Thursday, January 25, 2007

At Last

Today is Etta James birthday. You know, the singer of that classic love song, At Last.

A subject that came to a close... the scheduled Blackface performance in West Hollywood. Jasmyne Cannick led a great awareness campaign and fight about why the performance is not suitable for L.A... nor anywhere else in the U.S. And she's also doing great work raising awareness of issues many LGBT of color already are aware of, but many mainstream LGBT refuse to acknowledge, or just want to deny... racism, sexism, and classism within the LGBT community. But, alas, the Blackface performance is no longer taking place in West Hollywood. It's a conclusion many people wanted.

Speaking of conclusions, endings, the last parts of books, one of the most challenging parts of writing -- whether it's a news story, novel, or short story -- is reaching a suitable and satisfying ending. I'm sure many of you have read books that had endings where you said, "What the F?" and other times when the ending left you feeling hopeful, motivated, and wondering how the characters' lives will continue once you put the book down.

I'm conclusion-challenged, I admit. When I wrote my first novel, Down For Whatever, I wrote two endings... One, the one that got published, is the "happy ending" conclusion where stories resolved in a nice way that addressed the characters' initial motivation, desires, wants.

The other ending, the one that didn't get published, was the "real life" ending. It wasn't exactly doom and gloom, but there were consequences that matched characters' previous behaviors and attitudes, and where characters didn't necessarily get what they wanted or desired -- but were OK with not getting what they wanted. It was real life, to me.

I decided to go with the "happy ending," though to this day I have second thoughts and wish I had gone in the "real life" direction. Oh well, authors always second guess themselves. Even after publication. It's in our nature.

A lot goes into how a project ends. One, is it consistent with the overall story? In other words, does the ending come out of nowhere and you're like "Huh?" Does it address the characters motivations, desires, wants? Does it tie up loose ends, including supporting characters? Does it have a twist that you planted clues to throughout the project? Does it leave readers hopeful and with a feeling of bliss? Do they cry? Want it to end? Sometimes, I deliberately slow down when I get to the end of a book because I don't want it to end.

Finally, and this is pretty important, does it leave the door open -- deliberately or not -- for a related project? If it's deliberate -- meaning, just leaving readers hanging -- that might not be too satisfying to readers. If it ties up the story, but your main character(s) can go on to future projects and adventures, that's cool. I'm not the biggest fan of sequels -- i.e. picking up where the last book ended--, but taking characters into new situations, new cities, new adventures could lead to a wonderful series that readers will enjoy.

Writers. Readers. What's a satisfying ending mean to you in novels or short stories?

A great article I found via Tess Gerritson's blog, on ending your novel. Might be a great resource or two...

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Hey Fred,

Just came across your article about the Scene. I was a dancer. Check it out. It's under your 2005 entry.