Thursday, December 31, 2009


A lot of my posts have been about politics, and I've decided I'd rather talk about something more fun- story.

I've been thinking about endings. It's very easy to talk about and analyze beginnings, but for endings you have to read the whole book first to really get them, so you'll end up with a lot of articles and discussion on opening sentences, the endings are a wee bit neglected. With exceptions, of course.

It just occured to me that this question is very fitting for the end of the calendar year. That wasn't why I was thinking about it, though.

So what is the purpose of an ending? Are you trying to satisfy readers or keep them wanting more? Tie up all the loose ends or introduce a surprise twist? There are many ways of writing a good ending, but what makes an ending good? And what should an ending be trying to accomplish?

When I used to write short stories in high school my teacher would ask me to fix the endings- she invariably would think that my ending was too abrupt and I left the reader hanging. I'd argue, but this is what the story needs! I wanted to leave some things ambiguous, let the reader be able to imagine variable endings. It's a fact that only established authors can get away with this, as in a tenth grader it looks like you just couldn't decide on the ending instead of an artistic choice, but I came to realize that a lot of times she was right and my ending did need something more, and there was usually a way to fill it out a bit without compromising my artistic deliberate ambiguity.

With novels it's harder, and the truth is, with all the novels I'm always trying to write, I have yet to reach an ending. I don't know what I will do when I get there- I have to think about what an ending is and what it should accomplish. It might depend on the book, true, but surely there's something all endings share. Does it vary so much between short stories and novels, do you think?

Now I just have to keep working long enough to write the middle...

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