When I was a kid I thought writing a story was easy. I just wrote down everything that was in my head and then slapped a “The End” near the bottom of the last page. Sometimes I added carefully drawn curlicues on either side. For some reason the mental picture I have of this includes me lying on my stomach in the grass, sun and shady tree overhead and my tongue firmly clamped between my teeth, but I may be embellishing.
I never worried about the end. I knew without a doubt that it came…at the end.
Now as an adult writer I do not find it quite so easy.
The story unfolds. Before I even start writing it down I know where I am heading. I am not a stringent outliner but I am not a seat-of-my-pants writer either. I don’t like to know every single plot twist in advance because I like to be surprised sometimes.
But I must say that lately I have been fussing over my endings. Usually I fuss (ie.-worry) about my middles but SOMETHING has changed.
(I don’t quite know what that ‘something’ is).
I hate books where everything is wrapped up neatly in a bow. It doesn’t feel real to me. Life isn’t like that.
Obviously you must have some kind of resolution or you’ll piss everyone off. I think the main conflict must be resolved in some way that does not feel less than satisfactory. But there is a delicate balance between under doing it and over doing it.
Sometimes I think that the hardest part of writing is achieving nuance without making the reader feel short-changed. If you over-write something, it is akin to hitting your reader over the head with your book or computer or a shovel, but therein lies the rub. Personally I like some straggling ends. It makes me think the characters have carried on with their lives after I’ve read the last page.
Is a foregone conclusion a bad thing? Or is it a natural denouement? Once the plot starts rolling, and all the threads have been picked up, there is a wild, ride to the finale where it should all come together. But is that predictable? Boring? Unsatisfying?
Should it all be wrapped up so there is no room for speculation? Or should books be like life? Of course life is messy and tangential and needs a lot of tidying up to make it read-worthy.