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January 28, 2011

Writing Endings

This is my first post for 2011. I planned to begin the post by extending Happy New Year wishes to my co-novelnauts and readers, however, I decided yesterday that since my year has not had a very auspicious start, I will celebrate the Chinese New Year and start 2011 all over again on February 3.

But this post is about endings not beginnings. It was originally written for submission on January 12, so enjoy.

Today my mother-in-law will be laid to rest. It is the essence of an oxymoron; the concept that one so full of inner strength and energy should be forever still. The truth is that until this day, this final step, we still expect at any moment to hear a call from her room, as she reluctantly summoned us to attend to a need that she was unable to fill herself.

I wrote about her death a week before it happened. It felt morbid when I did it but it came to my head and I had to write it. I did not show it to anyone and I never completed the story although I saw the end, her release from pain, very clearly in my mind. I knew that, as powerful as the pen may be, I couldn’t hasten her end simply by writing about it, but I still felt a twinge of something like guilt when she passed away somewhat unexpectedly a week later.

The truth is that story endings have always been a bit of a nuisance for me. My joy comes in the creation and the writing, the unfolding of the story with details that are often as much a surprise to me as they will be to the reader. When the characters have resolved all of their conflicts I am ready to move on; I am not interested in the small talk of happily ever afters. A recent reviewer commented that the end of my books seem a bit rushed and she may be right.

Sometimes I say too much, revealing every detail to the reader so that they know my view of the way things happened. I recently read Runaway by Alice Munro. She has a knack for ending her stories with just enough information to keep you guessing about what the story was all about and what happened to her characters next; great fodder for a book club discussion. I like the concept, although I must say that after her fourth short story, I was yearning for a change of pace and a little more closure.

I also recently read Dancing Nude in the Moonlight by Antiguan author and friend, Joanne Hillhouse, which I loved for its clear, lyrical, entertaining depiction of inter-cultural love, but I felt that she too may have struggled a bit with the end and I saw how I would have arranged it a little differently.

Both of these books have encouraged me to take another look at how I write my own story endings and I hope that I can improve upon them and grow.

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