Friday, 5 June 2015
Endings are my weakness
I don’t mean endings as a such, though, I have no problems with the endings of most movies I watch or most books I read or most games I play. Okay, I might find some endings not that fitting, but that’s beside the point. I have a problem with ending my own stories - it’s my weakness.
Most writers have a weakness with one part of the story, be it beginnings, middles, or ends. Actually, I have a quite useful book about it called “Beginnings, Middles & Ends” by Nancy Kress, which told me that. I have no problem with the beginning of a story at all, I usually know from the first idea onwards where I want to start it. I have little problems keeping the story running through the middle. But I have a huge problem with the ending. It’s not so much a ‘I don’t know how to end a story’ and more of a ‘I don’t know when to end a story.’ During the course of writing a story, I usually come up with a lot of information on what happens later on. I could probably give you two years of what happens after the big confrontation scene. But I can’t write all that stuff down, I can’t add it all to the story, so I worry about where to make the break, where to stop the story.
For instance, I decided to end “Twin Sisters” with Saffron and Jasmine on the ship back to Australia. It was a clean cut and fit with the beginning of the story, Jasmine coming to London by ship, too. In my mind, however, I had plotted their first two years in Australia and could have added a couple of chapters with that story, too. Similar things happened when I was about to finish “Heart of Ice,” the first of the Loki Files. I was already filled up with more stuff which could happen. With this story, however, I just incorporated it throughout the following stories.
Sometimes, my battle with endings is long - there are a few stories only lacking one or two more chapters on my hard drive. Sometimes, my battle with the endings is short - for quite some, I quickly found the right place to stop. But it’s always a battle.
I’m not sure what is better or what is worse: being unsure about how to begin a story or being unsure about how to end it. I usually quickly find the important markers of the story, introducing the characters, showing the conflict, preparing for the confrontation, writing the confrontation. But afterwards, I slack off. Sometimes it takes weeks or even months for me to write the end of a story.
I think I prefer having problems with endings, though. To me, writing isn’t a chore (I know Dorothy Parker saw it differently), so I enjoy writing a story and running out of steam much more than I would probably enjoy spending ages trying to figure out the beginning of the story, but then breezing through it. Sometimes, not knowing when to stop is good, too. For some stories, I then go back, change a few things on the way, and finally have a good ending happening.
Other stories die on the way, just to be salvaged later for scenes or characters. But then, I think all writers have a secret cupboard filled with such ‘corpses’ for later use.
During the last few days, I almost feverishly wrote a short story which I woke up almost fully knowing already. Now it’s nearing the end and I find myself at an impasse again. Shall I incorporate certain scenes or not? I’m not 100% sure. I want to put in a scene with an explanation for the beginning of the story (especially with an information disclosed close to the climax). I want to put in a lightweight scene for the end (because the beginning is a bit depressing and I’d like to end the story on a more happy note). I want to end the story, I just don’t know when to end it. So there’s my weakness again.
Every writer struggles with some part of the story. It’s endings for me and I think I can live with it.