tries and some coaching from Emily, but I think I finally got it. 

Of course, now that it's really done, I feel kind of sad about it all coming to a close. Hmmm... Maybe I could tweak it just a little bit... 

Michelle does, in fact, begin her web searches by announcing “Dear Google” for anyone who is nearby to hear. Her office buddy has gotten used to it, but her dog still thinks it’s really weird.  

*Not the actual title. 

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