October 24, 2004


I was telling Dan today about my ending woes. Um, novel ending, that is. Since I started this book, I've worried at, chewed over, contemplated and revised my idea of how it shound end. I don't mean the last page or even the last five pages but rather the last large chunk, fifty pages or more. How the story crescendoes and concludes. How I take all the threads and weave them in just the right way so it feels like a complete tapestry, or should the metaphor be musical? It is musical, I think. You don't want to just fade out, simply stop, you want to bring all the instruments up, faster and higher, to their natural, seemingly inevitable end point. Sometimes I think about story, the mechanics of what happens in that section. Right now I'm contemplating character. How do these people deal with where this story has taken them? How do they therefore interact? How have they grown and have they grown enough yet and if so, how can I show that and if not, how can I precipitate that? Complex stuff. Chewy stuff. Head scratching stuff.

Anyway. I was talking through all of this, or at least a portion of it, and Dan said something I found interesting and I suspect very true, so I thought I'd record it here. Which is: beginnings are easy to conceive, hard to write. Endings are hard to conceive, easy to write.

I think this is dead on. Everyone seemingly (especially in LA) has a story idea, and they all go something like, "See, there's this person, and this thing happens to him and wow, right?" Voila, a beginning. But to write it? Trickier. You have to start just right. With a bang but not too much of one, don't oversell it before you've fully jumped in. And please, for the love of god, develop your character a little before the real action starts. Let me know who I'm riding along this journey with, okay? But also? Don't just regurgitate exposition on my lap, that gets so messy. And boring. And please, do have some kind of story that I care about to keep me happy until the real meat of the story begins. And so on. And so forth. And then there's the matter of finding the right tone that'll carry you through the rest of the manuscript, and learning to hear your characters' voices in your head.

Tricky. Yeah.

The end? Well, see above. I'm worried about mine. I've been spinning this story, this web of intrigue and emotional angst, and it needs a conclusion which means I need to have gotten everyone/everything (ie: characters, plotlines) to that place all at once and with the right flourish to leave you satisfied and not throwing the book across the room. Writing an ending is a lot like cooking a fancy meal. Everything has to finish at the right time and you have an awful lot of sauces to stir and meat to turn and bread to take out of the oven all at the same time to make it come out right. And yet when you've figured out some but not all of it, you can dive in. The rest may come in inspired flashes as you write, you know these characters and this story so well by now and it pulls you along as you write, it tugs at you and demands of you and if you surrender to it, you will, yes you will finish this book, this script, this opus, this creation will be on the page and in the computer, no longer just a figment of your fevered brain but real.

Posted by Tamar at October 24, 2004 11:11 PM