Happy Endings

Friday night: Curled up on the sofa in a state of despondency. So quiet and lackluster that my husband continually asks me what’s wrong. To which I *sigh* and say I’m fine, just wiped out after a few days of steadily revising manuscript #1…yet again. What I don’t proceed to say is that I think my ending continues to suck, and I don’t know how to fix it, and I can’t wrap my brain around it anymore, and I’m so sick of my manuscript, and all I wanna do is lie curled there and sip from my glass of red wine and watch TV to lose myself in other people’s stories until I drift to sleep.

Saturday afternoon: Husband comes into our second bedroom/office to check on me at the computer because, masochist that I am, I couldn’t stay away from dear ms #1 for long. I look at him, smile, and proceed to bounce in my loudly creaking chair over and over and over again in a way that surely makes the neighbors think we’re up to something naughty. They’re not entirely wrong, because I am at  this point climaxing and reveling in a satisfying ending. My manuscript’s ending. The first version of it I’ve ever been happy with as providing decent resolution. My mind was massaged and able to get off in the end…it almost needed to smoke a cigarette afterward.

Sunday morning: I tweak a bit more at the ending and review how it follows after the climax (a bit tricky, this, as working with two narrative threads has kinda resulted in a climax-within-a-climax…I have zero clue if I’m handling it right, but it feels appropriate). And I realize that for all the work I just put into it, the revision of this ending wasn’t even a rewrite at all! Honestly, it was done through mainly structural changes in which I pulled earlier scenes (that worked better as falling versus rising action) and inserted them into the last couple chapters. It’s hard to explain how it works, but O-M-freaking-G it does!

One of my issues with story arc was an overly quick resolution. It wasn’t “satisfying” and failed to clarify what the heck had actually happened during the climax. This was a pure product of me thinking I’d be so clever and not hand-hold my readers through anything, make them work it out themselves and leave it fairly open-ended so the readers can do the work there, too, and form their own conclusions of what happens next…basically, make them do my job because I think I was honestly too tapped (or lazy) to figure it out myself. 🙂

Well, that’s fine and all, but when it comes down to it, I’ve learned we do need to throw readers an occasional bone. In my previous post on marketability, I’d mentioned the strategies I’d try to make my work more commercially viable but had come to realize: “Is that writing commercially exactly or just better?!” Writing in a way readers can understand and enjoy is not commercial. Writing a well-resolved, satisfying ending isn’t selling out. “Satisfying” doesn’t have mean “happily ever after” or that every single loose end is tied up and explained in full. No, we don’t have to dumb everything down so readers are not only hand-held but pushed along in an adult-sized stroller and spoon-fed a purée of the unthinking obvious—and that’s not me being a snob as a writer; that’s me being a snob as a reader who finds stories like that mind-numbingly dull if not insulting. Resolutions should be like “a flick of the wrist,” I’ve been told, so I think it’s left to the writer’s  judgment which matters can be wrapped up concisely, which developed a bit more, and which left to the reader’s imagination. I think a healthy mix of all of the above can be satisfying indeed for any novel.

I’m not saying I’ve written the perfect ending. It might not be satisfying yet to someone else or even to myself in a few days. It might go through dozens more face-lifts. But what I am saying is that the towel has been flicked at my arse, waking me up to the fact that the ending in my head wasn’t on the page, and mind-reading psychics aren’t necessarily my target demographic that would maybe make that okay. This is not only my story; it’s for future readers, so I need to be less selfish with what I share of it. And such is the moral at the end of this story. 🙂

How about YOU? What issues (if any) with your endings need some massaging out?

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About thefallenmonkey

Primate that dapples in writing when not picking others' fleas or flinging its own poop. View all posts by thefallenmonkey

12 responses to “Happy Endings

  • In all the write places

    Aaaw, so cool you had a break-through on this one. 🙂 Great news, congratulations. No matter how often you revisit, if the groundwork is done you should be fine!
    Sometimes it is funny how your ability to see and solve an issue can just come over time. 🙂
    Hm, yeah, my endings. Well, with ms I I changed the whole set-up from the first draft as well when revising. The little twist leading up to all the right people ending up at the final scene had been too much coincidence in the first time, and the location felt too cheesy, and one of the main characters was too much of a passive bystander.

    So although I felt mighty sorry for myself at first for having to redo so much it came out so much better and smoother, moving the showdown from a field into a farmhouse, and letting a more action-oriented scene take the main character his fate into his own hands. Even if the outcome (who dies, who lives) didn’t change, it felt much more satisfying and rounded in the end.

    With Ms II I had the same issue like in the beginning with ms I – that I have three possible showdown scenarios but am not at all sure which one will seem “right” in the end. But that is part of the whole excitement of writing, I guess. 🙂

    • thefallenmonkey

      Oh man, your endings sound so much more exciting than mine, Eva! I see what you mean with the risk of “too much coincidence” – that’s the tricky part about being the Creator who can manipulate everything to result in a certain way…it’s a fine line between what seems “natural” and believable and what’s too contrived. I found a loophole with that one in this first ms – “coincidence” itself (the nature of it and whether there’s really such thing) is a recurring theme, so I feel like that gave me a “Get Out of Jail Free” card on more than one occasion. 🙂

      Well, your ending sounds awesome for ms I in having the main character choose his own fate. And good luck making your choice for ms II – lucky you to have so many options, though that must be difficult to commit to just the one!

  • Glen

    Glad the pages are starting to resemble your head – that’s exactly where you need to be headed – keep going 🙂

    a distinctly niche market those mind-reading psychics

  • Alannah Murphy

    Congrats on choosing an ending your happy with. For me, the boy had this story to tell me and he had the ending and so there was never a question of how it would end. He told me how it would and that was the end of it 😉
    Do not fool yourself into thinking I had it easy, he only had what happens to HIM, and I had to do detective work to figure out how all that happens to him, pieces together and makes a coherent tale, which I am still struggling with…eek

    • thefallenmonkey

      I love that, Alannah! Your character is your co-author! Tahlia Newland would tell you that’s “real creativity,” based on her recent post.

      But that little stinker didn’t tell you how that ending necessarily comes about, huh? He clearly has great faith in you to bring it all together, and so do I. 🙂

  • Alannah Murphy

    ack! that was meant to be “you’re”….hate it when I do that lol

  • Milo James Fowler

    “‘Satisfying’ doesn’t have mean ‘happily ever after’ or that every single loose end is tied up and explained in full.”

    Hear, hear! But that’s where I struggle. I don’t want to give too much away in the end; I want readers to figure out some things for themselves, uniquely to themselves. I want the reader to create his/her own meaning after the ending. But sometimes, I just don’t know HOW to end my stories, dagdabbit!

    Another great post, CK.

    • thefallenmonkey

      Argh, I’m sharin’ the frustration with you, Milo. I’d still like to leave something open to interpretation that would (*hopefully*) make readers want to talk about it if not read it again! This one has taken me ages to know how to end it, and I’m not sure it’s there yet, but I think it’s in a better direction. Explains more, but still leaves enough open for individual meaning-making.

      And as for the endings of your stories that I’ve read, I’ve been a satisfied customer each and every time. 🙂

  • Nicki Elson

    Yippee!!! I’m so happy you had that breakthrough and are satisfied with where you drew the line between telling too much and not enough. I do hope I’ll be able to invoke sister-privilege and get a look at it before the masses. 🙂

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